Diet for Diarrhea Only (Infant/Toddler)

Woman breastfeeding baby.The main goal while treating diarrhea is to prevent dehydration. This is the loss of too much water and minerals from the body. When this occurs, body fluids must be replaced. This is done by giving your child small amounts of liquids often. You can also give oral rehydration solution. Oral rehydration solution is available at pharmacies and most grocery stores. Don't use sports drinks—they are not good enough. In general, for mild diarrhea, the child can continue to eat.

 

If your baby is breastfed:

  • Keep breastfeeding. Feed your child more often than usual.

  • If diarrhea is severe, give oral rehydration solution between feedings.

  • As diarrhea decreases, stop giving oral rehydration solution and resume your normal breastfeeding schedule.

If your baby is bottle-fed:

  • Give small, frequent amounts of fluid. An ounce or two (30 to 60 mL) every 30 minutes may improve symptoms. Start with 1 teaspoon (5 mL) every 5 minutes and increase gradually as tolerated.

  • Give full-strength formula or milk. If diarrhea is severe, give oral rehydration solution between feedings.

  • If giving milk and the diarrhea is not getting better, stop giving milk. In some cases, milk can make diarrhea worse. Try soy or rice formula.

  • Don’t give apple juice, soda, or other sweetened drinks. Drinks with sugar can make diarrhea worse. Sports drinks are not the same as oral rehydration solutions. Sports drinks have too much sugar and not enough electrolytes to correct dehydration.

  • If your child is doing well after 24 hours, resume a regular diet and feeding schedule.

  • If your child starts doing worse with food, go back to clear liquids.

If your child is on solid food:

  • Keep in mind that liquids are more important than food right now. Don’t be in a rush to give food.

  • Don’t force your child to eat, especially if he or she is having stomach pain and cramping.

  • Don’t feed your child large amounts at a time, even if he or she is hungry. This can make your child feel worse. You can give your child more food over time if he or she can tolerate it.

  • If you are giving milk to your child and the diarrhea is not going away, stop the milk. In some cases, milk can make diarrhea worse. If that happens, use oral rehydration solution instead.

  • If diarrhea is severe, give oral rehydration solution between feedings.

  • If your child is doing well after 24 hours, try giving solid foods. These can include cereal, oatmeal, bread, noodles, mashed carrots, mashed bananas, mashed potatoes, applesauce, dry toast, crackers, soups with rice noodles, and cooked vegetables.

  • Don't feed your child high fat foods.

  • Don't feed your child high sugar foods including fruit juice and sodas.

  • For babies over 4 months, as they feel better, you may give cereal, mashed potatoes, applesauce, mashed bananas, or strained carrots during this time. Babies over 1 year may add crackers, white bread, rice, and other starches.

  • If your child starts doing worse with food, go back to clear liquids.

  • You can resume your child's normal diet over time as he or she feels better. If at the diarrhea or cramping gets worse again, go back to a simple diet or clear liquids.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your child’s healthcare provider, or as advised. If a stool sample was taken or cultures were done, call the healthcare provider for the results as instructed.

Call 911

Call 911 if your child has any of these symptoms:

  • Trouble breathing

  • Confusion

  • Extreme drowsiness or loss of consciousness

  • Trouble walking

  • Rapid heart rate

  • Stiff neck

  • Seizure

When to seek medical advice

Call your child’s healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Belly pain that gets worse

  • Constant lower right belly pain

  • Repeated vomiting after the first two hours on liquids

  • Occasional vomiting for more than 24 hours

  • Continued severe diarrhea for more than 24 hours

  • Blood in stool

  • Refusal to drink or feed

  • Dark urine or no urine, or dry diapers, for 4 to 6 hours in an infant or toddler, or 6 to 8 hours in an older child, no tears when crying, sunken eyes, or dry mouth

  • Fussiness or crying that cannot be soothed

  • Unusual drowsiness

  • New rash

  • More than 8 diarrhea stools within 8 hours

  • Diarrhea lasts more than one week on antibiotics

  • Fever (see Children and fever, below)

Fever and children

Always use a digital thermometer to check your child’s temperature. Never use a mercury thermometer.

For infants and toddlers, be sure to use a rectal thermometer correctly. A rectal thermometer may accidentally poke a hole in (perforate) the rectum. It may also pass on germs from the stool. Always follow the product maker’s directions for proper use. If you don’t feel comfortable taking a rectal temperature, use another method. When you talk to your child’s healthcare provider, tell him or her which method you used to take your child’s temperature.

Here are guidelines for fever temperature. Ear temperatures aren’t accurate before 6 months of age. Don’t take an oral temperature until your child is at least 4 years old.

Infant under 3 months old:

  • Ask your child’s healthcare provider how you should take the temperature.

  • Rectal or forehead (temporal artery) temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

  • Armpit temperature of 99°F (37.2°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

Child age 3 to 36 months:

  • Rectal, forehead (temporal artery), or ear temperature of 102°F (38.9°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

  • Armpit temperature of 101°F (38.3°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

Child of any age:

  • Repeated temperature of 104°F (40°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

  • Fever that lasts more than 24 hours in a child under 2 years old. Or a fever that lasts for 3 days in a child 2 years or older.

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