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Diarrhea is when there is an abnormal increase in the frequency or liquidity of your baby or child’s poop.

Although not dangerous in itself, it can hint at more serious problems. Diarrhea means that the food your child is eating is passing too quickly through his digestive tract for him to retain any of the water contained in it. If he loses too much fluid he can become dehydrated which is a very serious condition.

Keep in mind that babies on a milk diet will have frequent liquid–consistency bowel movements and these are nothing to worry about. A newborn baby who is breastfed can have anything up to 10 yellowish and runny bowel movements a day. Newborn babies can’t store food for very long in their digestive systems, so you may notice he has a bowel movement with or after each feed. By the time your baby is a month old he’ll probably start to have fewer bowel movements. Bottlefed babies have fewer bowel movements from the get–go, more usually one a day, and they’re much firmer.

When your baby starts to eat solids his poop will become firmer and less frequent. Loose frequent bowel movements at this age could signal food poisoning, as well as infections caused by bacteria or viruses. If you notice your baby has frequent smelly, watery stools that may be accompanied by a fever or vomiting he may have diarrhea.

Call your pediatrician if your baby is under three months and has diarrhea or is he’s over three months and has diarrhea along with vomiting and a fever. Diarrhea is potentially dangerous for babies and young children because loss of fluids can result in dehydration.

If your pediatrician is satisfied your baby isn’t dehydrated and has a run–of–the–mill gastric upset, she’ll likely recommend you breast or bottlefeed as normal. If your baby isn’t keeping his feeds down, your pediatrician may suggest you give him an electrolyte solution such as Pedialite, which may be easier for your baby to keep down. If your baby is weaned onto solids, feed bland rice and vegetable based meals. Live yogurt can also help clear diarrhea. If your toddler or older child doesn’t feel like eating don’t panic – as long as he’s taking fluids and keeping them down, a temporary break from solid food shouldn’t cause a problem.

If your child has diarrhea and abdominal pain around his navel and lower right side of his groin he may have appendicitis – call your pediatrician immediately as this is potentially dangerous.

Frequently wash your baby’s hands and wash them after you change her diaper in case her hands come into contact with poop. Encourage your older child to wash his hands after he has been to the bathroom and also before eating, so that germs and bacteria aren’t spread. Wash your hands after you have changed a diaper and before you prepare food.

The information in this feature is intended for educational purposes only. If you have any concerns about your health, the health of your child or the health of someone you know, please consult with a doctor or other healthcare professional.