Breastfeeding mothers can develop diarrhea due to acute gastroenteritis or other causes. Diarrhea is not a maternal illness that requires the cessation of breastfeeding. You may take extra care to maintain hand hygiene and prevent the spread of diarrheal illness to the baby. Nursing moms are also advised to ensure hydration by drinking more water and rehydration solutions to prevent dehydration. Diarrhea may not affect the milk supply, but if it causes dehydration, the milk supply can be compromised.
Lactating women can try natural remedies for acute, mild diarrhea. It is recommended to seek medical care for severe and chronic diarrhea and other associated symptoms to avoid the risk of dehydration. Read this post to know about the causes and natural treatments 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, and 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. Follow BRAT diet
Diet modifications are the easiest and most natural method to treat uncomplicated diarrhea while breastfeeding. The BRAT diet is often recommended during acute diarrhea, which stands for:
- Rice (white rice)
These are easily digestible and contain low fat, low protein, and low fiber, calming the digestive system. The diet can also provide enough calories for you during illness. Brown rice is not recommended in the BRAT diet due to its high fiber content.
The following low fiber foods are also often added to the BRAT diet.
- Skinless turkey or chicken
- White beans
- mooth peanut butter
- White bread
- Cottage cheese
There are some popular variations of the BRAT diet, including BRAT-T, which adds tea, and BRAT-Y, which adds yogurt or probiotics. You may choose foods that are available and suitable for you.
3. 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.
4. 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).
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
- 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
Over-the-counter loperamide (Imodium) can be used to treat mild diarrhea in breastfeeding mothers (5). Only minimal amounts reach breast milk since this drug is poorly absorbed from the gut. You may contact a healthcare provider to know about the dosage and duration of treatment.
Diarrhea with fever and blood in stools requires prescription medications such as antibiotics. It is recommended to take prescription medications while breastfeeding since all medications are not lactation-safe. Remember to have plenty of water and easily digestible food even if you are on medication.
Breastfeeding mothers should maintain hand hygiene and consume hygienically prepared foods to avoid diarrheal illnesses. Although breastfeeding is not contraindicated during diarrhea, it may make you more tired. If you are concerned about acute diarrhea or chronic diarrhea, seek prompt medical care for correct diagnosis and management.
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