This can be very serious, because infants are so easily dehydrated. In treating infectious diarrhea in infants, doctors often tell mothers to omit milk from the diet and replace it with ‘clear fluids’, ‘including carbonated beverages, juices and soups such as chicken and beef broth. However, many such fluids contain so much sugar or salt that they actually may worsen and prolong the baby’s illness, according to studies at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto (Canadian Medical Association Journal, 8 September 1979).
The high sugar content of many carbonated beverages, juices and other liquids may cause a sugar-induced diarrhea. It has been recommended that beverages containing a lot of sugar be diluted to at least half strength to avoid problems.
High concentrations of salt, common in some prepared soups, pose another potential hazard. Too much salt in dehydrated children can make them vulnerable to complications such as seizures and irreversible brain damage. Because of the extraordinarily high salt content of many commercial soups, the researchers suggested-that homemade soups with no added salt might be more acceptable
Dangerously high amounts of salt or sugar also can arise when liquids are prepared from crystals or concentrate, the researchers noted. Adding extra amounts from a package or incorrect measuring can make the salt or sugar levels higher than they should be.
The (US) Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia recommend the following as one type of homemade fluid therapy to combat dehydration: combine 8 fl. oz of fruit juice (orange, apple or other), half a teaspoon of honey and a pinch of salt in a glass. In a second glass combine 8 fl. oz of boiled or carbonated water and a quarter teaspoon of baking soda. Have the baby drink alternately each mixture. Additional carbonated beverages or water should be drunk and solid foods and milk should be avoided until recovery .
Breast milk protects against diarrhea
Breastfed babies are far less likely to develop dangerous intestinal infections, than bottle-fed babies, say two California paediatricians. Over a period of two years, Spencer A. Larsen, Jr. and Daryl R. Homer, studied all the infants under one year old who were admitted with severe vomiting and diarrhea to the Kaiser – Permanente Medical Group hospital in Hayward California. Of the , 107 babies, they found that only one was breastfed at the time of admission – far fewer than in the general population served by the medical group.
About one-third of the hospitalized bottle-fed infants were breastfed at birth, the doctors said, but all had gone on the bottle at least a month before they became sick. These findings suggest that ‘breastfeeding plays a major role in protection against intestinal infections,’ the researchers concluded, and they pointed out that similar studies in Britain and in underdeveloped countries have shown the same thing.