This winter was a brutal one when it comes to stomach bugs. My friends’ kids were getting hit one by one, and it seemed inevitable that it would make its way into our house at some point. And on Valentine’s Day, it finally did! If you’ve ever been up all night with a vomiting child, you know that it is miserable. After a few hours of scrubbing, crying, rocking, and doing laundry, mommy and baby pass out on the couch, only to repeat the entire process two hours later. And I’m always faced with the same dilemma. What do I do? What do I give her? How soon? How much? So I talked with an infant pediatrician (my mother), did some research of my own, and tried to remember what worked and didn’t work for us last time.
I’ve come up with an easy to follow guideline that takes you through what to give your child immediately after, a few hours after, and a day after vomiting. What we want to focus on is 1) hydration, 2) avoiding things that lead to another (preventable) vomiting spell, and 3) providing gut-healing nutrients.
15-30 minutes after vomiting
It’s a common mistake to give a child water to drink immediately after they’ve thrown up. They may be asking for it, and you may feel bad because you know the taste they must have in their mouth. The stomach lining is inflamed and irritated, and too much water too soon will most likely cause another vomiting spell. Wait 15-30 minutes, and give your toddler 1 teaspoon of room temperature water. Wait 15 minutes before you give the next teaspoon. Don’t give her any food or liquids other than water.
3 hours after vomiting
You can increase the amount of water you give now, but not too much. A tablespoon every 15 minutes to be on the safe side, increasing a little every hour if she keeps it down. If she is refusing to drink it, that’s most likely because she can feel that her tummy is not ready for it. If your toddler has gone a few hours without vomiting, it is time to get some minerals into her system and try a little bit of food. Give one thing at a time and wait an hour before trying the next one, don’t push it if she doesn’t want to eat, this is probably for good reason. If she does throw up again, just start over with a teaspoon of water. Here are some examples:
- Switch to half bone broth half water (and avoid juice, milk, and soda). The bone broth will replenish minerals and heal the gut. If you don’t have bone broth, try half a teaspoon of raw honey with a pinch of salt in a cup of water (warm up the water so the honey and salt dissolve, but then let it cool to room temperature)
- Peel and cut up 1/2 cup of cucumber and sprinkle on some salt. The cucumber is hydrating since it is mostly water, and the salt helps replenish minerals.
- Mix 1 tablespoon kombucha into a small bowl of (unsweetened) apple sauce. The apple sauce is hydrating and provides some vitamins, and the kombucha is a probiotic, which feeds the good bacteria in your toddler’s gut (so they can fight the bad bacteria). Another option is to use an actual probiotic. Mix half of a capsule of probiotic (or a probiotic for kids) in with the apple sauce.
- Half a banana, mashed. It’s bland, fills the tummy a little, and provides some good nutrients such as potassium.
- 1/2 cup plain puffed rice, a rice cake, or a bland gluten-free cracker or piece of toast if she is used to eating that. This doesn’t really provide nutrients, but will give her something to munch on if she’s hungry.
24 hours after vomiting and beyond
If your toddler did well with the foods recommended above, keep giving those. However, a common piece of (outdated) advice you might receive is to keep going with the BRAT diet for a few days (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast), but your toddler’s body needs nutrients now to heal the gut. So it’s time to slowly return to their regular diet. This means protein, complex carbs, fruit, and even yogurt. Do this in small amounts, one serving per hour. Avoid too much fat, sugar, too much milk, very fibrous foods, and anything fried. (My daughter is sensitive to milk protein, and she needs to be off milk for at least 7 days after the vomiting has stopped, but you may have more luck with it.)
Follow your gut, don’t rush it, but watch out for signs of dehydration (read about signs here). Don’t hesitate to call your pediatrician, especially if your toddler can’t keep any liquids down or has a very high fever.
I hope this gives you some ideas! What do you give your kids after a stomach bug?