I’m not a medical doctor and I don’t like the idea of obtaining your medical advice on a blog on the internet. That being said, I’ve gone through many rounds of gastroenteritis when my son was younger, 4 bouts of stomach virus with my daughter last year and just another this season, and I’ve gained a few helpful hints from our pediatricians. (I’m also a scientist, trained in biomedical research.)
Having a sick baby is awful. You feel so bad for the little one. When your baby has a stomach virus, aside from following doctor’s orders and lots of holding and rocking, it feels like there is little to be done about it.
Having gone through this so many times though, I’ve picked up on a number of great tips from our docs. Stomach viruses during infancy can last for about 10 days! It’s miserable every time, but I hopefully these 10 tips can help shorten the misery, at least a bit.
If your baby is throwing up and has diarrhea:
1. If you have advice nurses at your pediatrician, it might be helpful to call in to see if you should take baby to the doctor. She’ll check to make sure your little one is adequately hydrated and that other factors are not at play. You’ll especially want to call the doctor if your baby has signs of dehydration like: sunken eyes, not producing tears when crying, and a decreased number of wet diapers.
2. For fluids, stick to the rules: smaller amounts, more frequently. If your baby can’t keep breast milk or formula down, wait a half an hour and try an electrolyte replacement solution, like Pedialyte or Gerber Replenish. (The unflavored version of Pedialyte is not exactly palatable. If you’re going for something without artificial flavorings and dyes, try the Replenish.) If your child normally takes a 6 oz bottle every three hours, try giving 1 oz every hour, gradually increasing to 2 oz, as your baby is able to keep fluid down. After baby is doing well keeping pedialyte down, you can gradually switch back to breast milk or formula.
3. If you formula feed, temporarily switch to soy formula. The enzyme that breaks down lactose is stripped away from the intestines during an extended bought with diarrhea. Soy formula will be easier for baby to digest than milk-based formula during this time. After the gastroenteritis has run its course, switch back to regular formula. If you’re nursing, continue to nurse.
4. If baby is eating solids, try rice cereal. It’s constipating. You can even add a bit of it to bottles as a thickener. Nuff said.
5. Try giving Fluorastor and a probiotic blend. Fluorastor is a yeast probiotic. It can help to re-populate the intestines with the good bugs that have taken a hit during the infection. While there is a kid’s version available, the packet of the kids version is equivalent to a capsule of the adult Fluorastor. Mix the contents of 1 capsule or 1 packet with a bottle or solid food once per day. After baby gets over the infection, it might be a bit helpful to give a probiotic blend, to help repopulate some of the good bacteria. To ensure that you obtain a good product, it’s best to buy from a place that keeps their probiotics refrigerated. Additionally, try to buy a brand that has several different types of bacteria, with the greatest number of colony forming units (cfu) per serving. You can always use less than the recommended serving size. We’ve used Maxi Baby dophilus from Whole Foods. Probiotics are likely not going to have a dramatic impact, but they can be beneficial.
6. Sanitize pacifiers, bottles, etc. If you don’t own a bottle sanitizer, the Quick Clean Micro-Steam Sterilizing bags from Medela are a great, cheap way to use your microwave to sterilize these items. Each bag can be used up to 20 times.
7. Try to plan out back-up childcare for the coming days if at all possible. These things seem to last for quite awhile, and most childcare facilities will not allow a baby with diarrhea to attend, as that baby is still contagious. (And as a parent, it is incredibly aggravating when your child comes down with one of these viruses as a result of another parent taking a sick kid to daycare. As a parent, I also know the agony of feeling like you shouldn’t continue to take off work mixed in with the desire to stay home with your sick child. Welcome to the guilt of working parenthood.) I know it’s difficult and it completely stinks to use up (all) of your sick days, especially after taking maternity leave, but it’s best for your child to be at home while contagious. If you’re lucky enough to have options for back up care, set this up as soon as possible. Sometimes neighbors really are that generous with the time to stay home with your sick child.
8. It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. Be diligent about washing hands. Also, wash soiled clothing, sheets, etc. in hot water.
9. With all of those diaper changes, avoid diaper rash by changing as quickly as possible. My favorite diaper rash cream is Ava Anderson Baby Diaper Cream. It smells great and works quickly. It must be ordered online, but it’s a nice product to have for general use. Plus, it’s really quite versatile. It also functions as a general healing balm (even for adults) or ultrathick lotion. I may happen to have a tube in my own bathroom cabinet. Another option that’s available in drugstores is Baby Aquaphor Healing Ointment. It works so quickly!
10. Vaccinate! On schedule! While vaccination is not going to help your child while he’s sick, you can prevent rotavirus (one of the common viral causes of gastroenteritis) simply by making sure you follow the recommended vaccination schedule. Besides, rotavirus can be dangerous to infants that aren’t old enough to receive the vaccine yet. The first rotavirus vaccine is given at 2 months of age.
Best of luck with your kiddo!