To begin with, if a baby has stools that are runnier than normal, but not very frequent, this is probably not diarrhea. Also, breastfed babies have slightly looser stools than formula fed babies.
Diarrhea or liquid stools, refers more to the frequency of bowel movements than to the consistency. Some of the most common causes of diarrhea in infancy are gastrointestinal infections, colds, food intolerances and antibiotic treatment. Teething is a common reason for a few days of runnier stools, but that cannot be categorized as diarrhea.
When the intestinal lining is infected, it heals very slowly. When infected, this brush-like lining in injured, along with the digestive enzymes it contains, allowing the food to pass through undigested. The stools of diarrhea from gastroenteritis are frequent, watery, green, mucous, foul smelling, explosive, and occasionally blood tinged. Usually there is a raw red rash around the anus.
Dehydration- The main cause for concern with diarrhea:
The main concern with diarrhea is dehydration. Your baby’s body contains the right balance of salts (called electrolytes) and water. Healthy intestines and kidneys regulate this balance. A proper balance is necessary for organs to function. Diarrhea interrupts this balance, causing the body to lose water and electrolytes.
Managing your baby’s diarrhea:
Step one: Determine the cause
Have you changed baby’s diet lately – for example, switched from formula to cow’s milk, weaned from breastmilk to formula, added new foods – or is baby overdosing on any food, such as juice? Loose, watery stools (usually without mucus or blood) in an otherwise well baby and a red ring around the anus are signs of intolerance to a recently introduced food.
Step two: Determine the severity of the diarrhea and dehydration
Is baby playful and wet (eyes, mouth, diaper)? Perhaps except for more frequent messy diapers, you wouldn’t know anything was amiss. In this case you don’t have to change anything, and observe what direction the stools take.
As a general guide: no weight loss – no worry, and no need to call your doctor yet. Both the degree and the rapidity of weight loss determine the severity of dehydration. If your baby has not significant weight, she is not becoming dehydrated. If your baby loses 5% weight, it may mean a moderate dehydration or loses 10% weight, it may mean severe dehydration and you should immediately call the doctor.
Step three: Eliminate irritating foods
If baby is also vomiting, stop all solid foods, milk (except breastmilk) and formula. If baby is not vomiting and has only mild diarrhea, stop all dairy products, juices and high-fat foods. If the diarrhea is severe (watery, explosive stools every two hours), stop all foods, milk, formula and juice. It is rarely necessary to stop breastfeeding.
Step four: Prevent dehydration
If baby is not breastfeeding, substitute for baby’s regular diet an oral electrolyte solution. These solutions contain an ideal balance of water and electrolytes to replace what your baby is losing in diarrhea. If your baby is breastfeeding, let him feed as much as he wants. He will get all the fluid he needs and will be comforted by the sucking.
Step five: Resume regular feeding
According to the course of diarrhea and how sick your child is, along with the doctor’s advice, resume dilute formula (half formula and half electrolyte solution) or resume regular breastfeeding once the diarrhea slows down. Advance to full-strength formula around twenty-four hours later. Between twenty-four to forty-eight hours, resume baby’s previous diet but continue small, frequent feedings for a few days. Avoid cow’s milk as a beverage until the diarrhea subsides, but yogurt is all right.
Intestines heal slowly. It is very common for “nuisance diarrhea” to last for several weeks during the recovery phase of viral intestinal infection. “The stools remain loose but baby remains well” may be the story for a month.
THE BRATY DIET for Diarrhea
There are five foods that you can feed your infant during diarrhea
- Rice or rice cereal
- Toast (Unbuttered)
What not to do for diarrhea:
- Don’t stop breastfeeding. It is rarely necessary to stop breastfeeding, since breastmilk is not irritating and maybe even therapeutic.
- Avoid boiling solutions too much, lest they lose water. This may make the solution too strong and aggravate the dehydration.
- Do not withhold food for longer than forty-eight hours. Your child needs nutrition for healing.
- Avoid juice. Many juices contain sorbitol, a sugar that is not absorbed in the intestines and that acts like a sponge, absorbing water from the intestinal lining into the stools, increasing their water content and aggravating the diarrhea.