feeding during illness

When little ones are ill, they are vulnerable. It’s a difficult time for everyone. In a nutshell, my advice is to focus on liquids during illness – and to return to normal feeding as soon as possible. The advice below applies to babies, toddlers and small children

Fluids over food

When little ones are sick, poor appetite is normal. When you are ill you don’t feel like eating either.

During illness, babies may have high water needs because they lose water from fever, rapid breathing, or loose stools. Focus more on liquids so that he will stay well hydrated and have 4 – 8 wet nappies.

For vomiting: little drinks, slowly and often

Babies vomit because something is irritating their stomachs; it could be the result of a virus or bacterial infection. Since the stomach is irritated, you should give small amounts of easily-digested liquids. The baby will be thirsty, so, left alone, he will rapidly drink whatever liquid is available. This usually results in vomiting immediately.

The secret is to give liquid slowly and consistently in small amounts. The liquid should not be high in sugar or fat, since these will upset the stomach. The best liquid is water or ice chips.

For serious diarrhea: Rehydrate

Rehydrate and other commercial sachet solutions are specifically designed to replace losses from diarrhea. They contains electrolytes and sugar.

If you are breastfeeding your baby, you should continue.

Solid foods should be avoided since they are harder to empty from the stomach. Normal feeding may be resumed as soon as your doctor thinks dehydration is corrected.

After a bout of diarrhea, your baby may have difficulty digesting the sugar present in cow’s milk (lactose). If this happens, the baby will have more diarrhea. Some doctors try to anticipate this and recommend using a lactose-free formula, or a soy formula. Yogurt may be given, since the lactose in yogurt is predigested. The ability to digest lactose returns quickly within 1 to 2 weeks. This is a temporary event and is not a true allergy.

Start feeding immediately after dehydration is corrected

Your baby should be fed as soon as any dehydration has been corrected. The old idea that we should wait until the stools returned to normal before beginning feedings is just plain wrong.

It is important to begin normal feedings for several reasons. The baby needs the nutrition, and the only way the intestine heals itself after any injury, such as diarrhea, is to be fed. After all, we are much more interested in how the baby is doing, rather than how the stools appear. As long as the baby is happy, gaining weight, and remaining hydrated, ignore the condition of the stools!

feeding a toddler during illness

Milk makes mucus worse?

There is a common feeling that milk or formula will make mucus worse. There are no scientific facts to back up this belief.

Your baby should be allowed to drink as normal during illness. It is important to maintain good nutrition and hydration. A few days without formula will not harm him, but beyond three days may affect his nutrition.

Many other factors besides foods will cause mucus production. It is the normal response to a respiratory infection. Environmental factors, such as tobacco smoke, are frequently responsible and should be eliminated.

Feeding a child with an ear infection

No special diet is required for ear infections that are caused by swelling of the tube between the ear and throat. The swelling allows some fluid to be trapped in the ear, which can then get infected.

If your baby is allergic to any food, that should be avoided.

The baby should not be allowed to drink a bottle lying down, since some of the milk may reflux (flow back) up the ear tube. Infants should not be put to bed with a bottle for the same reason!