You’re trying not to breathe in as you change the sixth dirty diaper of the night. This sure wasn’t what you expected when you dreamed about motherhood!

As you rock your fussy baby back to sleep, you remember that they may be teething. And that’s when it hits you: Is there a connection between teething and diarrhea?

Before we dive into whether there’s a link between teething and diarrhea, let’s look at the symptoms of both.

The scoop on teething

Some babies (about 1 in 3,000) are born with their first teeth. But most babies get their first pearly whites between 4 and 7 months. The late bloomers wait til after 12 months.

Here’s what will clue you in to this milestone:

  • Biting and sucking. Clever kid! Your baby knows how to self-soothe. The extra biting and sucking may be an attempt to make sore gums feel better.
  • Gum pain. Sensitive gums can mean a more sensitive baby. Heads up: That means a fussy baby.
  • Increased saliva. Wondering why the front of your baby’s shirt is wet? Chalk it up to extra drooling. All babies bite, chew, and drool more starting at 4 months, but you may see an increase in drool with teething, too.
  • Facial rash. That drool wets more than just your baby’s clothes. The constant moisture from drool can irritate your baby’s delicate skin and cause a rash.
  • A slight rise in temperature. Notice we said “slight.” A temperature over 100.4°F (38°C) is considered a real fever, which is not caused by teething.

The scoop on poop

Your baby’s health means it’s time to get graphic about poop. A breastfed baby has poop that is yellow, soft, runny, and sometimes lumpy. The smell isn’t unpleasant. Think of yogurt.

Formula fed babies have poop that is a camel to brown color, thicker in consistency, and not particularly aromatic.

Then you notice a change. Here are the symptoms of diarrhea:

  • Frequency. You’ve probably noticed that babies can poop several times a day, often just after you’ve changed their diaper — blame it on Murphy! If your baby has diarrhea, they’ll poop much more often than usual.
  • Volume. Diarrhea usually means diapers are fuller than they usually are.
  • Consistency. Watery poop means you may have to change your baby’s clothes as well as their diaper.

You might also notice changes with:

  • Color. Diarrhea may turn poop into something green or darker than usual.
  • Odor. There’s no mistaking the oh-so-smelly whiff of diarrhea.

So does teething cause diarrhea? Not exactly. Despite what many mothers will tell you, teething does not directly cause diarrhea, says the American Academy of Pediatrics. Hard fact: Teething itself won’t make your baby produce stinkier diapers.

But there are a few reasons why teething and diarrhea appear to be associated. Teething usually starts around 6 months of age. Mothers often begin offering their babies solid foods at about the same time. It can take a while for your baby’s sensitive digestive system to get used to new foods, which may cause a change in their stools, including diarrhea.

Also around this time, babies lose the antibodies they got from their mother at birth. Fewer antibodies (and that penchant to put everything in their mouths), makes it more likely that they’ll pick up an infection which may cause diarrhea.

OK, so if diarrhea isn’t related to teething, then why does your baby have those impossible-to-deal-with diapers? There are several reasons for this potentially dangerous issue. Here’s the run-down:

  • Viruses and bacteria. These can cause infections that lead to diarrhea. If your baby has been exposed to viruses or bacteria, most likely they’ll also be vomiting and have a fever. Heads up: These unpleasant visitors are contagious, so be sure to follow standard hygiene practice when dealing diarrhea. Parasites can also cause diarrhea in babies, but this is quite rare.
  • Food sensitivity. Certain foods may be difficult for your baby to digest. Diarrhea might be your baby’s way of saying, “No thanks, mom.” In this case, your baby may also have gas and pull their legs up towards their stomach.
  • Food allergies. While rare in babies, food allergies are more serious than food sensitivities. Allergies to food or formula affect more parts of the body than just the intestines. As well as having diarrhea, your baby may develop a rash, runny nose, wheezing, and coughing.
  • Medications. It’s pretty common for meds such as antibiotics to irritate the intestines and cause diarrhea. That’s in part because antibiotics eliminate the healthy bacteria that keep your baby’s gut running smoothly.
  • Travel. One of the downsides of travel is diarrhea. Usually, the culprit is contaminated water. Travel diarrhea is uncommon in a baby, but possible.
  • No cause. Yup, sometimes your baby may have loose poop for no reason at all. As long as they’re acting fine with no fever, there’s usually nothing to worry about.

Since teething and diarrhea are two separate issues, you may want to treat them separately.

Treating diarrhea

As long as your baby isn’t losing weight, all you need to do to treat diarrhea is to keep changing those diapers and offering them fluids, food, and cuddles.

Unless your baby has been diagnosed with a more serious illness or food allergy that requires a change in diet, the biggest consideration when treating diarrhea is keeping your baby hydrated.

Continue to give your baby their breast milk or formula as usual. If they are over 6 months, you can give your baby sips of water or an oral rehydration solution (like Pedialyte) throughout the day as well. Their eyes, mouth, and diapers should be as wet as usual.

Signs your baby may be dehydrated

  • fewer than six wet diapers in a day
  • crying with little to no tears
  • dry mouth
  • soft spot on baby’s skull is sunken in
  • baby is less playful and more fussy
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Relieving teething pain

Now that you’ve dealt with the dirty diapers, let’s talk about what to do for those tender gums.

  • Rub your baby’s gums with your finger or a washcloth dipped in cold water to ease the pain.
  • Have your baby chew on a chilled teething toy, cold spoon, or chilled fruit in a mash feeder.
  • When your baby seems they handle the teething pain any longer (lots of tears!), you may want to give your baby over-the-counter pain medication for infants. Teething hasn’t been shown to cause severe pain, so if your baby is extremely fussy for more than a day or two, contact your doctor.

You’ll want to steer clear of any teething tablets, topical gels, and homeopathic remedies, per the Food and Drug Administration. They aren’t necessarily effective, and some could be dangerous, even fatal.

It’s time to call your doctor when:

  • diarrhea has persisted longer than two weeks
  • there is blood in the stool
  • your baby has had a fever for more than 2 to 3 days
  • your baby is losing significant weight (5 percent of their baseline weight or more)
  • your baby is dehydrated
  • your baby seems listless, limp, or unresponsive — or has lost the familiar light in their eyes

Teething doesn’t cause diarrhea. However, since baby teeth tend to emerge at the same time as other baby milestones, they tend to be associated.

It may seem like a long journey, but soon the dirty diapers will be gone, and pearly whites will peek out at you when your child smiles. It’ll all have been worth the effort!