M.Ed., RD, LDN, CLC, RYT-200
Andie is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Lactation Consultant, and Certified Personal Trainer who thinks of nutrition counseling as equal parts science and sensitivity. She specializes in lactation, sports nutrition, exercise fitness, and weight loss programs.
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Read time: 5 minutes
Who knew that one of the biggest things we would do as parents is think and talk about poop so much? We pay close attention to our little one’s poop pattern, whether they have 3 bowel movements per day, go once every 3 days, or somewhere in between (all of which are completely normal!).
While the pattern may shift over time, especially as your child transitions to solid food,1 deviations from their norm can be both uncomfortable for them and alarming for you, especially when that change involves diarrhea.
Acute diarrhea: When your little one has diarrhea for just a few days (less than 3 weeks)2
Chronic diarrhea: When your little one has on-going diarrhea for longer than 3 weeks2
It’s important to treat your child’s diarrhea promptly, as the most immediate risk for most children is dehydration.5 If your child has diarrhea, be sure to watch for symptoms of dehydrations.
Read more: How can I tell if my child is adequately hydrated?
A first line of home remedies for diarrhea in toddlers and babies is additional fluids.7
Under 12 months: Provide breastmilk and/or formula
Over 12 months: Provide breastmilk, cow’s milk / milk alternative, and water.2,3
If your little one seems to get bloated or gassy after drinking cow’s milk, ask their healthcare provider if it should be avoided.3
Read more: Dairy Sensitivity in Babies and Toddlers
Should your child has worsening diarrhea and/or is showing little interest in her usual drinks, try these alternatives while also checking in with her healthcare provider:
if your child is suffering from prolonged or more severe diarrhea, their healthcare provider might recommend a rehydration / electrolyte drink. Be sure to only use commercial prepared pediatric rehydration drinks.3
Fluids to Avoid: Unlike pediatric electrolyte drinks; Jell-o, soda / soft drinks, juice, and sports drinks often do not have the correct mixture of sugar, salt, and fluids, and may make your little one more sick. 3, 4
If juice is the only fluid your child will drink, try diluting it: 1 ounce of juice to 4 ounces of water.
In addition to hydration, attention to diet can be important.8 While in the past the BRAT diet was recommended, this is no longer considered beneficial.3 Most little ones can resume eating a healthy balanced diet within a day or so after getting sick. Include fruits, vegetables, proteins, and complex carbohydrates.3
Sometimes emphasizing foods that bind stool as well as those that provide more fluids may help. Smaller more frequently meals may also provide some relief.8
Focus on the following foods:
Restrict the following foods:
If you have questions about your child’s diet, reach out to our team of registered dietitians and lactation consultants for free! They are here to help on our free live chat from Monday – Friday, 8am-8pm (EST )and Saturday – Sunday, 8am-4pm (EST). Chat with them now!
The helpfulness of probiotics in children with diarrhea is debated, with some research showing no help and others indicating it may promote some improvements. 9, 10 For more information, check in with your child’s healthcare provider.
Read more: Probiotics 101
Anti-diarrheal medications are sold over the counter (as well as by prescription) but in most cases should not be used. Chat with your child’s healthcare provider before considering an anti-diarrheal.3, 5, 8
Some wipes contain alcohol, fragrance, and other chemicals, so you may choose to keep your little one’s tush comfortable and clean by using water-dampened cloths instead of baby wipes. 11 To do this, gently wipe baby’s bottom with the dampened cloth and patting dry or air-dry. You may also opt for wipes that are free of potentially irritating chemicals.
Allow your child’s bottom to dry completely before applying a protective ointment or cream. The cream will help provide a barrier between what’s in your baby’s diaper and your little one’s tush – but it will only help if applied to a dry bottom.11
Frequent diaper changes (or even some diaper-free time!) may also help.12
If your child is experiencing any of the following, contact your healthcare provider:
We know parenting often means sleepless nights, stressful days, and countless questions and confusion, and we want to support you in your feeding journey and beyond. Our Happy Baby Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitians certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too, which means they’ve been there and seen that. They’re here to help on our free, live chat platform Monday – Friday 8am-8pm (EST), and Saturday – Sunday 8am-4pm (EST). Chat Now!
Read more about the experts that help write our content.
Alternatives to naturally and artificially sweetened beverages and juices
Choosing milk and milk alternatives for your baby and toddler
How can I tell if my baby is adequately Hydrated?
The pros and cons of cups, sippy cups, and straws for babies and toddlers
Storing baby food
How Do I Help My Breastfed Baby with Diarrhea and Constipation?
1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Starting Solids. Accessed 18 August 2021. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/Starting-Solid-Foods.aspx
2. American College of Gastroenterology. Diarrhea in Children. Accessed 24 August 2021. https://gi.org/topics/diarrhea-in-children/
3. American Academy of Pediatrics. Diarrhea in Children: What Parents Need to Know. Accessed 18 August 2021. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/abdominal/Pages/Diarrhea.aspx
4. National Institute of Health. MedlinePlus. Diarrhea in Infants. Accessed 24 August 2021. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000691.htm
5. Dehydration and diarrhea. Paediatr Child Health. 2003;8(7):459-468. doi:10.1093/pch/8.7.459. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2791660/
6. American Academy of Pediatrics. Signs of Dehydration in Infants & Children. Accessed 24 August 2021. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/injuries-emergencies/Pages/dehydration.aspx
7. Bhattacharya SK. Therapeutic methods for diarrhea in children. World J Gastroenterol. 2000;6(4):497-500. doi:10.3748/wjg.v6.i4.497. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4723546/
8. Medline Plus. When your child has diarrhea. Accessed 20 August 2021. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000693.htm
9. Guandalini S. Probiotics for children with diarrhea: an update. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2008 Jul;42 Suppl 2:S53-7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18520336/
10. National Institutes of Health. Probiotics not helpful for young children with diarrhea. Accessed 24 August 2021. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/probiotics-not-helpful-young-children-diarrhea
11. American Academy of Pediatrics. Common Diapers Rashes and Treatments. Accessed 24 August 2021. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/diapers-clothing/Pages/Diaper-Rash.aspx
12. Diaper Rash. Accessed 24 August 2021. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diaper-rash/symptoms-causes/syc-20371636
13. National Institute of Health. Soluble and Insoluble Fiber. Accessed 24 August 2021. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/imagepages/19531.htm