Infants and young children under age 3 can become dehydrated quickly and get really sick. Dehydration means that your baby does not have enough water or liquids. Watch your baby closely for signs of dehydration, which include:
Dry eyes and little to no tears when crying
Fewer wet diapers than usual
Less active than usual, lethargic
Dry skin that does not spring back to its usual shape after being pinched
Sunken fontanelle (the soft spot on top of the head)
Taking Care of Your Baby
Make sure your baby gets plenty of liquids so she does not get dehydrated.
Keep breastfeeding your baby if you are nursing. Breastfeeding helps prevent diarrhea, and your baby will recover quicker.
If you are using formula, make it full strength unless your health care provider gives you different advice.
If your baby still seems thirsty after or between feedings, talk to your provider about giving your baby Pedialyte or Infalyte. Your provider may recommend these extra liquids that contain electrolytes.
Try giving your baby 1 ounce (2 tablespoons or 30 milliliters) of Pedialyte or Infalyte, every 30 to 60 minutes. DO NOT water down Pedialyte or Infalyte. DO NOT give sports drinks to young infants.
Try giving your baby a Pedialyte popsicle.
If your baby throws up, give them only a little bit of liquid at a time. Start with as little as 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of liquid every 10 to 15 minutes. DO NOT give your baby solid foods when she is vomiting.
DO NOT give your baby ant-diarrhea medicine unless your provider says it is OK.
Feeding Your Baby
If your baby was on solid foods before the diarrhea began, start with foods that are easy on the stomach, such as:
DO NOT give your baby food that makes diarrhea worse, such as:
Full-strength fruit juice
Preventing Diaper Rash
Your baby might get diaper rash because of the diarrhea. To prevent diaper rash:
Change your baby's diaper frequently.
Clean your baby's bottom with water. Cut down on using baby wipes while your baby has diarrhea.
Let your baby's bottom air dry.
Use a diaper cream.
Wash your hands well to keep you and other people in your household from getting sick. Diarrhea caused by germs can spread easily.
When to Call the Doctor
Call your provider if your baby is a newborn (under 3 months old) and has diarrhea.
Also call if your child has signs of being dehydrated, including:
Dry and sticky mouth
No tears when crying
No wet diaper for 6 hours
Know the signs that your baby is not getting better, including:
Fever and diarrhea that last for more than 2 to 3 days
More than 8 stools in 8 hours
Vomiting continues for more than 24 hours
Diarrhea contains blood, mucus, or pus
Your baby is much less active than normal (is not sitting up at all or looking around)
Bhutta ZA. Acute gastroenteritis in children. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 340.
Ochoa TJ, Zambruni M, Chea-Woo E. Approach to patients with gastrointestinal tract infecitons and food poisoning. In Cherry JD, Harrison GJ, Kaplan SL, Steinbach WJ, Hotez PJ, eds. Feigin and Cherry's Textbook of Pediatric Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 44.
Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.