Baby Health: Diarrhoea

When is runny baby poo normal and when should you call the doctor?

When your baby appears to be unwell, it can be easy to panic but nine times out of 10 there’ll be nothing to worry about. Still, it’s a good idea to know the basics of baby health. For an idea of what bowel movements are normal in the first six months, go to What’s in a Nappy?.

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All about: Diarrhoea

When to call the doctor

With any baby health worry, contact your GP or call NHS Direct on 0845 4647 if your baby:

  • Has temperature of 38°C of higher
  • Has forceful, repeated vomiting that continues for more than 24 hours
  • Is particularly lethargic or irritable
  • Has diarrhoea for more than 24 hours
  • Has a swollen abdomen
  • Shows signs of dehydration – dry mouth, dark yellow urine, dry nappy for six to eight hours
  • Has blood in her poo or in vomit
  • Has convulsions
  • Refuses feeds for more than six to eight hours
  • Shows signs of jaundice (yellow whites of eyes and a yellowish, tanned look to the skin)

Could it be?
Everyday tummy upset It can be hard to tell the difference between baby poo and diarrhoea, but normal poo tends to smell OK whereas diarrhoea is quite whiffy! There are lots of things that can cause diarrhoea. It could just be something they’ve eaten. Babies’ guts are getting used to all sorts of food and, if you’re breastfeeding, they may get loose stools from something you’ve eaten.
What to do If your baby’s happy and has no other symptoms, don’t worry, it’s like anyone having diarrhoea. Watch for signs of dehydration but if your baby’s feeding well, there’s not much point in going to the doctor.

Could it be?
Viral infection The most common viral cause of diarrhoea is rotavirus gastroenteritis. It’s extremely infectious and symptoms also include vomiting, stomach pains and fever.
What to do There’s no need to panic – if you’re breastfeeding and your baby has rotavirus, chances are they’ll just wade on through it. The main thing is to keep your baby hydrated with something like Dioralyte oral rehydration salts. (When buying these, tell the pharmacist how old the child is that you are buying them for, to check they are suitable.) If your baby shows signs of dehydration or diarrhoea continues for more than 24 hours you should call your doctor.

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Could it be?
Lactose intolerance It’s extremely rare, but if your baby’s had a diarrhoea and vomiting bug and doesn’t recover, it could be lactose intolerance. This is when your baby’s body can’t absorb the sugar, lactose, which is found in milk.
What to do Babies are more susceptible to lactose intolerance after a diarrhoea bug, so if diarrhoea continues then you should see your GP. If lactose intolerance is diagnosed they may suggest lactose-free foods such as Soya formulas or special cow’s milk formulas.

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