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Diarrhea in Newborn Babies

By Christa Miller ; Updated June 13, 2017

When a newborn has diarrhea, his bowel movements will be looser and more frequent than normal. Whether or not he shows signs of being in any discomfort, diarrhea can quickly cause him to become dangerously dehydrated. As a result, BabyCenter recommends that parents immediately call a doctor if they suspect that their baby under three months of age has diarrhea.


Since many newborns normally have frequent and runny stools, pediatric health website recommends that parents look for changes in their newborn’s regular pattern. For example, a frequency that is one-and-a-half to two times a normal pattern and a consistency that is looser, contains more mucus, greener or more watery than normal may indicate that a newborn has diarrhea.


Most causes of diarrhea in newborns aren’t serious and many resolve in time without any direct treatment, according to Common causes include viruses such as rotavirus and influenza, bacterial infections such as E. coli and salmonella, ear infections, side effects of antibiotics, and parasitic infections such as giardiasis.


Hand washing is one of the best defenses against diarrhea in newborn babies because diarrhea-causing microorganisms are often passed from hands to mouths. Using warm water and soap to scrub hands thoroughly for 15 seconds after using the bathroom or handling a soiled diaper can help reduce risks. Also, temporarily keeping infected children out of daycare environments can help reduce instances of diarrhea, since shared toys and other objects may easily become contaminated.

When to Call the Doctor

Newborns are at increased risk for infections and dehydration. To prevent further complications, parents should contact a doctor immediately if their infant under three months of age has diarrhea or shows any of the following symptoms: consistent vomiting, signs of dehydration (e.g. dry mouth, six or more hours between wet diapers), black or blood-tinged stool or a temperature above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit.


Parents should never give a baby an anti-diarrhea medication unless it is prescribed by a doctor, says BabyCenter. Although most of the time the diarrhea subsides on its own, a baby who becomes too dehydrated will need to be treated with an electrolyte solution or liquids through an intravenous (IV) tube. Also, certain underlying conditions such as ear infections and occasionally bacterial infections such as E. coli may require antibiotic treatment to stop the diarrhea.

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