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Common Baby Medical Concerns - Diarrhea and Vomiting

Angela Oswalt, MSW

Diarrhea and vomiting can have several sources including food allergies, and infections. Rarely, severe medical conditions may require surgery. It's important to monitor these conditions, to prevent dehydration, and to communicate with the pediatrician as necessary. If parents have just recently added a new food to the infant's diet or changed formula and the baby is experiencing diarrhea, has a rash around their anus, and appears generally well, the culprit is probably a food sensitivity or allergy; adjust the baby's menu as tolerated. If the diarrhea is frequent, green, contains mucous, and/or is explosive, and the baby appears and acts sick in other ways, it's probably an infection.

To determine if the baby is becoming dehydrated, monitor their fluid eliminations. The baby's cries should be tearful, and the baby should be wetting at least four diapers a day. Dark yellow, wet diapers can indicate dehydration, as the urea concentration is very high. If caregivers can weigh the child, a dramatic loss of 5 percent of body weight indicates dehydration. Caregivers should contact the doctor or pediatrician if they're concerned that the baby is dehydrated, appears extremely sick and lethargic, or has vomited twice in the last 24 hours.

If the baby is acting sick and is having mild diarrhea, stop any dairy products, juices, and fatty foods. If the baby is acting sick and having severe, explosive, watery stools every two hours, or are acting sick, vomiting, and having diarrhea, stop all solid foods, juice, and formula. Breastfeeding mothers should continue to breastfeed, because breast milk is non-irritating to young digestive systems and can even be healing. Withhold the irritating foods for 12 to 24 hours and begin oral rehydration while the digestive system heals.

Breast-fed babies can continue to breastfeed in order to get the proper balance of fluids and electrolytes needed to prevent dehydration. Babies who are not breastfeeding can drink an oral electrolyte solution, such as Pedialyte, to hydrate them and replenish necessary electrolytes. Use a product such as Pedialyte instead of beverages such as juice, ginger ale, and sugar water, because those old home remedies will only agitate digestive tracts and do not provide necessary electrolytes. After 12 to 24 hours, gradually bring formula and other solid foods back into the baby's diet. As vomiting ceases and stools become firmer, the baby can eat more solid foods. Always consult the doctor when having any question about vomiting, diarrhea, and the transition back to regular foods.

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