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    What Causes Diarrhoea in Babies? 7 Common Foods and Drinks To Avoid
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    what causes diarrhea
    12 January 2017

    What Causes Diarrhoea in Babies? 7 Common Foods and Drinks To Avoid

    9 mins read
    Health & Safety
    for Baby
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    Has your baby been passing loose and watery stools? He could be suffering from diarrhoea. This is not just uncomfortable for your baby but can be fatal too. So, what causes diarrhea in babies? Let's look at what foods and drinks you need to keep away from baby to keep diarrhoea at bay.


    Normally, babies pass soft and loose stools during the first two months after birth. While a loose stool once a while is not a matter of concern, you should worry if the stool is too watery and profuse and is being passed more frequently than usual. Diarrhoea is a common problem in infants but it can become very serious.

    As per a recent report on child mortality, jointly prepared by the UNICEF, the WHO, the World Bank, and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, India leads the countries with the highest number of newborn deaths. In 2016, 24 percent of deaths under-five were caused by diarrhoea and pneumonia.

    As a parent, you should know about diarrhoea causes and treatment so that you can protect your baby.

    What Causes Diarrhoea in Babies?

    The main cause of diarrhoea is a virus called Rotavirus. This virus can infect your baby's gut and damage the lining of the intestine. This means the food and fluids just pass through without any nutrients getting absorbed by the body. This is why, if your child is suffering from diarrhoea, he may also face dehydration as the body falls short of fluids. 

    Babies get vaccinated against Rotavirus as part of the immunisation schedule. This happens first when he is 8 weeks old and the second dose is given at 12 weeks old. It is crucial that you do not miss out on this vaccine.

    Other Causes of Diarrhoea in Babies

    Diarrhoea can be caused by multiple other factors in addition to the one mentioned above. Here are some other causes of diarrhoea you should beware of:
    • Food poisoning

      If your baby has accidentally swallowed some harmful chemical, it can trigger diarrhoea. Watch out for other signs such as breathing difficulty or convulsions. Call for emergency care immediately
    • Use of certain antibiotics

      Some antibiotics may kill of the good bacteria along with the disease-causing bacteria. This makes your baby more prone to diarrhoea
    • Food allergies

      Your baby might be allergic to certain foods. Allergies can trigger many adverse reactions in the body, including diarrhoea. Some common allergens are milk, soy and shellfish. If there has been a change in the diet of the baby or the breastfeeding mother, try to see if a certain food could be triggering the diarrhoea
    • Common cold and ear infection

      Some other bacteria and viruses can also cause diarrhoea. These include E.Coli, adenovirus and influenza. If your baby has recently had a cold, ear infection, etc., he may be more prone to diarrhoea
    • Formula feed that has not been prepared properly

      Sometimes, improperly made formula milk may not go down well with the baby and trigger diarrhoea. Double check this guide on how to make formula milk to be extra safe

    Note: Teething is NOT a cause of diarrhoea, contrary to popular belief. Recent medical research has proved that teething does not cause diarrhoea even though many mothers believe it does. The only reason some babies tend to get diarrhoea during teething is that their gum is irritable and they tend to put everything into their mouth. 

    Symptoms of Diarrhoea in Babies

    Baby poop is generally watery. Avoid jumping to conclusions, look out for the following symptoms to understand if your baby has diarrhoea.
    Baby poop is generally watery. Avoid jumping to conclusions, look out for the symptoms to understand if your baby has diarrhoea. The following symptoms may indicate that the baby has diarrhoea and associated dehydration: 
    • A sudden increase in the frequency of passing stool
    • Watery stools with foul smell
    • Baby passes more than one stool per feed
    • Less tears or no tears when the baby cries
    • Less frequency in wetting the diaper
    • Reduced activity
    • Dry mouth
    • Dry skin and sunken eyes in case of severe dehydration
    • Lethargy or even unconsciousness in severe conditions
    • No urine for long durations

    In case you aren't sure if your baby's poop is normal, check out this baby poop gallery to identify what is really going on.


    7 Common Foods that Cause Diarrhoea in Babies

    The bowel movements in your baby depends on what he is being fed. Now newborn babies are dependent on either formula food or breastmilk for the first six months and yet show symptoms of diarrhoea.

