BookmarkBookmarkTick

Diarrhea in Babies

Baby’s got the runs? Here’s the deal on what to do.
ByPaul Horowitz, MD
Pediatrician
Updated
March 9, 2020
Hero Image
Image: Sonja Peneueta

What is considered diarrhea for a baby?

One person’s loose bowels are another’s diarrhea, so figuring out if your baby is simply passing things along or if he’s perhaps in need of more serious medical attention can be tricky. The general rule of the diaper: If you’ve noticed a sudden change in the frequency (more than normal) or consistency (very loose or watery) of your baby or toddler’s stool, he probably has diarrhea.

What could be causing my baby’s diarrhea?

The primary culprit for most cases of diarrhea is a simple stomach virus, although a bacterial infection (salmonella, staphylococcus, shigella) can also be to blame. Or your child may simply have a  food allergy (such as lactose intolerance). Less common is a case of food poisoning or even a parasitic infection. But even something as simple as having a few too many apple juices can cause runny poop.
 
When should I take my baby to see the doctor with diarrhea?

Most of the time, diarrhea is more of a messy inconvenience than a medical emergency, but if your child is showing signs of dehydration (dry diapers for six or more hours, few or no tears, dry mouth, sunken eyes, listlessness or lethargy), call your doctor. Also be on alert if you see blood in his stool, if he develops a high fever or if he’s  vomiting frequently.
 
What should I do to treat my baby’s diarrhea?

Although it’s tempting to pass the Pepto-Bismol, avoid giving your baby any over-the-counter antidiarrheal medications, since they may do more harm than good. Instead, give him plenty of liquids. For babies, this means breast milk or formula. If you have a toddler, skip the milk for a few days, since most children with diarrhea lose the ability to break down lactose for a few days. But you can try giving him probiotics (either yogurt with live cultures or in a liquid form) to help repopulate his gut with “good” bacteria. Choose electrolyte beverages like Pedialyte or Gatorade (either diluted or G2) instead of juice. And don’t forget to use plenty of diaper cream to help soothe his bottom, which may get irritated from his frequent movements.

Related Video

What Is Rotavirus?

profile picture of The Bump Editors
The Bump Editors

Is My Baby Constipated?

profile picture of Jack Newman, MD, FRCPC
Jack Newman, MD, FRCPC
Pediatrician

How Can I Fix Baby's Constipation?

profile picture of Excerpted from You Raising Your Child by Mehmet C. Oz, MD, and Michael F. Roizen, MD
Excerpted from You Raising Your Child by Mehmet C. Oz, MD, and Michael F. Roizen, MD

How Will I Know if Baby Has Diarrhea?

profile picture of Jack Newman, MD, FRCPC
Jack Newman, MD, FRCPC
Pediatrician
box of dyper compostable baby diapers

DYPER Launches First-Ever National Diaper Composting Service

profile picture of Nehal Aggarwal
Nehal Aggarwal
Associate Editor
Published
02/19/2020
little girl sliding down slide at playground

Mom’s Tale of Cleaning Poop Off a Slide Has the Internet Cracking Up

profile picture of Laurie Ulster
Laurie Ulster
Contributing Writer
Published
10/03/2019
cryptosporidiosis outbreak in public pools

CDC: Parasitic Infection in Pools That Causes Diarrhea Is on the Rise

profile picture of Stephanie Grassullo
Stephanie Grassullo
Associate Editor
Published
07/01/2019
mom changing baby's diaper

The Makeup of Baby Poop Is Changing—And That Might Not Be a Good Thing

profile picture of Anisa Arsenault
Anisa Arsenault
Associate Editor
Published
03/09/2018

Q&A: My Baby Has Green Poop, Now What?

profile picture of Jeanne Cygnus, IBCLC, RLC
Jeanne Cygnus, IBCLC, RLC
Lactation Specialist

What Should Formula Poop Look Like?

profile picture of -- Sabrina Braham, MD, pediatrician in Menlo Park, California and adjunct clinical faculty member at Stanford University
-- Sabrina Braham, MD, pediatrician in Menlo Park, California and adjunct clinical faculty member at Stanford University
Pediatrician

Q&A: How Much Pooping Is Normal?

profile picture of Jeanne Cygnus, IBCLC, RLC
Jeanne Cygnus, IBCLC, RLC
Lactation Specialist
Article removed.