Diarrhoea in Babies

Your babys digestive system is developing and immature. Sometimes her stools may vary depending on the solid foods she intakes. Diarrhoea is a frequent, runny, watery poo that is common in babies. Learn the symptoms and treatment of diarrhea in babies.

Last Updated: Oct 22, 2020 11:29 GMT

Diarrhoea in Babies
Diarrhoea in Babies

The texture, color and odour of your baby’s poo may vary depending on what he eats. Baby’s stools are usually softer than adults. Sometimes it is normal for breastfed babies to pass stools after every feeding. In formula fed babies, stools are firm and the frequency can vary from three times a day to three times a week. Sometimes you can notice the poo to be runny, watery and in large amounts which is nothing but diarrhea. This watery stool can happen approximately 12 times a day. 

Diarrhea can be

Short term: If it is seen for a day or two and not more than two weeks

Persistent: It lasts for two to four weeks

Chronic: If diarrhea lasts for more than four weeks  

Causes of diarrhea Viral infection

The most common cause of diarrhea in babies is rotavirus. Administration of rotavirus vaccine has reduced the incidence of rotavirus. If your baby had the rotavirus vaccination, the diarrhea is less likely to be a serious one. The common symptoms of rotavirus include fever, diarrhea, vomiting and stomach ache. If your child has diarrhea due to rotavirus it may subside on its own. But if you notice additional symptoms like dehydration you can consult a pediatrician.

The other common cause of diarrhea may be norovirus. This infection is usually seen in the winters.

Food Poisoning

Food poisoning can happen if your baby’s milk or food contains bacteria like Salmonella and E.coli. It can also happen due to improper sterilization of bottles during formula feeding. If you have started solids, sometimes contaminated food can also be the reason for food poisoning. The symptoms of food poisoning include fever and dullness. 

Food Allergies

If your baby is intolerant or allergic to a particular type of food, she may get diarrhea. Some of the most common food allergens are milk, eggs, wheat, nuts, seeds, fish and shellfish. An allergic reaction tends to happen within a few minutes or hours after eating the food. The symptoms of food allergies include rash, itchy eyes, nose and throat. It is better to avoid foods that cause allergies.

Parasitic infections

Babies can catch up diarrhea due to parasites like Giardia found in unclean drinking water.

Some of the other causes of short term diarrhea include immunizations and intake of antibiotics by your child. Chronic diarrhea can also be caused by lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, coeliac disease and inflammatory bowel disease (a less common condition).  

Symptoms of diarrhea

·         Large, runny, frequent watery poo

·         Colour of the poo may be brown to green

·         Stomach pain or cramps, bloating

·         Nausea, vomiting or fever

If you notice the following symptoms, consult your doctor immediately

·         If your baby is three months or younger and has a rectal temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher

·         Has vomiting and is inactive, irritable and does not want to feed

·         Shows signs of dehydration like dry mouth and has not produced a wet diaper for three or more hours.

It is always ideal to have immediate medical attention when your child has chronic diarrhea, has blood in her poo and is losing weight.

Treatment of Diarrhoea

Short term diarrhea can be treated at home. The important thing to remember is to keep your child hydrated. If you are breastfeeding your baby, offer extra feeds throughout the day. If you are formula feeding, offer extra boiled water in a cup or bottle. Do not add extra water to the formula as it may dilute the nutrients. Avoid giving fruit juices or fizzy drinks as it may worsen the condition. If necessary, your doctor may prescribe an oral rehydration solution to restore the lost salts, nutrients and electrolytes.

Anti-diarrhea medicines are not advisable for children under 12 years of age.

During episodes of diarrhea, babies may be more prone to nappy rash. To prevent nappy rash, change diapers frequently and use barrier cream to protect your baby’s skin. If needed, your doctor may recommend a nappy rash cream containing hydrocortisone.


·         To avoid the spread of infections, wash your baby’s hands frequently, before and after eating.

·         Also wash your hands with soap and warm water every time when you change your baby’s diaper.

·         Keep your child’s area clean and disinfected.

·         It is good to keep your children away from school or nursery until full recovery.

·         Apple juice, fried foods and dairy products can worsen diarrhea and hence it is better to avoid.

Diarrhea can lead to dehydration. So keep your baby hydrated.

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