Watery Poop in Newborn Babies: Causes & Treatment

Watery Stool in Newborn Babies – Is It Normal?

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Arti Sharma (Paediatrician)
View more Paediatrician Our Panel of Experts

New mothers can often be nervous about things that discomfort their little ones. From feeding to bathing, there are many subjects where parents may feel otherwise about their babies’ health and do everything to ensure their babies’ health is at utmost security. For example, mothers often worry about the colour and consistency of their infant’s stool. A change in colour and consistency can cause them to feel burdened and stressed. But is it something to worry about? Here, we discuss what it means when an infant has a watery stool and whether it is normal.

Is It Normal for A Newborn’s Poop to Be Watery?

Newborn babies do not have a fully developed intestine, and hence they do not absorb food very well. As a result, most of it is passed through the stool. Once absorption improves, the stool becomes thicker and reduces in frequency. Therefore, it is normal for infants to pass frequent and watery stools. A healthy yet watery stool is yellowish-brown coloured and similar to the consistency of mustard. Sometimes the stool has seed-like particles that are generally white. There is, however, a need to be watchful so that parents do not miss any signs of diarrhoea or other concerning symptoms.

What Are the Causes of Watery Stools in a Newborn Baby?

There are multiple reasons why a breastfed baby has watery poop. The primary cause is that their developing intestine does not absorb too much, and most of it is passed through the stool. Some of the other reasons are:

  • Consumption of dairy products by the breastfeeding mother.

  • Sugary foods included in the diet of a breastfeeding mother.

  • Children who swallow excess saliva while they are teething.

  • An infection accompanied by fever or other symptoms.

When Is a Newborn’s Watery Poop Not Normal?

While most of the time, a runny poop is normal in breastfeeding babies, there are some situations when newborn watery stools are not a normal indication. Let’s check those instances:

1. Diarrhoea Caused by Cold or Stomach Bug

Watery poop in an infant is a cause for worry when you notice symptoms of diarrhoea. Diarrhoea will cause the stool to be very runny, and bowel movements will become more frequent than what is expected during a 24-hour period. Along with diarrhoea, you may also notice fever, poor appetite and low energy in your baby.

2. Diarrhoea Caused by Milk Protein Intolerance or Allergy

If your little one is presumably intolerant or allergic to the proteins in the breast milk, he may have watery baby poop. Some signs that indicate milk protein allergy in babies are discomfort after feeding, cold-like symptoms, diaper rash, vomiting, restless sleep, etc.

3. Diarrhoea Caused by Rare Diseases

If your little one is having chronic diarrhoea persistently and for a long time, it could be because of an underlying condition or an infection, like bacterial or parasitic infection (like Cryptosporidium), inflammation in the digestive tract, or irritable bowel syndrome.

Holding baby diaper

How to Know If the Watery Poop Is Diarrhoea?

The following signs are indicative of an infant having diarrhoea:

  • The stool is unusually runny.

  • Bowel movement intervals have reduced, and the number of times motion is passed spikes up.

  • The stool gushes out in propulsive spurts akin to an explosion.

How to Treat Newborn Baby’s Watery Stool?

The treatment for watery stool would depend on what is causing it to be watery. Dietary modifications and prescription medication should help alleviate the condition. Certain helpful tips that can be followed are:

  • Do not stop breastfeeding. Continue feeding at intervals as suggested by your baby’s paediatrician.
  • Feed more often but in smaller quantities if diarrhoea is accompanied by vomiting.
  • A combination of diarrhoea and vomiting can be a sign of infection which can take a foul turn rapidly if dehydration is unchecked.
  • Formula or bottle-fed babies with a consistently watery stool for a period beyond two weeks should be taken for a consultation.
  • A change in the baby formula could help check watery stool in some formula-fed babies.

When to Call a Doctor?

Diarrhoea and watery stool in infants usually resolve on their own within a day or two or a couple of weeks at best. It is necessary to be vigilant and take your infant to the doctor should they display any of these signs:

  • Mucus in the stool: The stool will look very runny, and the excess fluid will form a mucus-like ring around the stool.
  • Change in colour and odour: The stool may turn a shade of green and be accompanied by a foul smell. It could also look frothy at times. Such green watery poop in a newborn requires a consultation with a doctor.
  • Blood in stool: The stool may contain spots or streaks of blood and could be accompanied by fever, indicating an infection.
  • Dehydration: Signs of dehydration include less wet diapers, dry mouth, sunken eyes, lethargy, or dry eyes when crying.
  • Fever: A temperature above 102˚F in infants aged 3 to 12 months and above 100.4˚F in infants below three months of age is considered a fever that warrants a consultation.

Mother checking babies fever

Expert recommendations suggest that a newborn’s poop is more watery for a formula-fed baby as compared with one that is breastfed because the mother’s milk prevents harmful bacteria from multiplying. Implement thorough sterilisation techniques and proper hand-washing habits when using a bottle to feed your infant. Ultimately, remember to stay calm through your infant’s storm so that you both can come out wearing that precious smile!

References/Resources:

1. Diarrhea in Babies; American Academy of Pediatrics; https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/diapers-clothing/Pages/Diarrhea-in-Babies.aspx#

2. Diarrhea in infants; MedlinePlus; https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000691.htm

3. Diarrhoea and vomiting in babies; NCT; https://www.nct.org.uk/baby-toddler/your-babys-health/what-watch-out-for/diarrhoea-and-vomiting-babies

4. Diarrhoea in babies and children; Pregnancy, Birth and Baby; https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/diarrhoea-in-babies-and-children

5. Baby poop: What’s normal?; Mayo Clinic; https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/expert-answers/baby-poop/faq-20057971

6. Diarrhoea in babies and children; HSE; https://www2.hse.ie/conditions/diarrhoea-babies-children/

7. Parasites – Cryptosporidium (also known as “Crypto”); CDC; https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/crypto/index.html

8. Diarrhoea in children; HealthDirect; https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/diarrhoea-in-children

Also Read: 

Green Stools in Infants
Abnormal Poos and Wees in Babies
Warning Signs Your Baby is Not Pooping Properly
Baby Poop: What’s Normal & What’s Not

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