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What Causes Diarrhea in Babies?

diarrhea in babies causes

Diarrhea in babies is always a great concern for the mother.

When infants have diarrhea there is a sudden increase in frequency of their normal bowel movement pattern.

Breastfeeding mothers know that it is quit normal for their babies to have lots of soft stools a day. But how many stools a day is normal?

Every baby’s bowel movement pattern is different. Some have 4 to 5 poops a day and some have more than that. This makes it hard for parents to define what is diarrhea and what not.


Warning signs of diarrhea in babies:

  • More than eight watery stools a day.
  • Unusual odor.
  • Stools also contain pus or blood.
  • Baby may have other symptoms like fever and vomiting.

When babies have severe diarrhea there is always the possibility of dehydration when they loose too much fluid.



Reasons for diarrhea in infants

Infections often cause diarrhea in babies
Diarrhea in babies

Gastrointestinal infections.

  • One of the reasons of diarrhea in babies is a viral infection caused by viruses like the rotavirus, norovirus and adenovirus.
  • Bacterial infections usually caused by contaminated food and poor hygiene. Bacteria like Staphylococcus, Shigella, Salmonella and e-coli cause severe symptoms, like vomiting, fever, severe abdominal cramps and diarrhea.
  • Parasites. Usually causing infection of the intestines by drinking contaminated water.
  • Antibiotics kill the natural flora of the body (good bacteria) in the intestines giving Clostridium difficile (bad bacteria) a chance to grow and cause infectious diarrhea.


7 Food related causes for baby diarrhea

  1. Food allergy. This is an allergic reaction to certain foods (or milk) .The reaction may manifest in different places like in the skin (hives) or intestines (diarrhea). A more severe reaction can cause breathing problems and become life threatening for your baby.
  2. Food Intolerance. In young infants this usually is a lactose intolerance because they only drink milk. Lactose is the sugar found in milk. With a lactose intolerance your baby has problems digesting this lactose. This problem can occur with formula and breast milk.
  3. But even a change in a mothers diet can cause diarrhea in a breastfed infant. Certain foods like onions, cabbage, chocolate or spicy foods can cause gas, colic and diarrhea. If you notice that some foods are making your baby suffer, try to avoid them in the future.
  4. Too much sugar in baby’s diet can cause diarrhea in babies. Too many sweetened drinks upset your infant’s stomach. Try diluting juices with water before giving it to your baby.
  5. Too rich formula. Try to mix the right amount of formula and water. If the milk is to rich it may upset baby’s tummy and cause diarrhea.
  6. Your infant may have ingested something poisonous that causes diarrhea.
  7. Sometimes babies with an ear infection or teething babies can have diarrhea as well.

Diseases that cause diarrhea.

Intestinal disorders like Crohn’s disease, celiac disease or colitis are more rare causes of diarrhea in babies.

But also diabetes, thyroid and other endocrine diseases are responsible for diarrhea problems.

Many parents claim their baby has runny poops when new teeth are ready to erupt. It is still not proven though that there is a relation between teething and diarrhea.


How long should you wait before you go to the doctor?

If your baby is drinking well and acting fine, you can give it a 3 to 5 days. You will definitely have to call your doctor when apart from diarrhea your baby also:

  • has signs of dehydration.( irritability, decreased appetite, no urine for 6 hous, more concentrated urine, dry mouth, thirst, sunken eyes, lack of tears when crying, sunken fontanel, skin that isn't as elastic as usual);
  • Is listless or unusually sleepy.
  • Has blood in the stools.
  • Has a belly that seems swollen, hard, or painful when touched
  • Is vomiting more than eight hours or has blood in his/her vomit as well.
  • Has a fever (rectal temperature of 100.4 F or more).

Babies can easily get dehydrated when they have persistant and severe vomiting and diarrhea.

Watch your child closely, dehydration is not to be underestimated, it can lead to brain damage and death. When you are worried do not wait to contact a doctor, your baby may need to go to hospital for rehydration therapy with intravenous fluids.



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