Diarrhea and Infants

Dr. Greene, my baby has been having 4 runny poops each day for the last 5 days (she normally goes once a day). Is this diarrhea? How do you tell diarrhea in a baby? If it is, what should I do?
Bob – Walnut Creek, California

Diarrhea and Infants

Dr. Greene’s Answer:

Normal baby stool can look a lot like an adult’s diarrheal stool. Healthy baby poop is often soft and runny, and (especially in the first month) quite frequent. One 2-week-old with 10 runny stools a day may be perfectly healthy, while another 4-month-old with 3 stools a day, all firmer than the other baby’s, may have diarrhea. So how can a parent tell if their child’s stool is normal or considered diarrhea?

Look for a sudden increase in the frequency of the stools. Each baby has her own stool frequency pattern that changes slowly over time. If it changes noticeably within only a few days, she may have diarrhea. Any baby who has more than one stool per feeding should also be suspected of having diarrhea, even if this isn’t a sudden change. Also look for a sudden increase in the water content of the stool. Other signs of illness in your baby, such as poor feeding, a newly congested nose or a new fever, make the diagnosis of diarrhea more likely.

What Causes Diarrhea in Babies?

Diarrhea in babies can be caused by a change in diet (including, sometimes, a change in mother’s diet if the baby is breast-fed), by infection, by antibiotic use, or by a number of rare diseases. Each year there are about one billion cases of diarrhea in children worldwide. In most cases (more than 990 million of them) the diarrhea will resolve by itself within a week or so. Still, more than 3 million young children die each year from diarrhea (about 400-500 in the United States).

Treating Diarrhea in Babies

The central concern with diarrhea is the possibility of dehydration from loss of body fluids. Treatment is aimed at preventing dehydration, the real culprit. Most children with diarrhea can be treated safely at home.

If your baby is breast-fed, don’t stop. Breast feeding helps prevent diarrhea (making diarrhea only half as likely); it also speeds recovery and helps prevent hospitalization (Journal of Pediatrics, May 1996; Pediatrics, April 2007). If your baby still seems thirsty after or between nursing sessions, you can supplement with an oral rehydration solution (Pedialyte is the most well known, but other brands are also effective. Children in my practice seem to prefer the taste of grape-flavored KaoLectrolyte — chilled). Do not try to make your own electrolyte solution at home, as the commercially available solutions are specially formulated to meet your baby’s electrolyte needs.

If your baby is formula-fed, you might want to switch to a soy-based formula while the diarrhea lasts. A soy formula containing fiber, such as Isomil DF, can be tried if your baby is at least 6 months old and may potentially be more effective at slowing down the stools (Clinical Pediatrics, March 1997; Pediatrics, January 1998). Do not dilute the formula. As with breast-fed babies, supplementation with an oral rehydration solution can help replenish the fluids and electrolytes that have been lost in the diarrheal stools.

If your baby is already big enough to be taking solid foods, then carrots, rice cereal, bananas, potatoes, and applesauce can help slow down the stools. Avoid fruit juices, peas, pears, peaches, plums, prunes and apricots until the stools are back to normal, which should be within a week or so.

What if it Lasts “Too” Long?

If the diarrhea lasts longer than a week, or is accompanied by more than 72 hours of fever, get in touch with your pediatrician. Contact your pediatrician right away, however, if your baby won’t drink or appears to be getting dehydrated (dry mouth, crying without tears, sunken soft spot, lethargic, or going 8 hours without producing urine) or if your baby is under 3 months and has diarrhea with a fever. Vomiting for 24 hours, 8 stools in 8 hours, or the presence of blood, mucus, or pus in the stool should also prompt a call to your pediatrician.

So far we’ve been talking about poop. One final thought —

Don’t forget your baby’s bottom. Stool normally contains some of the enzymes that help us digest our food. When stool travels through the intestines more quickly, not only is there more poop, but the poop contains more of these enzymes, which can then start to “digest” the soft skin of your baby’s bottom. Frequent diaper changes, rinsing the bottom with water, air drying, and protective ointments and creams, such as Desitin, can be a real help. Cut down on baby wipes during diarrhea.

Diapers and diarrhea

During diarrhea, most parents are focused on the frequent, runny poops. Most doctors are focused on the possibility of dehydration. From your baby’s point of view, however, the burning irritation of the diaper rash may be the most pressing issue.

Did you find this article helpful? Still need more information? Let us know in the comments below.

