If you’re like me, sometimes you question how such a tiny body can put out an enormous amount of stool.
While your toddler can certainly have loose stools now and again, if it’s very runny and gross, it’s called the dreaded “toddler diarrhea”.
Quick story: when I was in school, I stayed home with my oldest son. He had the WORST case of diarrhea you could imagine. I finally got him cleaned up and ready for a nap. Soon after, yep… you guessed it. I smelled it and knew this wouldn’t be ending any time soon.
By the time I made it to his crib—it was all over him, the walls, his beloved stuffed animals—and I was left dry heaving.
At that moment, I must have said a thousand times that I wish I had a list of foods to give toddlers with diarrhea to help kick this to the curb.
In this article, I want to tell you a little bit about the different causes of your child’s diarrhea, natural remedies to lessen blowouts, and foods to give toddlers with diarrhea! I’ll also tell you why the BRAT diet is a thing of the past!
What is Toddler Diarrhea and When to Worry?
Diarrhea, also referred to as functional diarrhea is a type of many childhood functional gastrointestinal disorders. It is typically not a true disease or illness. Instead, it’s a common (but awful) symptom toddlers face. Thankfully, it usually is not a cause for worry.
Diarrhea in toddlers often have the following indications:
- contains undigested food particles and/or mucus
- three or more loose, watery stools per day
- it may be brown, green, or yellow
- for chronic cases, symptoms may show in your child in as little as six months and last into the preschool years. (thankfully, 90% of children’s chronic diarrhea cases completely resolve by the age of 4.
The most common cause of a child’s diarrhea is usually an infection or stomach bug. However, if symptoms persist, several other factors can cause your toddler’s diarrhea, including:
- excessive fluid intake or beverages can cause your little one’s digestive tract to be overworked, resulting in excess water and electrolyte absorption.
- immature digestive tract causing foods to quickly pass through.
- eating too many high fiber fruits and vegetables while eating a low fat diet causing foods to quickly move through the intestines
- increased physical activity (who knew that physical activity was linked to increased bowel movements!?)
If your child:
- has bloody stools
- is experiencing abdominal pain
- severe diarrhea that consists of more than 8 liquid stools in 8 hours
- is refusing oral hydration or foods
- Is running fever
You should contact your child’s pediatrician or licensed medical professional immediately.
Home Remedies for Diarrhea in Toddlers and The Best Foods to Give Toddlers With Diarrhea
The first thing you’ll want to do if your toddler has diarrhea is not to force your child to eat. Remember that fluids and hydration are more important than solid foods right now.
Best Drink For Toddlers With Diarrhea
It’s common for a child with diarrhea to lose extra fluid and become dehydrated. With the fluid loss, your kiddo will also lose electrolytes (sodium, potassium, and magnesium). So, while water is fine in moderation, in moderate to severe cases, you’ll also want to make sure to give Pediasure or another pediatric oral rehydration solution.
This is because, unlike most beverages, products like Pediasure contain a balance of sugar (glucose) and electrolytes to prevent dehydration. However, for mild diarrhea lasting just a few days, oral rehydration solutions are typically not indicated.
You can also give other clear liquids like sugary fluids like Jell-O and popsicles.
Is Immodium Safe for Toddlers?
Treating diarrhea in children with anti-diarrheal medications is never recommended unless you speak with your child’s pediatrician first.
Does The Brat Diet Help Toddlers With Diarrhea?
Contrary to popular belief, it’s actually not recommended to hold or limit meal consumption when a toddler has diarrhea. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that fasting is not required during episodes of diarrhea unless vomiting is present.
Moreover, they also note that the traditional BRAT diet that only allows for bananas rice, applesauce, and toast is no longer considered beneficial. Some pediatricians believe this may actually make symptoms last longer because it is low in fiber, protein, and fat. It also lacks proper nutrition to help your toddler’s GI tract heal. The updated practices advise toddlers and children follow a regular diet during episodes of diarrhea.
So, with that being said, what are the best foods to give toddlers with diarrhea? Let’s get down to the good stuff!
The Best Foods to Give Toddlers With Diarrhea
Although there is no specific recommendation of foods to give a toddler with diarrhea, there are a few foods and meal habits that may benefit your child.
Here are the best foods to give a toddler with diarrhea:
- whole grain ANYTHING: This provides more fiber and can provide bulk and firm-up stools.
- cooked vegetables such as carrots, green beans, squash, and asparagus
- bland foods
- starchy foods like pasta, white rice, baked potatoes
- salty foods with electrolytes like bone broth (it has magnesium, potassium, and sodium!)
- healthy fats like butter, nut butter, and avocado ( a low-fat diet may cause diarrhea, increasing healthy fats may firm up the stool) Studies show that toddlers and children with diarrhea should get around 35-40% of calories from fat.
*Note, if your child already follows a high fiber diet, it may be beneficial to incorporate low fiber foods to see if symptoms resolve.
The Worst Foods to Give Toddlers With Diarrhea
Unlike the current guidelines that are pretty vague on foods to help kids with diarrhea, some foods (and beverages!) should be avoided or eliminated during episodes of diarrhea.
Here are the worst foods to give a toddler with diarrhea:
- fruit juices like apple juice and sports drinks can loosen stools
- anything with sorbitol or fructose (this should also be limited to less than 6 ounces per day)
- if dairy products seem to make diarrhea worse, you may need to eliminate it from your child’s diet for a few days.
- caffeine and carbonated drinks
- sports drinks
- fried foods, greasy foods, processed foods, and fast foods
- Prunes or other foods that are known to worsen diarrhea
Probiotics for Toddlers With Diarrhea
Probiotics are supplements that contain beneficial bacteria that can take over the bad bacteria in your child’s gut. Since diarrhea is usually caused by a bacterial imbalance, using probiotic supplements may benefit your toddler.
How Do I Decrease My Toddler’s Risk of Diarrhea?
Although diarrhea will likely occur at some point in time, there are steps you can take to make sure your little one’s GI tract has its best shot at protecting your kiddo against diarrhea.
Here are a few things you can do to decrease your toddler’s risk of diarrhea:
- avoid raw, uncooked foods
- avoid medications and antibiotics unless necessary
- limit excess fruit juice
- do not give your toddler unpasteurized foods or foods
- be sure your child gets the rotavirus vaccine
- have your child wash their hands frequently to avoid spreading germs
Diarrhea can be very scary for mommas, but knowing that toddlers with diarrhea are still healthy, developing young children. Chronic symptoms usually resolve on their own once your little one’s digestive tract matures.
Having too many diet restrictions and prolonged fasting can interfere with your kiddo’s growth and development and usually are not necessary. Remember, there’s no specific toddler diarrhea diet, but some foods may help alleviate symptoms.
If your momma heart senses things are off, it’s a good chance they are. If that’s the case, call your child’s healthcare provider as soon as possible to discuss the next steps! Hopefully, now you’ll know what to give your toddler for diarrhea! If you have any additional questions or concerns regarding your child’s diet, consider speaking with a pediatric nutritionist.