It’s a dirty job. It comes in a range of colors and consistencies. It can put fear in the hearts of parents. Easily 25% of new parents’ questions revolve around this subject. Here I am to clarify what’s normal, what’s not, what matters, what doesn’t about your baby’s poop.
Your baby’s first poops should be happy sights for you. When your baby is passing stool, it means the digestive track is working as G-d designed it to work. Almost anything is normal except NOT passing poop within the first twenty-four hours of life.
There are two new-parent lessons here. First, baby poop comes in many varieties. To be discussed shortly. Second, get answers before freaking out. This is easier said than done, especially when it comes to our babies’ poop habits.
Let’s start with the varieties.
Beginning with the first day of life and continuing for several days, the baby’s first several bowel movements will be filled with meconium. Meconium is a thick black or dark green substance that your baby ingested in utero. Yes, older siblings, you’re grossed out. But you ingested the same! So did your parents. So did I, for that matter. The meconium can be hard to wipe off your baby’s bottom. Once it has passed your baby’s system, the stools will become softer and lighter in color.
The stools of breastfed babies resemble light mustard with seedlike particles. The consistency of the stools may range from very soft to loose and runny. The stools of formula fed babies are usually tan or yellow in color, although the color depends on the contents of your baby’s formula. They will be firmer than the stools of breastfed babies but no firmer than peanut butter.
Please tell your pediatrician if you see pale yellow, pale green, chalk, white or grey poop. A light-colored stool, especially in a jaundiced baby, might point toward a liver problem.
How can you tell if your baby has diarrhea if an infant’s stools are normally soft and a little runny? Telling signs may be a sudden increase in frequency (to more than one bowel movement per feeding) and abnormally high liquid content in the stool. Diarrhea may be a sign of intestinal infection or may be caused by a change in the diet. A change is Mom’s diet may cause diarrhea in a nursing baby.
Whether your baby is breastfed or bottle-fed, stools that are hard or dry may indicate that your baby is not getting enough fluid or he is losing too much fluid due to illness, fever or heat. If fever is present and your baby is less than two months old, call your pediatrician. If your baby is over two months old and the fever lasts for longer than a day, check his urine output and rectal temperature and then report your findings to your pediatrician. Make sure your baby continues to feed frequently.
If your baby is already eating solids and his stools are hard, he might be eating too many constipating foods such as cereal or cow’s milk before his system can handle them. Note: Whole cow’s milk is not recommended for babies under 12 months of age.
What is considered “normal” for how often a baby poops?
- First 24 hours of life: There should be at least one bowel movement as Mom’s high-sugar colostrum acts like a laxative to push out the meconium.
- The first 12 weeks: Breastfed babies can have anywhere between one to eight poops per day, the average being four. Depending on their digestive system, some breastfed babies can have bowel movements once in 7-10 days. Formula-fed babies average 2 poops daily but could have more.
- Between 4-6 months or whenever your baby is ready for solids: Varies on the diet.
The bottomline (no pun intended): There’s a wide range of normal when it comes to your newborn’s number twos. Educate yourselves by asking your pediatrician questions.
The miracle of the baby’s digestive and excretory systems makes one pause and contemplate how perfect is Hashem’s world. We should appreciate our bodies. Thank you, Abayei, for composing Asher Yatzar.