Dr. Alan Greene

Dr. Greene is the founder of DrGreene.com (cited by the AMA as “the pioneer physician Web site”), a practicing pediatrician, father of four, & author of Raising Baby Green & Feeding Baby Green. He appears frequently in the media including such venues as the The New York Times, the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, & the Dr. Oz Show.

  1. Rose

    Hi I have a 17. Week old little girl her poop have been running last pass 2 week what can cause her have the running bad.any idea

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  2. Shobana

    Not Help full.
    Help my 7 week old baby has had blood in his poo today and I’m terrified it’s something seriouse x

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  3. Uzma

    Add your message here
    my baby is 3 months old …and suffering from loose motions in the form of water and in green,yellow colour.Is this is diarrhoea ?
    if it is diarrhoea so what we have 2 do ??

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  4. Denisse

    6 month old daughter has had very mucous- jelly like stools right after every feeding for the past 3 days now. She is teething and she is also just recovering from a cold. Could these be the cause of her diarrhea? What can I do to help her get better. She’s acting her normal self other than having a minor diaper rash and frequent stools. First time mom! I don’t know if I should be more worried or take her to get checked right away.

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  5. Mirza Rakib

    Hi,
    My baby boy is 19 days old and having water poop 5/6 times a day and another 2/3 times stool is normal.
    Our doctor is advised for oral saline and zinc sulphate. However, it is not remarkable progress it is around 4 days. Please help us with suggestion.

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  6. Cheyanne

    HI doctor, my baby is 9 weeks old and breastfed. The last 4 to 5 days she seemed in pain with her bowels, and noticed today that her poop is almost like normal poop. It’s like a really thick paste is this normal? Because I got told babies poop changes around 12 weeks?

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    • asma

      I have been going thru the same exact problem with my almost 6 month old baby.. last three days have been rough on her.. she is been pooping after every feed.. i worry about her mot getting enough nutrition and getting

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  7. Jagdish

    Hi Greene, my baby is just 5 months old and from past 3 weeks he is having non stop diarrhea. More than 9 times a day and the poop is watery and green. Consult with the Dr. and also done poop and blood test. Results: Infections.. He is only feeded by his Mom no formula made milk. Also he doesn’t like formula made. Help me with your suggestion.

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  8. Amy

    My son is 6 weeks old and is formula fed soy based milk. He has had 12 to 15 diarrhea diapers in the last 24 hours, along with very frequent throwing up and not sleeping well. What should I do?

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  9. Chisom

    My 3 months old baby started out with fever, after which she had very loose stools with mucus in it together with cough and catarrh. few days later, she began breathing heavily and gasping for breathe. she was admiited in the hospital and later discharged after 4days but she still has been coughing, stooling, and breathing hard. she also has less wet diapers. What could be the problem and also solution for it? Thanks

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  10. Dereje

    My daughter is 10month & she face diahhria. Whay shall I give to her?

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  11. jalpa

    Hi
    My baby girl is 7 weeks old & from last 1 week she has done green poo 4 to 5 times with mucus & having running poo (diarrhea) from last 5 days. She is on breastfeed. I am on my normal diet. So what can be the reason for green poo & diarrhea?

    Can you please give me the solution??

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  12. Becky

    My daughter is 3 and half months old. She has been having diarrhea for the last 3 weeks. I took her to doctor 2 times. They asked me to keep her hydrated using Diaralyte solution. She would not take her food as well. Its difficult to breastfeed her, she keeps crying. What could be the reason?

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  13. jackie

    My baby is a month old and has really watery, light brown poop 2 times now & vomited 3 times in a row. His pediatrician is closed. Should I take him to the e.r.? Also was only breastfeeding. Started feeding formula every other feeding. Could this be the cause? PLEASE HELP!!!

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    • I’m just a mom, not a doctor, but I would say the change from breastfeeding to a combination of breastfeeding and formula could be the cause.

      Regarding taking him to the ER, from what you’ve said, I don’t think it’s time to trek to the ER, but it’s important that you follow your mother’s instinct. Your baby may get better on his own, or may get worse. If you start feeling like he’s in trouble, don’t hesitate to go. More than likely, a call to your pediatrician in the morning will be just fine.

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  14. kaleem

    My son is 3 months old and every day he had loose stools nearly 5 to 6 times. Sometimes yellow, sometimes green and sometimes contains mucus. His weight is 4.1 and looking healthy and he is on breast milk. Is it diarrhea? His urine is also very frequent. Please answer.

