Diarrhea When Breastfeeding: Causes, Treatment And Natural Remedies

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Diarrhea while breastfeeding could develop in a few new mothers due to underlying conditions such as acute gastroenteritis or other causes. Although this is not a serious illness requiring cessation of breastfeeding, if you have diarrhea, you must maintain proper hygiene to prevent any risks of transferring any illnesses to your newborn. In addition, ensure proper hydration for maintaining a sufficient milk supply and preventing dehydration due to diarrhea.

Mild diarrhea is usually resolved with the help of natural home remedies. However, it is best to seek a doctor’s advice for severe, long-lasting diarrhea while breastfeeding. Browse through this post to learn more about the common causes, signs, remedies, and treatment options for diarrhea in breastfeeding mothers.

Common Causes Of Diarrhea When Breastfeeding

Various infectious and noninfectious acute and chronic conditions can cause diarrhea. Breastfeeding women can also develop diarrhea from similar causes as others. Common causes of acute diarrhea may include the following (1).

  • Viral gastroenteritis (stomach bug)
  • Food allergies
  • Bacterial gastroenteritis
  • Certain medications such as antibiotics
  • Parasitic diarrhea
  • Lactose intolerance causes diarrhea after consuming dairy products
  • Artificial sweeteners, such as sorbitol, found in sugar-free chewing gums and candies

Gastrointestinal disorders can also cause chronic diarrhea.

  • Celiac disease
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Microscopic colitis
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease
  • Pancreatic insufficiency (steatorrhea) diarrhea with high amounts of fat in feces

Conditions causing chronic diarrhea should be evaluated and treated by a specialist. OTC medications and natural remedies may not cure it. Breastfeeding women may also seek medical care if they develop any other symptoms such as fever, chills, abdominal pain, weight loss, or dehydration.

Natural Diarrhea Treatments For Breastfeeding Moms

Diarrhea with fever or blood in stools needs medical care since it can be due to bacterial or parasitic infections. Mothers with diarrhea lasting more than two days should also see a doctor.

Non-severe diarrhea can be managed with home remedies. You may try the following natural remedies for non-complicated diarrhea while breastfeeding (2).

1. Stay hydrated

Drink plenty of clear fluids to avoid dehydration. Diarrhea causes fluid loss from the body, and nursing mothers are more likely to develop dehydration since water is also taken from the body for milk production. You may consume more water than other days during diarrhea. You may also take an oral rehydration solution (ORS) as per doctors’ recommendations to cope with fluid and electrolyte loss.

You may drink diluted juices and broths other than water. Caffeinated and alcoholic beverages should be avoided since they may worsen diarrhea.

2. Eat probiotics

Probiotics products contain special microorganisms, such as yeast or bacteria. Lactobacilli or lactic acid bacterium is a well-known probiotic found in yogurt and other dairy products.

Probiotics are often recommended for people with mild diarrhea. It is believed that probiotics reach the bowel and suppress the germs that cause diarrhea and help the body recover (3).

Dairy products, such as milk, may worsen diarrhea in most people. Yogurt and kefir (fermented milk drink) is often suggested during diarrhea. However, you may avoid adding too much sugar to probiotics since sugar may worsen diarrhea.

There are also non-dairy probiotic foods and drinks, including non-dairy yogurts and kefirs, apple cider vinegar, and various krauts.

3. Drink chamomile tea

Chamomile tea is known to reduce diarrhea. Drinking a mug of chamomile tea can be beneficial. This Mediterranean herb is known for its calming effect on the body, including the gastrointestinal system (4).

4. Drink red raspberry leaf tea

Red raspberry leaf tea is a gentle and nutritious tea that acts as a mild astringent to help dry up the diarrhea and tone the body. It’s safe to drink in moderate amounts up to three cups per day when pregnant or nursing.

5. Take apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar may help to improve the condition of an upset stomach. You may dilute one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in water and consume it.

6. Avoid certain foods

Keeping your fluid intake high and avoiding high fat, high protein, and high fiber food could reduce diarrhea. You may avoid the following foods during stomach upset.

  • Dairy products other than probiotics
  • Fatty and fried foods
  • Raw fruits and vegetables
  • Spices
  • Whole grain products
  • Sugary foods and drinks

Although known to be beneficial, keep in mind that overconsumption of apple cider vinegar, chamomile tea, and probiotics may cause negative effects, such as vomiting and heartburn. Therefore, do not overconsume any natural remedy.

Treatment For Diarrhea When Breastfeeding

The use of over-the-counter loperamide (Imodium) to treat mild diarrhea in breastfeeding mothers is controversial (5). Only minimal amounts reach breast milk since this drug is poorly absorbed from the gut. However, many physicians do not recommend its use while breastfeeding due to its mechanism of action. Loperamide is an opiate receptor agonist similar to the pain medication morphine. It works to slow the transit of stool in the gut. The US Food and Drug Administration warns that large amounts of Imodium can cause heart palpitations.

Diarrhea with fever and blood in stools requires further evaluation and could need prescription medications such as antibiotics. It is not recommended to take prescription medications while breastfeeding unless absolutely necessary since all medications are not lactation-safe. Consult with a physician familiar with the special needs of nursing mothers and their infants, before taking any medication. Remember to have plenty of water and easily digestible food even if you are on medication.

All mothers should consciously maintain hand hygiene and consume hygienically prepared foods to avoid diarrhea while breastfeeding. As diarrhea drains you out of energy, it may make you more tired while breastfeeding. Moreover, if you face acute diarrhea or chronic diarrhea issues, consult a doctor to seek professional medical care for correct diagnosis and management. Also, remember to wash your hands frequently and clean all vegetables bought from grocery stores. It is better to try natural methods of controlling the issue as much as possible.

Key Pointers

  • Nursing mothers can develop acute or chronic diarrhea due to several infectious and non-infectious conditions.
  • They should seek medical guidance if diarrhea is accompanied by additional symptoms, such as fever, chills, and weight loss.
  • Staying hydrated, eating probiotics, and avoiding high-fat, high-fiber food can help manage non-severe diarrhea at home.
  • Medicines for diarrhea should be consumed only after consulting an expert.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
1. Symptoms & Causes of Diarrhea; National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
2. Loose Motions; Medicover Hospitals
3. Can probiotics help against diarrhea; U.S. National Library of Medicine
4. Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future; U.S. National Library of Medicine
5. Diarrhea (Acute) and Breastfeeding Mothers; The Breastfeeding Network
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Dr. Arlene Dijamco

(MD)
Dr. Arlene Dijamco calls herself a 'MultiDimensional MD' with expertise in integrative medicine, pediatrics, and cranial osteopathy. She studied at Harvard, Emory, and Albert Einstein and then completed Dr. Andrew Weil’s two-year integrative medicine fellowship.  She is known for her intuitive knack, empowering people to nourish and balance all layers of health. Dr. Dijamco is passionate about helping make the... more

Dr. Ritika Shah

Dr. Ritika Shah is a dental surgeon with more than seven years of clinical experience across various cities in India. During her clinical practice, pediatric dentistry was her particular area of interest, and she constantly thrived to inculcate the latest advancements in the field of dentistry into her practice. She also holds a certificate in lactation counselling from iNational Health... more