I recently had to recall my knowledge as a nutrition major of the BRAT diet for kids. My 3 year old and I survived an 8 hour puking sickness (at the same time) all night while my husband was working the night shift. Wow that was horrible. My boy was such a trooper, and after we would both puke he would say, “Good job mom, I’m so proud of you!” Heart melting over here.
We made it through the night with no sleep, really thirsty, and it was time to think of what our bodies could hold down when nothing sounded good. Knowing about the BRAT diet guided me to know what things to try first that would be most gentle on our tummies and firm up loose stools.
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BRAT Diet Foods explained
Bananas. Rice. Applesauce. Toast.
It’s a bland diet that should not upset the stomach after diarrhea or vomiting. BRAT diet foods are part of a transitional diet that usually starts as soon as you can tolerate foods and should only last for a day or two until you can eat normally again. It is not a balanced diet. The goal is to ease the stomach back to eating foods again and to firm up loose stools.
Why the brat diet for kids will help after a stomach bug
- Gentle on the stomach
The low fiber of these foods makes them easier on the stomach and less irritating.
- Firms up loose stools/diarrhea
Most of these are very starchy foods and should help with firming up stools. In a normal healthy diet fiber helps firm up stools, but after diarrhea or vomiting fibrous foods are avoided as they can really hurt a sensitive stomach.
These foods do not have strong smells or flavors and so they will be the least likely to make you feel sick. There’s something about being sick that makes flavorful and fragrant food seem intolerable.
While the “BRAT” diet is named after these 4 foods, there are more foods your kids may be able to tolerate we will talk about below.
BTW, this is safe and for both kids and adults! You want the rice to be plain white rice if possible with no fat like butter added to it, which could send your stomach for a spin. Toast is best plain without seeds to digest or butter as well.
When should you try introducing bland food again?
The BRAT Diet is to be tried only after you can tolerate clear liquids like an electrolyte drink, broths, or sips of water. Your body is pretty amazing at telling you what sounds good and what doesn’t, so listen to it. But when it comes to your kids, that’s harder to know! Using the BRAT diet for kids will be your guideline.
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Other BRAT diet foods that should be gentle on the stomach
- Saltine crackers
- Soft fruits without the skin like peaches, pears, (the skin and hard fruit can be very irritating to the stomach)
- Broths. If you don’t make your own, the Lipton Soup pictured below has been our family favorite soup after an upset stomach that is BRAT diet friendly.
Foods to avoid that can irritate the stomach
- Fatty foods (which speed up your bowels and can be painful)
- Fried foods (same as above)
- Spicy foods
- Citrus (the acidic nature can upset a stomach more)
- Fruit juice (can often speed up the bowels, increasing dehydration)
How long should you eat the BRAT Diet?
One to two days. It is made to be a transition diet until you can eat healthier more fibrous foods again when your stomach can tolerate them. You will want to add in other more nutritious foods as you can as a lot of the BRAT diet foods are low in nutrition and fiber.
Before giving kids any food, rehydrate.
Especially for babies and kids, dehydration is the main concern.
This is kind of a no brainer as food sounds horrible for a while when you are puking or have diarrhea. But before testing out any food, make sure whoever is sick can hold down liquid.
I found myself rushing to rehydrate my 3 year old right after he puked with Pedialyte, as water does not replace essential electrolytes lost with puking and diarrhea. But in reality, he just puked it up within a few minutes because his body was rejecting liquids. Better to just wait, and try a few sips every 20-30 minutes until something stays down.
I got 7-up for me because I love the taste and carbonation felt good. Carbonation can upset a stomach so flat liquids are recommended, but I have always really enjoyed 7 up when sick. Not to mention the taste of Pedialyte makes me want to puke anyways.
I try to keep a bottle of Pedialyte in the pantry for the one day a year that you will NEED it, but I also found these awesome packets that can be added to water. I will try these next time as they are portable and don’t take up much space.
How to prepare for a puking kid:
- Baby wipes for wiping pukey baby skin
- Garbage Bags or old grocery bags for the puke wipes
- Clorox wipes for disinfecting the puke when it hits surfaces.
- Easy access to new bed sheets.
- Thermometer We use a rectal thermometer for babies as my doctor hubby says it’s the most accurate for temperature.
- Tylenol or Acetaminophen generic
- A wide bowl
How to save money on Tylenol/acetaminophen:
To compare brands or even “infant” vs “children’s” varieties, always check out the concentration (so how many mg per mL). Most infant tylenol or name brand acetaminophen is 160mg/5mL.
I went to Costco and held up Infant Tylenol and Children’s Tylenol to see what the difference was because infant Tylenol was double the price.
Well, both had 160mg/5mL (that part is the most important part for baby’s safety), and both came with the same size bottle and both were in a two pack. Sooo…they were charging twice as much for advertising it as “Infant”.
Probably because most people with new babies would buy the package that says “infant” over “children’s”. I know I almost did! A perfect marketing scam. So if you are savvy you can save money by comparing the label and dosage.
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Tylenol dosing chart
You never know when a fever will strike, so the thermometer as well as children’s Tylenol is a staple in our house. I also HIGHLY recommend printing multiple copies of a dosing chart because the package always says children under 2 ask a doctor. You can get the one below here. I keep this sheet in the dashboard of our car, in our medicine cabinet, and in my travel bag.
How to clean up all that puke:
Knowing where my extra sheets were stored was SO helpful. Since he first puked all over his sheets and pillow and special blanket, I had to first get him changed, sheets off, start a load of laundry. Then the Clorox wipes and garbage bags were put to use.
This step could wait, if desperate, except the room smelled so bad! After the initial tear down, I just kept regular baby wipes by the bed to wipe down his hands and face each time.
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Is the BRAT diet for kids like older babies or toddlers?
If your child is weaned, then this diet would be fine for them for a few days as long as they are staying hydrated.
Nurse if you can
If you are still nursing, the absolute best thing you can do for your baby/toddler after a stomach bug is just nurse. It’s the most gentle thing on their stomach and does not have the same composition at all as cow’s milk.
If they take a bottle you may also want to ask your doctor about buying an over the counter oral rehydration solution. Your doctor may also want to know information like what they can hold down, wet diapers, temperature, and how often they are puking.
At some point when the puking stops, they may be able to nibble on a saltine cracker or try a bite of bland food. But most importantly, monitor if they are having wet diapers and if they are getting any fluids.
Nursing a puking baby
My baby girl also got the same sickness a few days before my son and I got sick, and since she would just cry constantly I nursed her a lot to keep her quiet and comfort her. Pretty much a human binky.
Even when she would puke it up, it kept her calm to nurse. Some of it eventually stayed down hours later. I had to either hold a screaming baby or nurse a quiet one, so that was a huge advantage of still nursing!
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Trust your instincts as a mom when using the brat diet for kids
Last but not least, what your baby, toddler, or older kid needs most is you (ahem, so hard if you are also puking!) No one is going to beg you for food right away because food just sounds terrible at first. But it’s up to you to pick foods for your kid to try first that are bland and hopefully stay down.
Have you or your kid had the flu or stomach bug before? What helped get you through it? Leave a comment for other mamas to see and I’ll be sure to respond as well!