With every brand-new baby comes a brand-new excretory system, and the result is often slew of, well, interesting diaper changes in the first days, weeks and even months of baby’s life as he makes his transition from womb to world. Whether you’re a novice parent or simply in need of a refresher, pull up a stool and take a seat as we delve into the scoop on poop.
Take a bowel
After his grand entrance, the first thing to exit baby’s body will be a dark, sticky, tar-like substance called meconium. It will consist of anything and everything baby ingested while on the inside, including amniotic fluid, bile and even skin cells. Typically your little one will experience his first bowel movement even before hospital discharge, but some newbies may take a little longer. Consult your pediatrician if baby hasn’t dirtied a diaper within his first 24 hours to ensure there isn’t something obstructing the process.
Newborns don’t disappoint when it comes to diaper-changing opportunities for mom and dad. Whether breastfed or formula-fed, young infants tend to have frequent BMs. It’s not uncommon for them to soil a diaper several times a day—or even after every feeding. Breastfed babies will continue to have frequent bowel movements (usually four or more per day), while formula-feeders typically have fewer (around three to four) after the first couple weeks. By 4 months, most babies will be down to two number twos daily.
Consistency is key
Even more telling than frequency, consistency is what parents want to keep an eye on. Remember: Soft poop is healthy poop. If your little stinker has a bowel movement only every other day, but seems to pass it easily and isn’t bloated or otherwise uncomfortable, there’s likely no cause for concern. If baby goes a week with nothing more than wet diapers, however, or if he seems uncomfortable or isn’t gaining weight, you’ll want to give your doctor a call.
Breastfed babies will produce mushy, even runny stools at first—not to be mistaken for diarrhea, which is very, very watery in infants—and may contain small seed-like particles. Color spans the spectrum from yellow to brown to green. A bright green or frothy stool could indicate your munchkin isn’t getting enough calories, as he is not receiving the higher fat breast milk that lets down later in the feeding. Allowing enough time at each breast can help remedy the problem. Formula feeders will produce something more akin to peanut butter in consistency, and it may be any shade of brown or tan. Unlike breastfed babies, whose diapers have minimal smell, formula-fed babies are often responsible for slightly more odorous output.
When baby moves beyond his liquid diet, there will be a pretty immediate change in his excretions (especially if he’s breastfed). His stool will more closely resemble what one might expect poop to look like, turning darker brown in color and thicker in consistency than it was previously. If the foods baby consumes are not puréed, don’t be alarmed to find recognizable chunks of his last meal in his dirtied diaper (which, by the way, has become downright stinky). These “leftovers” are normal and simply mean baby didn’t finish chewing, or that the food made the journey from A to B too quickly to be digested in its entirety. If it continues to happen on a regular basis, alert your doctor to ensure baby is getting the proper nutrients.
Changing of the guard
Although baby’s output can vary and what’s “normal” will change over the course of his first year, there are a few things to look out for that may signal a problem.
Diarrhea: Most parents and doctors agree: You’ll know diarrhea when you see it. It’s extremely runny and watery and often has a tendency to seep up and out the back of diapers. In addition to creating a mess for mom and dad, diarrhea can be a sign of a food allergy or an infection and if it isn’t remedied may lead to dehydration. If your child is less than 3 months old and has more than a couple instances of these explosive emissions, or continues having them for more than a day or two, be sure to contact your doctor.
Bloody poop: There are two kinds of bloody poop. If your baby is not taking an iron supplement, bloody black poop could indicate that blood is being digested and may mean something is wrong. If baby is no longer breastfed or you know the blood is not from mama’s irritated nipples, get in touch with your pediatrician. If baby’s poop is tinged with red blood, the blood is not being ingested but is rather a result of an allergy, tiny hemorrhoids or tears, or a bacterial infection. Again, loop your doctor in.
White, gray or chalky poop: Any of these shades, as well as small pebble-like droppings, signal constipation. After three or more stools of this type, you’ll want to give the pediatrician a ring. It may simply be the switch to solid foods that has baby backed up (in which case your pediatrician will likely recommend more water or juice), but it’s best to err on the side of caution.