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  15. GEOFFREY

    My son is 6 months and he has been diarrhearing for 9 days now.doctor has given me OR and ZINC and advised to reduce amount of meal given daily.upto now there is no change.what should i do?
    please help.

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    • With prolonged diarrhea in babies the big issues are to prevent dehydration and to learn the underlying cause if it’s something that needs specific treatment. I’m glad to hear when someone has seen their pediatrician with diarrhea lasting longer than a week. I’m also a fan of continuing to get back in touch until the diarrhea has turned the corner. Ask about probiotics, which could help shorten diarrhea from many causes.

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  16. Mel

    My daughter is 4 months. She’s been having very watery stool 3-4 times a day. It’s watery, a lot of mucous in it, yellowish and a bit green. No symptoms of dehydration. Doctor said try pedialyte didn’t work. They said dilute the bottles nothing. Help please it’s been 14 days.

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  17. Diana

    My baby girl is 14 weeks and she poo after every feed for 2day now. She also feed through a gastronomy, I also give her both formula feed and breast milk. Could this be diarrhea? Pldo help

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  18. michelle

    Hi there. My baby is 13months old now and yesterday she started to have yellow watery poop two times. Last night she vomited after feeding. She’s formula fed baby. And today she pooped four times already and vomited once. She is still very playful. Any advice? Thanks.

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  19. Liszton

    If the diarrhea has led to dehydration what should be the first treatment to be done?

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  20. ADEGUN A.O

    My baby is two months old. She poops 4-6 times a day, especially after feeding. She’s on breast milk and baby formula. She was 2.5kg at birth. Right now she is just 3.2kg. Please, is all well with my baby? Expecting you reply.

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  21. candace

    My child is 2 month and she runny stool for 4 day and she look so small

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  22. nir

    My baby 6 months old. He is breast feeding, but from 6 days he continue 6-8 curdy green poo and fever also. My doctor says stop breast feeding and given some antibiotic, but after 36hr — no any relief. I am so worried. Tell me wat to do.

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  23. Zooreen

    My 7 months old daughter is lactose intolerant. We have been giving her neocate since she was 3 months old on pediatric suggestion. Now I am confused. Is she lactose intolerant or dairy allergic? Yesterday we tried her with 30 ml primalac LF upon which she started vomiting and had diarrhea within one hour of feeding. Please let me know the reason behind this. Is she lactose intolerant or dairy allergic..?? Primalac LF is a lactose free baby formula as well. Very thankful to you for your answer.

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  24. Jaq

    Really useful articles, has reassured me about what to do. Thank you

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  25. ANURAG SACHAN

    My baby loosing stool for 5 days is it normal? If it is problem, then what is the solution?

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  26. Shanill abbas

    Hi, my name is Shanill. My 12 years old daughter has diarrhea for 3 month. Every time I go to the hospital they keep saying drink water. Can you help me??

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  27. Nicole

    My 9m old daughter normally has 1-3 soft formed stools/day. For about a week now she had had 5 or more diarrhea stools per day. The color of stool changes throughout the day and seems like late afternoon she has one or two that are very dark — almost black with some green streaks in it. Increase in amount of baby food, but otherwise nothing new with diet, still breastfed also. Doesn’t appear to be any teeth close to cutting through??

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  28. Kamal

    My baby is at 38 days old. Seven days after birth, he developed diaper rash because of runny poops. We usually visit the dermatologist for diaper rash. It was almost cured, but again we saw the rash due to runny poops. We think, he’s having slow diarrhea, but not severe. Due to the runny poops, his anus always wetty. We are not using diaper after having this problem. How we can control the frequent runny poops?

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  29. susmita

    Dr. Greene,

    My 3.5 years son has green sticky potty 6-7 times. We have done stool test. There is present e coli., occult blood positive. Amikacin ection through iv was given, but no result.

    Now next stool test report said still the bacteria present. Reducing substance is also ++. Now his doc is givng ofloxacin orally. Only 200gm weight gain in last month. Will I continue breast feeding? Is there anything to worry?

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    • Preeti

      Hi Susmita,

      Do you have any solution to the above problem? As my baby has this same issue.

      Please advise what you have done.

