Wed, 29 Nov 2000

Disposables make no difference to baby

By Donya Betancourt

Dr. Donya Betancourt,

I am a new father of a five-week-old baby girl. What is your view on the use of disposable diapers? I heard it is not advisable to use them at all. Thanking you in advance.


-- Dharmawan


Dear Dharmawan,

Disposable diapers mean throwaways, not vanishing and they add to the growing problem of waste pollution and environmental concerns. There are many disposable diapers in a variety of types, sizes and absorption.

In my opinion it does not matter to the baby which diaper you choose as long as she is changed often enough.

-- Dr.Donya

Dear Dr. Donya,

I will deliver my baby in December 2000 and plan to take her on a long-distance flight. At what month of age is it safe for a baby to fly? What preparations should I make for the baby?

Some people say that giving the baby a spoon of mild black coffee occasionally would prevent a baby (above three months of age) from developing high fever. Is this true?

If a child has had the first vaccination but failed to have the second one, will he/she be immune to the particular disease or should the immunization start from the beginning again? Thank you for your valuable advice.

Best regards,

-- Sumini


Dear Sumini,

There is no specific age when a baby is ready to fly because some babies are susceptible to ear problems when they fly. I would recommend the baby should be at least four weeks old before he or she is put on a flight. When the plane takes off, you should give your baby milk -- either formula or breast milk, and the same is true when the plane begins to descend. This is to help the pressure tubes stay open. If your baby has a cold or runny nose, consult a doctor. He may give your baby a decongestant to prevent ear problems.

You can prepare these items for the baby: If you are using a bottle, you will need milk, bottles and teats; Clothing: a set of clothes, cloth diapers, blanket, socks, hat, mittens; Toiletries: nappies, wet tissues (for cleaning); Medication; for insect bites, soothing emollient (Vicks vapors).

Black coffee contains caffeine. It has no effect on fever but it will upset your baby because it is a stimulant. Water is the healthiest drink and it can also prevent fever from dehydration.

If the child has had the first vaccination but fails to receive the following one, he can go on to take the second one. You do not have to start from the beginning.

-- Dr. Donya

Dear Doctor,

My name is Menaka. My husband and I got married three years ago and our first child, a baby boy, was born on Oct. 9 this year by cesarean section. The baby's weight at birth was 2.65 kg and he is now 3.25 kg, in 28 days. At present, he has diarrhea and our doctor has prescribed "Nifural", a syrup.

I need some advice. My baby's stool is initially yellow but after some time it turns green. I am keen to know the cause of his diarrhea and how long it will last. There is no vomiting and his appetite is good. Thank you and I am eagerly awaiting your reply.


-- Menaka


Dear Menaka,

I got your forward message from Barbara and hope that your son has got over his diarrhea. Sorry for the late reply. I am not sure about your son's diarrhea because I don't know his stool consistency, how many bowel movements he has per day and whether he is being breast-fed or bottle-fed. If he is breast-fed, he may pass stools of a light yellow color that can be watery, pasty or seedy. The stools are never too hard and he may have up to eight bowel movements a day. If he is bottle-fed, he may have between one and four bowel movements a day but the number is unimportant as long as the consistency of the stool is good (not too watery or bloody) and the baby is doing well (active).

About the color of stool; brown, yellow or green, it simply does not matter. Bowel movements come in many colors. None is healthier than the other. You should be concerned if the stool turns black (it means lots of blood), red or chalk-white, which can indicate a bile problem.

Why does he get diarrhea? A baby's bowel is sensitive during the first year or two, not only to the germs that cause diarrhea but also to other mild germs found on contaminated hands or in bottles. Fortunately, this diarrhea is usually mild, with stool looser than usual. It may sometimes be greenish and the odor may be different. Your most important concern should be the baby's behavior. If he is active and urinates as often as usual, he should be back to normal within a couple of days without any special treatment. Your son's weight is fine, gaining 500 grams in his first month. If he has a mild case of diarrhea, he may lose a few grams (not more than 5 percent of 3250 grams).

How long does diarrhea last? It usually lasts between two and seven days, depending on what kind of germs infected him and his nutritional supplements. As for "Nifural", it is an antibacterial. Thanks for writing.

-- Dr. Donya

The writer is a pediatrician based in Sanur, Bali. If you have any questions, please feel free to write to her. Her e-mail address is or you can reach her at