Virtually all toddlers experience bouts of diarrhea, which can be caused by infections, food intolerance, parasites, antibiotics and even by drinking too much juice. Most cases of diarrhea are mild and can be treated in just a few days with home care. The foods and fluids you offer your toddler have a direct impact on her diarrhea so it's essential to understand which foods can help and which you need to avoid.
What to Feed Your Toddler
For toddlers with diarrhea, AskDrSears.com recommends the BRATY diet: bananas, rice or rice cereal, applesauce, toast without butter and yogurt. If you child has mild diarrhea, you can continue to feed him the fruits, vegetables, starches and lean meats he usually eats, assuming they don't upset his stomach. When feeding toddlers with diarrhea, try offering half as much food as usual but twice as often.
What Your Toddler Should Drink
Sick toddlers need plenty of fluids to replenish those lost through diarrhea. If her diarrhea is mild, your toddler can continue to drink breast milk, formula or water as usual without needing any special fluids, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. AskDrSears.com also recommends letting your child sip on white grape juice and suck on popsicles throughout the day to help her stay hydrated. Kids with moderate to severe diarrhea may need an electrolyte drink like Pedialyte to replace the salt and water their bodies have lost.
Severity of Diarrhea
The severity of your toddler's diarrhea should determine how much you feed him. Kids with four or more loose stools per day should eat only small amounts of food from the BRATY diet throughout the day. AskDrSears.com also recommends cutting back on formula, if your toddler drinks it. For kids having four to eight loose stools per day, mix one part prepared formula with one part electrolyte solution; for kids with 10 or more loose stools, don't offer formula unless your pediatrician recommends otherwise.
Foods to Avoid
In addition to following the BRATY diet and offering plenty of fluids, there are certain foods and drinks that can worsen diarrhea and that should be avoided until your toddler is well. Avoid dairy products, except for yogurt, which contains probiotics that can help the intestines heal faster. Don't offer sweetened drinks like soda, sports drinks and fruit juices other than white grape juice, because the sugar in these beverages draws water into the intestines and makes diarrhea worse, says the website BabyCenter.
When to Call the Doctor
Diarrhea can vary from very mild to severe and may be accompanied by vomiting or a high fever. Call your pediatrician about any symptoms that concern you, including a fever over 102 degrees F, blood in the stool, changes in your toddler's behavior, continued vomiting, black stool or signs of dehydration like infrequent urination, dry mouth, extreme thirst or no tears when crying. Never give your child anti-diarrheal medicines unless your pediatrician instructs you otherwise.