baby-bowel-movements-surprisedThe Scoop on poop: baby’s bowel movements decoded

We get quite a few calls from new parents with questions about their infant’s poop.  From color, to texture to frequency, moms and dads want to know:  what’s normal when it comes to baby’s bowel movements?

The truth is, there is a pretty wide range of normal when it comes to baby stools.  Diet definitely has an effect.  Breastfed babies usually have more frequent, runnier bowel movements than formula-fed babies.  But there is no “normal” frequency for poop, even amongst babies on the same diet.   Some infants might go up to eight times a day while other infants might only go every other day.  Some exclusively breast fed babies may only stool once every 5-10 days.

Color can also vary greatly from baby to baby.  Green, yellow, tan and brown are all normal colors for infant stool.

The most important way to know that your baby’s BMs are normal and healthy for your baby are to note that 1) the stool is soft and 2) baby is eating well and gaining weight.

Meconium

In the very beginning after birth, infants pass a greenish-black colored, sticky stool called meconium.  It is often described as “tar-like.”  This is completely normal.  Most babies will pass through the meconium phase in about three days.

Diarrhea

It is often hard to tell if your baby has diarrhea, especially for breastfed babies since their poop may subtly change based on what you eat.  The best way to tell if your baby’s super soft stools are diarrhea is to compare it to your baby’s usual stool texture and frequency.  If baby’s poo is suddenly much runnier and she’s already gone twice as many times as normal in a given period, then it’s probably diarrhea.  If you think baby has diarrhea, keep her hydrated with breast milk or formula and watch for any signs of dehydration.  Please visit our article on dehydration in our medical library for symptoms and treatment of dehydration and call us if you are concerned.

Constipation

Often, parents think that if their young baby turns red in the face and strains when pooping, it means he or she is constipated.  In reality, all babies do this in the beginning as their muscles strengthen and they learn to properly contract their sphincters to push the stool out.  If, however, your baby’s poop is hard, or your baby has a firm belly that seems painful to the touch or is refusing to eat, it could indicate constipation.

Although it is rare for exclusively breast or formula-fed babies to have constipation, it is possible.  It is more likely in formula-fed babies and could indicate a need to change formulas.  Also, when baby begins trying solid foods (after 6 months of age) he or she could become constipated.

Please give us a call during office hours if you suspect your baby or child might be constipated so we can help identify the cause and work out a treatment: (901) 761-1880.