By Health Promotion Board in collaboration with Dr. Yvonne Ng, Senior Consultant, Department of Neonatology, National University Hospital.

If your baby is pooping more often, and if his stools are more watery than usual, he might be having diarrhoea.

Diarrhoea is an infection of the intestines. Your little one may have a fever, stomach pain, poor appetite, and vomiting. Diarrhoea usually lasts 2 to 4 days. Occasionally, it may last 1 to 2 weeks.

Causes of diarrhoea

  • Viruses, the most common being Rotavirus, which can be prevented with a vaccine.
  • Bacteria such as Salmonella, Campylobacter or Shigella.
  • Excessive intake of fruit juice or sweetened drinks
  • Lactose intolerance. This happens when your baby continues to have watery diarrhoea (after recovering from a bout of gastroenteritis). The doctor may advise you to switch him to a lactose-free milk. Don’t worry, your little one will recover in a few days, and he will be able to digest lactose and drink milk again.

Related: Common Childhood Conditions—Diarrhoea

What Should Mum and Dad Do?

Stay hydrated! Diarrhoea can lead to dehydration. This occurs when your baby has not drunk enough fluids to replace the loss from diarrhoea and vomiting. It is very important to continue feeding your baby with small and frequent breast milk/formula throughout the day.

Your doctor may prescribe oral rehydration solutions to replace water and salts lost, and medications to reduce your baby's diarrhoea episodes.

Do not self-medicate your baby with anti-diarrhoea medicine, unless it has been prescribed by a doctor. The majority of children with gastroenteritis do not need any medication.

Related: Viral Gastroenteritis

When Should I See the Doctor?

Bring your baby to your paediatrician immediately if you see the following signs:

  • Your baby is unable to drink enough fluids and has signs of dehydration:
    • Dry skin, mouth, and tongue
    • Less frequent urination
    • Crying without tears
    • Sunken fontanelle (the soft spot on top of baby’s head, if your baby is younger than 18 months)
  • Signs of more serious diarrhoea:
    • Green vomit
    • Stools contain a lot of mucus and blood
    • Severe abdominal pain
    • Abdomen distension (bloating)

Big Red Flags

Bring your child to the emergency department immediately if he has:
  • Cool hands and feet, clammy skin
  • Shallow or laboured breathing
  • High fever (38.0 degrees Celsius and above)
  • Looks tired or refuses to wake up

Prevention is better than cure

How do we prevent diarrhoea? 

  • Hand hygiene! Frequent hand washing gets rid of common virus and bacteria.
  • Bottle/milk hygiene
- Avoid giving baby milk that has sit in room temperature for more than 2 hours
- Avoid reheating milk bottle that is half consumed 
- Boil/steam baby bottles frequently
  • Avoid eating raw or undercooked food
- Raw chicken, eggs, and fish are known to cause diarrhoea.

Ask your doctor about preventing diarrhoea for your child.