Toddler Tummy

“Toddler Tummy” is what they call diarrhea caused by too much juice.  Nowadays juice is getting a bad rap, so this phenomenon is not quite as popular.  But just a few years ago, everyone offered babies juice —even to my six month old!  I thought this was crazy at the time, and it has taken almost five years for that trend to stop, thankfully.

Still, any kids activity you take your toddler to will probably have juice for them.  And sometimes it is diluted, sometimes not.  Some parents I know even allow their one or two year old to carry around a cup like a security blanket all day, sipping on it whenever they feel the urge.  This is prime reason for Toddler Tummy.

A cup of juice is not as harmless as it looks.  Besides the sugar and empty calories (which most people admit is bad or at least unnecessary for a small child), it is very acidic.  A lot of toddlers who down a cup of juice—especially if it is full-strength—will simply urp it up.  This is because it doesn’t sit in the stomach well.  When they drink it too fast, or they drink and then start playing (with lots of bending and normal toddler body movement), they’ll end up spitting up a part of it back on your carpet.  It’s harmless but annoying, caused by the acid.  Sipping slowly throughout the day will not cause urping, but it is bad for the teeth and can cause other problems…

Juice also fills up the stomach so that the child doesn’t feel hungry and won’t eat.  Most toddlers are notoriously picky eaters, so a diet that includes juice (or milk) doesn’t help.  Put a plate of food and Hawaiian punch down in front of them and watch them grab the juice.  They drink some and then don’t want any food.  You have to fight and fight them, worrying about them for days, but you don’t realize that juice and milk are filling up their little tummy, fueling the problem.  They might even have bowel movements so you think they’re ok, but they’re not.  Their bowel movements are because milk is a solid drink (i.e. not water-based, not hydrating, so it is processed similar to food) and juice’s acid/sugar can cause irritable bowels.  The moment you put them on water only, you should see at least SOME improvement in this department.

Orange juice is even stronger and often gives toddlers an allergic reaction, resulting in recurring bouts of diarrhea until it passes through, sometimes with a little blood or a skin rash.   I’d hold off on orange juice until at least two years old, maybe even three or four.

But even regular apple or Juicy Juice can cause diarrhea if a toddler drinks too much… more than four ounces, for most little toddlers.  My almost five year old gets diarrhea still if he has more than seven or eight ounces (more than a normal kiddie cup).  So if your otherwise healthy toddler/preschooler ends up with a crop of loose bowels and you can’t figure out where it came from, I’d look first at what they’ve drank that day.  Toddlers simply don’t need juice, even though they like it, so dilute it to 50-50 when possible and never serve more than one cup full-strength or two cups 50-50.

Now I am not a juice Nazi, and I don’t believe it should be stricken from the record.  It has its place.  But if you are having Toddler Tummy or pickiness problems, consider the cup as the culprit.


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