Infant diarrhea is a sudden increase in bowel movements that are loose or watery. Ranging from mild to severe it can be very uncomfortable for both the infant and the parent. Left untreated, infant diarrhea can result in death.
Determine the Cause to Treat Infant Diarrhea
To be able to stop something we must first know what started it. Diarrhea is usually a symptom of a stomach virus caused by bacteria or parasites. If the diarrhea is accompanied by other symptoms such as fever, runny nose, cough or congestion, these symptoms may be the culprit. In infants, it can be caused by the iron in their formula, drinking too much fruit juice, something the mother ate if they are breast fed. Food allergies can also cause diarrhea.
Prevent Dehydration When Your Infant has Diarrhea
The key element in treating infant diarrhea is maintaining hydration and electrolyte balance. Infants can dehydrate very quickly, much faster than older children or adults. You will need to increase the amount of fluids your baby drinks. In severe cases of diarrhea it may be necessary to provide replacement of electrolytes as well. In the baby aisle at the grocery store or pharmacy you can purchase such replacement.
Observe the diaper to determine if the urine is more concentrated. A sign of not enough fluid will be darker than usual urine and less urine than normal. If your baby’s urine becomes very dark, if the output of urine decreases significantly you need to contact the pediatrician immediately.
Please hydrate, hydrate and hydrate again! Dehydration can occur extremely fast for an infant!
Treat the Cause of Infant Diarrhea
While making sure your baby stays hydrated, you need to try to stop the diarrhea. Making changes in the mother’s diet may help the breastfed baby. Evaluate what mom has eaten, what she has had to drink and any medication that she may have taken that could pass through breast milk. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for assistance with this.
If the baby is formula fed, you may need to change the formula to a soy based formula until the diarrhea resolves. Speak to the pediatrician to determine whether a formula change is needed to prevent reoccurrences.
Experiment with changes to the baby’s diet; remove fruit juices or foods that have been introduced recently to see what effect this has on the diarrhea. For babies older than 4 months or those who have already been started on baby cereals consider adding a starchy baby cereal or an increase in the consistency of the baby cereal. Strained foods such as strained bananas can also help. Avoid too many new additions while trying to determine the cause, only add one per day.
Wash your hands frequently and especially after each diaper change with antibacterial soap to avoid spreading the diarrhea to other family members and back to the baby.
Protect the baby’s bottom from diaper rash and skin irritations that can be caused by diarrhea by changing the baby immediately after each episode, cleaning the area with a gentle cleansing cloth and applying a protective barrier cream.
If your baby is having other symptoms of illness or the diarrhea is not responding to the changes you have made you will need to consult your pediatrician.