Diarrhoea is a condition marked by an excessive frequency of bowel production and an obvious change from normal bowel consistency. It can be very frustrating for parents of infants to cope with, especially because of the necessary increase in diaper changes and the inability of the baby to communicate the way they are feeling. According to Dr. Sears, a renowned paediatrician and author, "an increase in frequency of one-and-a-half or two times your child's normal pattern is considered abnormal."
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There are several possible causes of diarrhoea, most of which are not serious and tend to pass through the system quickly on their own without medical intervention. Sometimes infants suffer diarrhoea due to food allergies or intolerance, and other times it may simply be the result of a change in diet. Intestinal bacterial infections are another common cause. Examples of this are instances where Rotavirus is present. Rotavirus is usually more prevalent during the late fall and early winter months, and it is often accompanied by vomiting and fever during the initial point of development. If you have travelled outside of your home country recently, parasites may be the cause of diarrhoea. Other non-threatening viral infections may also create diarrhoea, but Dr. Sears states that they are generally not serious.
Dehydration is the worst effect that generally results from diarrhoea, and must be monitored by parents closely. Mild to moderate dehydration is seen in symptoms such as less frequent urination, dry mouth, less tear supply when crying, being abnormally quiet, or if the infant loses 5 per cent of her body weight. Severe dehydration should be taken seriously, and if your baby displays three or more of the following symptoms, it is crucial to take her in to a doctor immediately. Severe signs are considered a weight loss of 5 to 10 per cent of body weight, sunken eyes or soft spot, lethargy or irritable behaviour, very infrequent urination, dry and pale skin, which may also be wrinkled, dark yellow urine, no tear production when crying and a dry mouth. To monitor for dehydration, use an accurate scale and weigh your baby with no clothing on in the morning prior to the first daily feeding each day. If the weight isn't fluctuating significantly then your child isn't experiencing significant dehydration.
Dr. Sears suggests parents attempt to evaluate and identify the cause of the diarrhoea by examining the causes stated above and determining if any are applicable. Rashes accompanying diarrhoea often denote food allergies, and if your baby has a fever and a cold with mucous in the stools he is likely to be suffering from an infection. If any new foods have been recently introduced, try removing them from your baby's diet. You should determine the severity of the diarrhoea and dehydration by monitoring your child's behaviour and weight closely. Elimination of potentially irritating foods will expedite the recovery process. If the baby has severe diarrhoea, removing solid foods, regular milk, manufactured formula and juice is recommended. You may continue to offer breast milk. Provide infants with an oral electrolyte solution to maintain hydration instead of manufactured formula. Give half the normal amount of fluids your baby would drink, but twice as often.
Ease back into the regular formula feeding schedule after the first 24 hours have passed by diluting manufactured formula using half the regular amount. Increase the amount of formula slightly each feeding until the normal amount is restored throughout the next 24 hours, while simultaneously decreasing the amount of electrolyte solution. As the stools become more solid, so may the diet. Yoghurt, bananas, rice, bread and applesauce can help completely relieve the diarrhoea when you have reached the point where solids may be reintroduced; administering probiotics may also be extremely helpful.
Do not give your infant juice and do not discontinue breastfeeding. Do not boil the fluids you are giving to your baby, as water will evaporate causing worsening dehydration. Dr. Sears also urges parents to not withhold food for more than 48 hours.
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