Your baby’s bowel movements explained!

Many parents often wonder what's normal and what's not when it comes to what's inside their​ newborn's nappy. Here's what you can expect...

While talking with your friends about your baby’s bowel movements may not be the best subject to tackle over coffee, many new parents have concerns over the contents of their baby’s first few dirty nappies.

What is the frequency of bowel motions in newborns?

You might be amazed at how many nappies your baby goes through each day. Every day, many babies have at least one or two bowel movements. Your infant may have as many as five to 10 each day by the end of the first week. After each feeding, your baby may pass a stool. During the first month, as your baby consumes more and matures, the number of bowel movements may decrease.

A breastfed baby’s bowel action

Once the meconium phase has passed (that’s the thick, green-black, sticky stool of the first few days), a breastfed baby is likely to have a bowel movement at every feed and often more than once at each sitting! Some will be big and explosive, others just a smear in the nappy. Breastfed babies’ stool statistics are as follows:

  • Mustard in colour
  • Soft as mustard paste
  • Contains what looks like little white seeds
  • Is easy to clean and is not at all unpleasant-smelling
  • After the first six-week period, the stools will reduce in number to as little as one in five or seven days, but will still be soft and easy to clean.

Formula-fed baby’s bowel action

Formula-fed babies’ stools are usually brown and pasty, and are mostly passed once to twice daily. However, a small baby will seldom have a pattern to her bowel actions, apart from the motion accompanying feeding. In time you might detect a pattern, but a regular excretory routine cannot be forced. Green tinges can be due to iron added to the formula milk powder and is not a cause for concern unless accompanied by constipation.

50 different shades

Many parents are concerned about the colour of their child’s stool. However, the majority of colour changes are caused by food colouring or chemicals and are not a serious issue. Consider what your infant has been eating when you observe a colour shift.

  • The colours brown, tan, yellow, and green are all common in babies that have eaten green veggies.
  • Stool that is black or crimson can indicate intestine bleeding, but it can also be caused by beets, tomato juice or soup, or red colourants.
  • A white bowel movement could indicate a liver illness but medicines or a milk-only diet could also be to blame.

When should you consult your paediatrician?

Whether your baby is breastfed or bottle-fed, hard or very dry stools may be a sign that he or she is not getting enough fluid or is losing too much fluid due to illness, fever, or heat. On the other hand, diarrhea may be a sign of intestinal infection, or it may be caused by a change in the baby’s diet. If your baby is suffering constipation, has very runny stools, or you have any other concerns, contact your doctor or get medical care straight away.    

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