Baby Diaper Rash and Diarrhea

The Diaper Rash Mystery


I had just taken my Addy home from the sitter. It was around dinner time when we got home. My husband was still at work but would be coming home soon. The evening was quiet, routine. I fed her apple-pear baby food that smelled delicious to me. Then I changed her diaper. I thought nothing of it when I changed her diaper and saw that her diaper area was a faintly pink with a little diaper rash. I’ve seen it with her before, but we usually kept her diaper dry and the rash would quickly vanish. Rash cream not required. I also noticed that her stool was very little, and runny.

The evening continued and she seemed in her usual mood; she was happy and playing with her toys, babbling and laughing as she crawled around the floor of our family room. My husband came home and had his dinner before joining in with me and Addy in our playtime.

Strange Happenings

Suddenly and out of nowhere Addy started to fuss. Sitting up on her play mat she suddenly started screaming at the top of her lungs, like a switch went off. Her face turned red, and the sounds coming from her were foreign, unbearable. She sounded like she was in extreme pain. My husband picked her up, partly to soothe her and partly to investigate. There were no visible signs of anything that could explain the pain. She did not let up. Mama’s turn – I quickly took her in my arms and held her but the screams continued to flood our two-story home.

Addy was in pain from the rash. Her crying became so hard and uncontrollable that her little body could no longer let out a sound. Tears were running down her red face, and all you could hear was her gasps for air while she cried without sound.

“I don’t know what’s wrong,” I said to my husband. He didn’t either.

She started to settle down significantly. It was getting late so we decided to start her bath time routine, though we were still puzzled about the evening’s events.

Mystery Solved

While I was grabbing her clothes for bed, my husband took her to the laundry room (we have a sink in there where her basin sat comfortably).

“OH MY GOD!” my husband exclaimed.

I ran into the room not knowing what to expect. My husband told me that her diaper area was bright red. Like, beet red. And she also had another bowel movement, and again, the stool was little and runny. Confused, I told my husband about our routine earlier that evening, and about the results of the last diaper change and the faint and minor appearance of a diaper rash.

We quickly returned our focus to lessening her pain, and we put her in the bath. While in her bath she had another bowel movement. Again, it was little and runny. It was strange, at least for her, to have a bowel movement while in her bath. Addy was still fussing; her diaper rash seemed to hurt her terribly. Sitting seemed difficult for her.

We then knew what we were dealing with. It was her first diarrhea, which had caused a diaper rash.

We took her out of the bath, quickly toweled her off, and the parenting began.

Soothe the Baby

Before her bath we immediately took her diaper off, cleaned her up, made sure she was dry and let her air out for a bit from the diaper rash. At this point, who cares if she poops or pees on our bed or carpet? Priorities.

We wanted to cool her off so we placed her in her bath, making sure that the water was warm and not cold (important!). Cold water could further irritate the skin.

Try to not use soap, but if you have to use mild soap. Soap could cause irritation to the skin as well.

The bath did help Addy calm down a bit. Her cries subsided but she was still in pain. The distraction of playing with the water and her favorite rubber ducky helped. As parents, I think it’s important to incorporate play where we can, as overwhelmed or stressed as we may be, a little bit of play could help our babies feel more at ease.

Infographic on bath time do's and don'ts for children with diaper rash

Dry, Diaper-Free Play Again

Our clean baby was toweled off, and we made sure she was completely dry after her bath, especially in her diaper area. We let her have some diaper-free playtime before bed and she LOVED it. She was crawling around her playroom which helped to keep the diaper rash dry and cool.

Once we were done, we put her diaper back on. Again, making sure she was completely dry. We put her shirt back on but we kept her pants off. It was important to let the area have as much air as possible for comfortable and to keep her dry.

If you feel that it’s necessary to put rash cream on your baby, I recommend Desitin. In later months we use the cream often, but in this particular moment, we decided to not to. After having used the cream for over a year now, I am confident it would have helped us back then.

Diaper Rash & Diarrhea: Change Often

One of the most important things that we did was that we kept Addy contact-free from urine and stool as much as we could. Every time she peed or had a bowel movement we changed her. Lucky for us we had the diapers with the yellow line that indicated whether or not the diaper was wet. As an extra precaution we also checked her diaper every 2 or 3 hours. For babies with diarrhea it is perfectly normal to have to change 8 or 10 diapers within 24 hours.

During the night it seemed like she was feeling better since she didn’t have a bowel movement while she slept. She did pee so we changed her diaper in the middle of the night (we didn’t even wake her!)

How to Properly Change a Diaper

There’s a specific way to change a diaper with a diaper rash. Rule #1: DO NOT WIPE.

Here’s how you change a diaper when your baby has a bad diaper rash:

  1. Clean the area with sensitive, unscented baby wipes. Avoid wipes containing alcohol or other harsh chemicals. Alcohol and other harsh chemicals will burn the skin.
  2. When cleaning, ALWAYS pat the baby clean. DO NOT WIPE.
  3. Make sure the area is dry before sealing up the diaper. You can dry your baby with a thin, clean washcloth. Again, always pat dry, do not wipe. Take your time to make sure that your baby is fully dry.
  4. (Optional) Apply a rash cream such as Desitin after drying.
  5. Seal that baby up!

Infographic on diapering with diaper rash and diarrhea

Dehydrated Baby

Looking for signs of lethargy and loss of appetite, we also closely monitored Addy’s activities and energy level over the next couple of days. To be sure she had enough liquid and nutrition we made sure that she was drinking the same amount of milk as she usually did and gave her a little more if she wanted it.

We were careful not to give her any kind of fruit juice since this would have made the diarrhea worse. If your baby is 6 months or older you can add a little more water to their milk.

I also received advice from other moms to give Addy Pedialyte drinks or Pedialyte popsicles (for teething babies), but when I sent my husband to the store to purchase Pedialyte, the label said to consult with the baby’s doctor first. I think if there were signs of dehydration I would have given it to her, instead she was playful, drinking plenty of milk, eating well and did not have a fever. There weren’t any signs telling me that she was dehydrated or that she needed the extra boost.

Solid Foods

Addy was already eating solid foods, and it was important while she had diarrhea to avoid dairy, high fiber foods and fruits that are known to loosen a baby’s stool such as prunes, apricots and peaches. Unfortunately, Addy already had prunes earlier that day.

Fortunately, there are also foods that could help harden her stool, such as bananas and rice or rice cereal. The first night it was late and we didn’t have bananas so we fed her rice cereal by mixing it into her milk. After that, we fed her bananas and she loved it so much more than the rice cereal. If your baby is eating well, I recommend bananas. If your baby is having trouble eating, I recommend adding rice cereal to their milk.

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