Breast Milk Helps Prevent Diarrhea in Newborns

Infant in a cribMADISON – Parents who want to stop the distress of infantile diarrhea might have a simple solution.

Dr. Steven Koslov, a pediatrician and clinical professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, says breast milk has been shown to prevent diarrhea in newborns and it's also the best cure for common infectious diarrhea in infants.

"Breast milk reduces the incidence of diarrhea," he says. "We encourage moms to be aggressive with breast-feeding because it is the optimal re-hydration solution. That's not to say breast-fed babies won't get sick. But it does significantly decrease the significance of diarrhea and other types of infections."

Unlike over-the-counter formulas, Koslov says breast milk has antibodies that provide immunity from infections that cause diarrhea.

When the child gets older, Koslov says, drinking too much juice with high sugar content is often responsible for chronic diarrhea.

"The biggest problem is apple juice: kids love it. It's like nature's candy," he says. "Parents believe that if it's 100 percent juice, it must be healthy. But juice fills the gut with a heavy sugar load that creates diarrhea. I often tell parents if they don't introduce juice into a child's diet, they will be just fine."

Koslov says parents should replenish fluids lost from diarrhea by giving their children water and over-the-counter products with electrolytes needed to stay hydrated and keep the heart, kidneys and central nervous system functioning properly.

Koslov says a bland diet with complex carbohydrates - including rice, crackers, bananas and dried cereals - can be tolerated during outbreaks of diarrhea.

Probiotics called lactobacillus, which can be obtained at the drugstore and are also present in cultured yogurt, can reduce the severity and duration of infectious diarrhea.

But if diarrhea symptoms don't improve, parents should seek medical attention, especially if the child has bloody stools, is running a fever, or showing signs of dehydration.

While diet is important, day-care centers can also be filled with viruses that cause diarrhea. Koslov says parents who use those facilities should make sure they meet proper hygiene standards to lessen viral exposure to their kids.

"Surfaces should be properly sanitized after changing diapers, and the staff should make sure children clean their hands appropriately," he says. "These are things parents can and should be doing to make sure the setting they are putting their children is following proper standards and codes. They should see to it day-care centers are fastidious about following safety rules."

Date Published: 09/08/2009

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