Part Two: From constipation to diarrhoea

In part two of “From constipation to diarrhoea”, we go in-depth in our discussion of the smelly but serious topic of diarrhoea. Please read Part One for a more detailed look at constipation and what you can do to help treat your baby.



Q. When can we say a baby or child has diarrhoea?

A baby or child is reported to have diarrhoea when there is a decrease in the consistency of the stools (stools are looser or liquid), as well as an increase in the frequency of stools passed (typically more than three episodes in 24 hours). Acute diarrhoea typically lasts less than seven days and not more than 14 days and most babies and children also vomit during a diarrhoea spurt (Guarino et al., 2014).

Q. What causes diarrhoea?

Diarrhoea can be caused by:

  • infections including bacteria and viruses (infectious diarrhoea);
  • an increased osmolarity in the gut, which is as a result from too sugary or too salty foods which in return draws water to the stools (osmotic diarrhoea);
  • a sensitivity to a food such as a lactose intolerance could also cause diarrhoea.

Diarrhoea can rapidly lead to dehydration and should be treated quickly to avoid more serious health problems.

“Ensure that feeding bottles and teats are sterilised and wash your hands thoroughly before preparing food for your infant.”

Q. How can I treat diarrhoea?

The first risk of diarrhoea is dehydration. In case of severe diarrhoea, an oral rehydration solution should be given to a baby for a few hours, especially if the weight loss is more than 5% of the weight of the infant before the diarrhoea started. While oral rehydration or solutions with fluids (containing glucose, Na+, K+, Cl–) is preferred, oral electrolyte solutions such as Rehydrate are readily available. After the baby is rehydrated, refeeding is needed to stimulate their recovery – after which the baby’s normal feeding should be continued with special care to avoid a relapse. If the baby is being breastfed, it is advised to continue to do so. However, for formula-fed babies, there are options that can be used to treat diarrhoea. For example, soy milks are known to be lactose free, but are not specifically designed for feeding during diarrhoea, but rather for primary lactose intolerance and long-term feeding. The same applies to the various Lactose Free (LF) formulas on the market.

For the treatment of diarrhoea, a single week of lactose-free feeds should be sufficient, after which the usual formula should be used again.  These above-mentioned formulas do not have an adapted mineral, electrolyte and carbohydrate profile to assist with rehydration and their taste has not been improved or modified to assist with overcoming loss of appetite.

While analysing all of the formulas on the shelf, Novalac AD stood out as one for the dietary management of diarrhoea. This formula is not only lactose free to prevent any secondary intolerances if your baby has diarrhoea, but it also contains higher concentrations of relevant electrolytes (such as sodium, potassium and chloride) to allow for rapid rehydration as well as an optimal energy intake to help with weight recovery. Please remember that you should always consult your doctor, clinic sister or pharmacist for medical advice when your baby appears to be suffering from diarrhoea.

Q. What else can be done?

If you prefer making use of pharmacological options, consider the following:

  • Absorbants such as Smecta, which acts like a clay coat for the entire mucosal lining and absorbs toxins, bacteria and viruses. However, such products cannot be given within one hour before or after any additional medications, as it will absorb that too.
  • Kaolin/Pectin combination combines an adsorbent and protectant and acts by absorbing excess fluid and reducing intestinal movement. Examples of such products include Gastropect or Pectrolyte, but these products are not safe to on newborns.

Q. What must I do if my baby has diarrhoea?

Parents must be particularly vigilant in cases of diarrhoea and take these essential measures:

  1. Regularly monitor your baby’s weight and appearance.
  2. Check the temperature of your baby twice a day.
  3. Watch out for vomiting occurrences.
  4. Give your baby as much water as possible.
  5. Consult the doctor urgently if diarrhoea continues.

To prevent diarrhoea from recurring, good personal hygiene is highly important. Ensure that feeding bottles and teats are sterilised and wash your hands thoroughly before preparing food for your infant. If formula feeding, discard unused formula immediately after a feed to reduce the risk of contamination.

Disclaimer: This post is based on personal experience and personal brand preference of the content author and has in no way been paid for or sponsored. BabyYumYum reserves the right to its opinions and fully supports the notion of promotion that breast is best in line with the World Health Organisation (WHO) infant feeding guidelines Breast milk is the best food for infants. Good maternal nutrition is essential to prepare and maintain breastfeeding. If breastfeeding is not applied, an infant formula may be used according to the advice of healthcare professionals. Preparation and storage of any infant formula should be performed as directed on the tin in order not to pose any health hazards.