Youâ€™re trying not to breathe in as you change the sixth dirty diaper of the night. This sure wasnâ€™t what you expected when you dreamed about motherhood!
As you rock your fussy baby back to sleep, you remember that they may be teething. And thatâ€™s when it hits you: Is there a connection between teething and diarrhea?
Symptoms of teething and diarrhea
Before we dive into whether thereâ€™s a link between teething and diarrhea, letâ€™s look at the symptoms of both.
The scoop on teething
Some babies (about 1 in 3,000) are born with their first teeth. But most babies get their first pearly whites between 4 and 7 months. The late bloomers wait til after 12 months.
Hereâ€™s what will clue you in to this milestone:
- Biting and sucking. Clever kid! Your baby knows how to self-soothe. The extra biting and sucking may be an attempt to make sore gums feel better.
- Gum pain. Sensitive gums can mean a more sensitive baby. Heads up: That means a fussy baby.
- Increased saliva. Wondering why the front of your babyâ€™s shirt is wet? Chalk it up to extra drooling. All babies bite, chew, and drool more starting at 4 months, but you may see an increase in drool with teething, too.
- Facial rash. That drool wets more than just your babyâ€™s clothes. The constant moisture from drool can irritate your babyâ€™s delicate skin and cause a rash.
- A slight rise in temperature. Notice we said â€œslight.â€ A temperature over 100.4Â°F (38Â°C) is considered a real fever, which is not caused by teething.
The scoop on poop
Your babyâ€™s health means itâ€™s time to get graphic about poop. A breastfed baby has poop that is yellow, soft, runny, and sometimes lumpy. The smell isnâ€™t unpleasant. Think of yogurt.
Formula fed babies have poop that is a camel to brown color, thicker in consistency, and not particularly aromatic.
Then you notice a change. Here are the symptoms of diarrhea:
- Frequency. Youâ€™ve probably noticed that babies can poop several times a day, often just after youâ€™ve changed their diaper â€” blame it on Murphy! If your baby has diarrhea, theyâ€™ll poop much more often than usual.
- Volume. Diarrhea usually means diapers are fuller than they usually are.
- Consistency. Watery poop means you may have to change your babyâ€™s clothes as well as their diaper.
You might also notice changes with:
- Color. Diarrhea may turn poop into something green or darker than usual.
- Odor. Thereâ€™s no mistaking the oh-so-smelly whiff of diarrhea.
The correlation between diarrhea and teething
So does teething cause diarrhea? Not exactly. Despite what many mothers will tell you, teething does not directly cause diarrhea, says the American Academy of Pediatrics. Hard fact: Teething itself wonâ€™t make your baby produce stinkier diapers.
But there are a few reasons why teething and diarrhea appear to be associated. Teething usually starts around 6 months of age. Mothers often begin offering their babies solid foods at about the same time. It can take a while for your babyâ€™s sensitive digestive system to get used to new foods, which may cause a change in their stools, including diarrhea.
Also around this time, babies lose the antibodies they got from their mother at birth. Fewer antibodies (and that penchant to put everything in their mouths), makes it more likely that theyâ€™ll pick up an infection which may cause diarrhea.
Other causes of diarrhea
OK, so if diarrhea isnâ€™t related to teething, then why does your baby have those impossible-to-deal-with diapers? There are several reasons for this potentially dangerous issue. Hereâ€™s the run-down:
- Viruses and bacteria. These can cause infections that lead to diarrhea. If your baby has been exposed to viruses or bacteria, most likely theyâ€™ll also be vomiting and have a fever. Heads up: These unpleasant visitors are contagious, so be sure to follow standard hygiene practice when dealing diarrhea. Parasites can also cause diarrhea in babies, but this is quite rare.
- Food sensitivity. Certain foods may be difficult for your baby to digest. Diarrhea might be your babyâ€™s way of saying, â€œNo thanks, mom.â€ In this case, your baby may also have gas and pull their legs up towards their stomach.
- Food allergies. While rare in babies, food allergies are more serious than food sensitivities. Allergies to food or formula affect more parts of the body than just the intestines. As well as having diarrhea, your baby may develop a rash, runny nose, wheezing, and coughing.
- Medications. Itâ€™s pretty common for meds such as antibiotics to irritate the intestines and cause diarrhea. Thatâ€™s in part because antibiotics eliminate the healthy bacteria that keep your babyâ€™s gut running smoothly.
- Travel. One of the downsides of travel is diarrhea. Usually, the culprit is contaminated water. Travel diarrhea is uncommon in a baby, but possible.
- No cause. Yup, sometimes your baby may have loose poop for no reason at all. As long as theyâ€™re acting fine with no fever, thereâ€™s usually nothing to worry about.
Since teething and diarrhea are two separate issues, you may want to treat them separately.
Relieving teething pain
Now that youâ€™ve dealt with the dirty diapers, letâ€™s talk about what to do for those tender gums.
- Rub your babyâ€™s gums with your finger or a washcloth dipped in cold water to ease the pain.
- Have your baby chew on a chilled teething toy, cold spoon, or chilled fruit in a mash feeder.
- When your baby seems they handle the teething pain any longer (lots of tears!), you may want to give your baby over-the- counter pain medication for infants. Teething hasnâ€™t been shown to cause severe pain, so if your baby is extremely fussy for more than a day or two, contact your doctor.
Youâ€™ll want to steer clear of any teething tablets, topical gels, and homeopathic remedies, per the Food and Drug Administration. They arenâ€™t necessarily effective, and some could be dangerous, even fatal.
When to call a doctor
Itâ€™s time to call your doctor when:
- diarrhea has persisted longer than two weeks
- there is blood in the stool
- your baby has had a fever for more than 2 to 3 days
- your baby is losing significant weight (5 percent of their baseline weight or more)
- your baby is dehydrated
- your baby seems listless, limp, or unresponsive â€” or has lost the familiar light in their eyes
Teething doesnâ€™t cause diarrhea. However, since baby teeth tend to emerge at the same time as other baby milestones, they tend to be associated.
It may seem like a long journey, but soon the dirty diapers will be gone, and pearly whites will peek out at you when your child smiles. Itâ€™ll all have been worth the effort!
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