      Regards,

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  30. Benson

    Hello Dr Greene,

    My daughter is just 3 weeks old and since I do not breast feed I introduced her to formula, but now on entering the fourth week she started vomiting and having diarrhea. Now she is refusing to feed and am getting really worried. Could it be the formula I am using? And if am to change the formula which ones are you recommending?

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  31. steph

    My daughter is 2. She is anemic. The past 2 days she’s had really runny nappys. Tonight I changed her 7 times within an hour. Surely this can’t be right. She’s drinking plenty and isn’t running a temp. She is on galfer iron because she’s very low on iron. Could you please give me some advice. Thank you.

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  32. haider alshawi

    My 1 years old is suffering from frequent defecation — at last 10 times per day.

    Her mother worried about this situation for a week, but there is no fever or anything to suggest that the child is sick except the rash in her seat was treated by some ointments. The baby is fed by bottle and some food by her mother.

    Asking for your help. Is this condition normal and the extent of the danger to the child? Please advise us. With appreciation.

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  33. fola

    very helpful thanks…

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  34. Grace Muriithi

    Very helpful. My son is five months can I give him pedialyte?

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  35. marri

    Really helpful thank you

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  36. unathi

    I have a 3 month old boy. His stool has suddenly changed. It is runny. What can be the cause of it? I’m breastfeeding and give him formula (nan pelargon).

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    • bugzz

      My daughter is 3 months old her poop is yelow and flower. Is this called diarrhea?

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  37. flozzy

    My baby will be 5-months in 2 weeks. She suddenly started having frequent and runny poop this morning. Please, I am so worried — although she is acting normal and fine.

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  38. Geraldine

    Yes, poo really burns baby’s soft skin. Thanks for that reminder. I have to rinse her bottom after every diaper change. Yet I need to know the cause of diarrhea at five months. Could it be due to the medication I am taking? Does it indicate teething?

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  39. tyeisha

    My 2 month old baby girl is having non-stop diarrhea. She got her 2 month shots on the 8th. She has a red peel of skin rash on her bottom. She is on Enfamil Gentlease for fussiness, and crying. Please help me out. I’m really scared for her.

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    • Stephanie

      My daughter is also 2 months old and just got her shots on the 13th! And is also having bad diarrhea! She is on the same formula also. I’m looking for answers!

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    • crystal

      My 2 month old baby girl is also having non – stop diarrhea. She is on the same formula, Enfamil Gentlease, for fussiness and crying. Please help!!

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    • saureen

      Surely your LO are good now, but what did you guys do when they had diarrhea? My 3 month old has been having runny diapers for over 24 hours now. She has sudden bursts of cry, too and then after awhile she’s back to being cheery. I’m not sure how to help her. Any suggestions would be helpful.

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  40. Dr. Nasir Mukadam

    My daughter has watery stool from 2 week .what is treatment?

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  41. virginia madrid

    My baby is 19th months and does not walk yet by him self, is that normal?

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  42. araceli

    Dr greene my daughter is five months old and has a cough runny nose diarrhea and a diaper rash but no fever what can i give her bedided Tylenol

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  43. MARGARITA

    I need to know?

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  44. MARGARITA

    MY BABY IS 4 MTHS OLD AND SHE HAS THE SAME POO THAT SHE HAD WHEN SHE WAS FIRST BORN ITS REAL WATERY AND I BREASTFEED IS IT OK BUT SHE DOES STRAIN ALOT!!!

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  45. sherriae

    My baby is 6 months. She has been having runny stools and is hot at the face. Also her nose is very stuff and running.

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  46. juliet

    My baby is 2mths n 2wks,she stools frequently n is watery,n she is getting slim everday.

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  47. Emily

    Hi I have two things. My son is 5 months old and just recently started popping like 20 times a day. Every time I change his diaper there’s poop. Very soft but not runny, he does get fevers, and takes a pump for his asthma. What do I do!!?

    My daughter is 2 years old and she has a fear of pooping so she holds it in and it leaves her not feeling well. Last night I tried the suppository and when she pooped bright red blood came out with it! I took her to the E.R and they said to give her Miralax every day 10g. I’ve even had more fiber foods in her diet and nothing seems to be helping. I need help.

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  48. marry

    My baby is just 6 months old. He sometimes poo is normal and sometimes loose, soft and yellow. Is this normal?

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  49. Raja Rajan

    Thank you, this is a lot more information, it really helps.

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  50. Yasaswini

    Thankyou greene….for your answer…..
    My baby is just 6 months old….would please suggest me which food is good at this age for her growth???

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