    While formula fed babies might simply require a switch in the brand of formula begin fed to them, diarrhoea in breastfed babies is, more often than not, caused by changes in the breastfeeding mother's diet. In case you are wondering what foods cause diarrhoea in babies, here is a list to refer to:

    1. Dairy & Dairy Products

      Dairy and dairy products have a high amount of protein that babies are not able to digest. This can lead to them becoming gassy, spitting up more or showing symptoms of diarrhoea. Don't feed your baby cow's milk or other dairy products before 6 months of age.
    2. Cruciferous Vegetables

      Broccoli and cabbage are just a few examples of cruciferous vegetables that provide folic acids for moms but are potentially gas-inducing for the baby. Such veggies in excess can become one of the causes of diarrhoea.
    3. Garlic

      While garlic adds taste to food, essential oils from it are passed into the breast milk that your baby feeds on and change the taste. Not only can babies object to this taste, these oils can cause 24-hour bouts of colic in your baby.
    4. Citrus fruits

      Fruits maybe a healthy compulsion for a mom's diet, but one should moderate citrus fruits like lime, grapefruit and oranges. This is due to the fact that the strong acids from citrus fruits can find their way into the breast milk and irritate the baby's intestinal tract causing disturbances in the baby's sensitive digestive system.
    5. Caffeine

      Caffeine-rich drinks like coffee and tea and even chocolate are okay in moderation, but excessive amounts can not only cause irritability and fretful nights for your baby, but also cause gas. This can become one of the possible causes of diarrhoea.
    6. Spicy foods

      Mild spice tastes are appreciated by babies but high spice foods like red chilli, onion and cinnamon can irritate your baby's tummy and cause various degrees of indigestion. This can be one of the reasons for having diarrhoea.
    7. Soy, Wheat and Corn

      While soy products, wheat and corn may be less-obvious culprits, they are common allergens. If your family has a history of allergies, your baby might be sensitive to you having any products containing these ingredients.

    Food Journal for Your Baby

    Remember, each baby is different and has different reactions. Maintain a food journal and if you notice any changes in your baby's poop (frequency, texture, etc.) take note of any patterns that might exist between what you're eating and your baby's reaction to it. The reaction can show up anytime up to 72 hours after eating. If you suspect a food, skip it for two weeks to see if your baby shows improvement. If he does, you can test by trying that food again and seeing if your baby’s symptoms return. If they do, you have found the culprit behind your baby's distress.

    Note: Once you start introducing solid foods to your baby, be careful of what kind of foods to introduce at what age. Check our detailed guide to your baby's food & nutrition.

    When to Consult a Paediatrician

    If your baby often suffers from this problem, it is important to check the possible causes of constant diarrhea. Consult your paediatrician in any of the following situations:
    • Your baby who is under three months has diarrhoea
    • If the stool contains blood or mucus
    • Diarrhoea and fever continue for more than three days
    • Your baby looks dehydrated
    • Your baby passes frequent stools
    • Vomiting occurs and continues for more than a day

    Treatment of Diarrhoea in Infants

    Here are some simple remedies to speed up the treatment of diarrhoea in babies:
    • Give your baby ample liquids

      Continue as usual with breast milk (or formula). If your baby is above 6 months of age, you can feed him fluids such as water. This is the best baby diarrhoea remedy. Note: Avoid feeding fizzy drinks or fruit juice to your baby as they can make diarrhoea worse.
    • Breastfeed your baby

      This will speed up recovery and prevent dehydration.
    • Use ORS upon doctor's advice

      If your baby still seems thirsty after feeding, use an oral re-hydration solution in discussion with the doctor. This will help replenish the lost salts and water from the body due to diarrhoea. The doctor will also help diagnose if there are signs of severe dehydration which can affect the baby’s health adversely.

    How to Treat a Child Having Diarrhoea? - Dr. Varsha Saxena, Consultant Paediatrician

    • Offer your baby a balanced diet

      The old recommendation for babies suffering from diarrhoea was a BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast). However, doctors now advise against it as it lacks protein. If your baby has started solids, it is recommended to feed foods such as chicken, yoghurt and oatmeal.
    • Cuddle your baby

      This will help ease the discomfort. Be particularly careful while changing nappies as the nappy area can become sore during diarrhoea.

    Related Read: 4 Doctor-Approved Foods To Cure Your Baby's Upset Stomach and 4 Foods To Avoid

    Prevention of Diarrhoea in Infants

    The following preventive measures can help protect your baby from getting diarrhoea. Start following these simple steps at home:
    • Ensure regular hand-washing. Every family member must wash their hands regularly, especially after going to the toilet, changing a nappy, or eating
    • If your little one has diarrhoea, keep him away from the daycare or creche for at least 48 hours after the last runny motion
    • Babies may get an infection from contaminated toys or objects as they tend to put their hands into the mouth often. Make sure you clean the floor with a baby-friendly disinfectant and also regularly clean any objects your baby comes in contact with

    Your baby is very delicate and has a yet immature immune system and gastrointestinal tract. When attacked by a virus, their body can catch an infection very easily. If you spot symptoms of diarrhoea in your baby, exercise extra care, consult with the doctor and make sure he drinks plenty of water. He will surely be fine in a jiffy!
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