When a breastfed baby urine smells strong, it is not surprising why moms feel concerned.
It may be an underlying symptom for an illness, and the inner worrywart in every mother is activated upon the discovery of this peculiar issue in their infant.
That said, is there a reason to be alarmed?
- Why does a baby’s urine smell strong, anyway?
- When should I call a doctor?
- Can I panic now?
Help, my breastfed baby urine smells strong!
Imagine your baby, being all cute one moment and then the next, crying to high heavens as if the world is coming to an end.
You check his or her diaper and see that there’s no poop, just some urine that smells a bit off. You wonder what’s up, but you chalk it up to something that he or she ate.
But wait, all he or she eats is your breast milk, so how come it still smells that way?
You think of your past meals and chalk it up to the asparagus soup you had for lunch earlier. The next day, the strong smell is back. What could it be?
The urine of infants usually have little to no odor to start with, but as they grow older their urine might closely resemble the smell of ammonia.
Some have even reported smelling chicken noodle soup. A strong urine odor is quite common and is often not a health problem.
However, while it naturally shouldn’t smell good even in infants, a foul-smelling odor wafting from your baby’s nappies may be a sign of Urinary Tract Infection or UTI, especially when the odor is accompanied by a fever.
Why does a baby’s urine smell strong, anyway?
A baby’s diet can contribute to the smell of their urine. Some food items like herbs and asparagus, as well as medicines such as antibiotics, can change the smell of your baby’s urine.
In addition, concentrated urine and bacteria in the diaper can exacerbate the smell of the urine, making it foul or strong smelling.
If your baby is exclusively breastfed, it might also be because of what you prior to latching.
Asparagus in particular, can make your baby’s urine smell like sulfur.
This is due to the body’s conversion mechanism of the body that transforms the asparagusic acid into chemicals that contain sulfur, which is expelled from the body through urine.
Onions and garlic, known for their strong smells, once ingested in large amounts may also cause odor in your baby’s urine.
If you are extremely bothered but unable to avoid it, simply drink a lot of water to flush it out before latching.
Dehydration may also be the culprit.
When you have very little water in your body, your urine becomes mostly chemicals vis-a-vis water, which can make the urine smell strongly of these chemical.
In fact, it will exacerbate the smell of sulfur if you have even just a small amount in your system.
The key here is to have your child drink more water and in extreme cases, with the guidance of a doctor, introduce oral rehydration to your baby.
When should I call a doctor?
When your baby shows other symptoms like irritability, fever or vomiting, call your doctor. As mentioned earlier, a strong urine smell coupled with fever may be an indication of UTI.
UTI occurs when bacteria infects your infant’s urinary tract after it enters from the skin around their anus.
Your breastfed baby urine smells strong when afflicted with UTI, and in some cases, there is also blood in the urine.
Pediatrics journal published a study suggesting that when there is a concurrence of foul-smelling urine and fever, it can point to UTI in babies.
Since there is no way for babies to communicate that they are in pain and sometimes UTI does not come with any other symptoms, we now have a pretty good gauge of UTI in infants.
In a study of over 300 children ages 1 to 36 months old with fever, 57% who had smelly urine were ultimately discovered to have UTI, as opposed to the 32% who didn’t have smelly urine but were diagnosed with the infection.
Cystitis may also be the reason behind the strong smell in your baby’s urine, coupled with fever.
This is a kind of UTI and is an inflammation of the bladder. If left untreated, the infection can spread to the kidneys and cause complications.
Hypermethioninemia, a genetic condition, happens when your blood has excessive amino acid methionine.
Your urine might smell like sulfur when methionine isn’t appropriately broken down in your body.
This condition is serious in that it may cause intellectual and motor skill delays in your child if undiagnosed and untreated early.
A rare condition called Maple Syrup Urine Disease (MSUD) causes the urine to have a sugary, sweet smell.
Children who have this disease usually get very sick within their first week with vomiting, and symptoms worsen as days pass.
Another form is an intermittent when where the child is well on most days, but on occasional would vomit and have sugary, sweet urine.
If the sugary sweet smell is coupled with increased thirst and increased frequency in urination, it might be a symptom of type 1 diabetes in babies.
This is due to the rising blood sugar levels that extracts fluid from tissues, leaving your child thirsty all the time, and therefore more prone to urination.
Can I panic now?
The first step is to take a deep breath and not allow all this information to overwhelm you.
Yes, there are many possibilities but remember that your baby is counting on you to make the right decisions.
So the first step is to ask yourself the following questions:
- Since when and how often has your baby excreted strong-smelling urine?
- Have you noticed any other symptom accompanying the strong-smelling urine?
Take note of the answers to both those questions and keep them in hand as you either write it down to give yourself more time to observe, or call your doctor to schedule an appointment.
Ensure that as you wait for the visit to the doctor, you watch your child closely and note any changes that might occur in his or her health and behavior.
Watch your own diet as well, as it may be the one affecting your child’s urine.
Once it is settled, clear your mind as to the next steps forward.
Should the case be a false alarm, take comfort in the fact that your baby is perfectly healthy even if you had to spend a few bucks to make sure he or she was.
Breathe a sigh of relief now, because all is well.
However, if it turns out that it’s something more serious, do not fret. If the need arises, get a second opinion.
But once the diagnosis has been settled, you have to move forward.
It’s easy to feel helpless, with your previous child sick, but with the advent of technology, medical advancements have solved many of the previously unsolved medical conundrums and cures have been created for most conditions.
After the proper diagnosis of your baby’s condition, the next step is to find and maintain treatment until he or she is better.
Now it becomes a matter of maintaining a level head and not let worry, fear or panic set in.
The best care is already available for your child, and that’s because your baby has you by his or her side.
It would be helpful if you have a strong support system in the form of family and friends, and there are also groups both off and online that offer help and support to moms who are going through a similar situation.
Not to mention your partner, who can be your strongest anchor during these trying times.
That being said, it’s important that you know you are not alone, and that you and your baby both have the ability to overcome this.
Some infrequent fluctuations in your baby’s urine are normal, but any recurrence may signal something more serious.
If the strong smell of your baby’s urine does not go away after a few days, it’s time to call the doctor and schedule a visit.
Watch out for other warning signs like changes in appetite, sleeping patterns, disposition, and temperature.
However, keep in mind that letting your panic get the best of you will not solve anything. It is imperative that you keep a clear head so that you can choose the best way forward for your baby.
- 4 Minutes to Clarify That Doubt About Frothy Baby Poop!
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- What Are the Signs of a UTI?
- What makes my urine smell? 12 foods that can give it an odour
- Diagnosis and Treatment of Urinary Tract Infections in Children
- Cystitis – Symptoms and causes
- Maple Syrup Urine Disease