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My Baby’s Diaper Smells Like Fish

    Urine contains water and other waste products concentrations and has a typical smell of its own. However, the odor may fluctuate due to various reasons. In some instances, the urine can even have a fish-like smell. The fish smell may also come from sweat and other body fluids. The condition is called fish odor syndrome. Note that this condition can be present in both adults and babies.

    If your baby’s diaper begins to smell like fish, you will definitely freak out. You will start asking lots of questions, such as what causes the urine to smell like fish. Does this happen only to your baby or to other babies too? Is the condition temporary or a long term medical condition? Is there a treatment or remedy for this condition, and many more?

    If you are here because you are looking for answers to such questions, you are in the right place. Ensure that you read this article to the end because it has all the answers to your questions regarding this condition.

    What Causes the Fish-Like Smell?

    There is something called fish odor syndrome. It is a condition where the body fluids, such as urine and sweat, smell like fish. The cause is a chemical known as Trimethylamine, and it is present in certain foods.

    Individuals with Trimethylaminuria condition are not able to break down trimethylamine when they eat food containing this chemical. So, what happens is that this chemical builds up in the body. Once it is excess, it becomes the source of fish odor syndrome.

    So, if your baby’s diaper smells like fish, it could be because he or she is having this fish odor syndrome. In other words, the urine the baby releases in the diaper is what is causing it to have a fish-like smell.

    Is It Temporary or a Health Problem?

    There are two answers to this question. The condition can be temporary or a health problem. It all depends on the underlying cause. Note that some causes have remedies, while others don’t. So, the condition can be temporary in some babies, while in others may be a long-term health problem. 

    Some causes have remedies that can help stop the problem, meaning that the problem will last just for a short time. If the cause is genetic, you may not be able to stop the odor, but you can reduce it through various remedies such as hydration and modifying your baby’s diet. 

    Does This Happen to All Babies?

    Looking at the causes of this condition in babies, as discussed above, the answer to this question is no. Not all babies have a fish-like smell in their urine. Note that since the cause of the condition is food containing trimethylamine chemicals, only those babies with trimethylaminuria condition and eat such food will have fish odor syndrome.

    So, if your baby’s diaper smells like fish, there is a possibility that your baby has trimethylaminuria condition, and you are feeding him or her food that contains trimethylamine chemicals.

    Long Term Implications

    Though fish odor syndrome has no other physical symptoms apart from the bad fish-like smell, it has long term implications. The smell in babies can interfere with many aspects of the parents’ and baby’s lives.  

    For instance, it can lead to psychological problems. As a parent, you won’t have peace of mind knowing that your baby has fish odor syndrome. The problem can also affect the baby psychologically, especially when they become of age and fully aware of the condition.

    The problem can also cause social problems. As a parent, no one will want to associate with you because of your baby. People will stay away from you because of the smell. Also, since this is something that may extend into adult life, it may affect the child’s social well-being in the future.

    Diagnosis and Treatment

    Babies inherit trimethylaminuria from their parents. The cause is when the FMO3 gene that the baby inherits from the parent is not functioning well. So, suppose your baby’s urine has a fish-like odor. In that case, the doctor will perform a diagnosis based on the urine analysis, symptoms, clinical exam, as well as genetic testing to establish the cause.

    A possible treatment for this condition is the modification of diet. However, the doctor may also recommend the use of acidic soaps and vitamin B12 supplements. Other medications may include antibiotics, probiotics, and activated charcoal.

    All these help you expel excess trimethylamine chemicals from the body, which will eventually reduce the urine and sweat odor.

    Drinking plenty of water can also be a solution. Note that dehydration makes the urine concentrate strongly. So, hydration will dilute the concentrates in the urine, and this will help reduce the odor.


    Since this condition has long term implications, it is something that a parent should take seriously. It is good to see a doctor as soon as you notice a fish-like smell in your baby’s diaper. Proper examination and diagnosis from a specialist will help establish the root cause of the problem and administer appropriate treatment.

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