The wonderful world of baby poo
Before you become a parent you would read a heading like the one above and scoff. You would turn to your other childless friends and snicker about how ridiculously important poo seems to suddenly be once you have babies and children.
You laugh about how obsessed parents are with the shape, size, colour and frequency of their darling children’s darling little bowel movements. You find this amusing because you don’t know. Until you become a parent.
Having the ability to communicate with your tiny child and understand what they are trying to tell you is very important. This baby is now the centre of the universe, and a little baby person that you are entirely responsible for. It dictates when you sleep, eat, shower, go out, and talk to another adult. More than anything else you need to pick up what baby is trying to say to you, so you can try to create some semblance of normality to your existence.
Your baby has three ways of communicating with you; by crying, by vomiting and by pooping. So you have no choice but become fluent in the fascinating ancient language of baby poo.
Here are some pointers to get you started.
What is normal?
With babies, there is a pretty broad definition of what is normal, and lots of different poops will fit into this spectrum.
Your baby’s poo will change as he grows from a newborn and throughout his first year. His patterns will be different with age, so a baby who is a few weeks old will differ to one that is four months old, six months old, and so on.
It will differ depending on your baby’s diet; poos that result from breastmilk and different (and significantly more tolerable) than those of formula fed babies, which differ again from baby’s poo once one you start him on solids.
How often should your baby poo?
A healthy baby can poo up to several times a day, or may not poo at all for several days. Newborns will generally poo quite often and then this stretches out a bit around two months of age once their bodies get better at extracting all the good nutrients from their food.
Babies on breastmilk may hardly poo at all and this is quite normal, as poo is made up of the waste that the body doesn’t need, and breastmilk is created to be prefect food for babies, so produces very little waste product.
As long as your baby does not appear to be in pain, is still taking milk and having wet nappies and is gaining weight, up to four or five days going by without a poop can be a pretty normal occurrence. The poo should be generally soft and easy to pass when it does come.
What colour should it be?
The topic really becomes exciting once you start discussing the rainbow of poo that your baby can produce, many colours of which are completely normal.
In the first 24-48 hours your cherished little angel will come out with a thick vile sludge the colour and consistency of hot tar, like nothing you’ve ever seen from a human being. This is meconium, which is the first poo getting rid everything that was in his system in the womb. This fades to a dark green and then after a couple of days will start to look less like road surface material and more like human excrement.
After this the colour depends on your baby’s diet. Breastfed babies can poo various shades of yellow and orange, often looking like pumpkin puree, which has an almost sweet smell.Formula fed babies’ poop looks and smells a lot more like poop, and will be a variety of shades of brown. The stinkiest of poos however comes when your baby starts on solids and starts to process fruit, vegetables and animal proteins.
Why does he make all those noises when he does it?
Interestingly (well I found it to be interesting anyway) babies are born not knowing how to poo, and have to figure it all out. In the womb all of their waste is carried away through the fallopian tube, and so their interior bits and pieces don’t know how to effectively work a poo through the body.
There is often a lot of grunting as though they are constipated or in pain, but most of the time they are not in distress and this noisemaking is nothing for you to worry about.
What exactly is a ‘Number Three’?!
This is a rite of passage of parenthood. A Number Three is a bowel movement so epic that it cannot be contained by any substances known to man. It will explode beyond nappies, beyond rompers, beyond anything you have to throw at it. Its ability to spread into places you never knew your baby had will astound you.
I remember my first child’s first Number Three like it was yesterday. We were out at a café and he pooped so impressively that it came up out of the back of his nappy and spread up his whole back into his hair. I had no way of changing his little outfit without managing to spread poop even further.
What should you be concerned about?
The vast majority of the time any variation in your baby’s bowel movements is probably down to something very normal.
If he has not pooped for a week or more however and appears to be in pain or distress, he may be constipated, which is a very common problem for little ones with new digestive systems. Some ways you can help to relieve this include:
· Give your baby diluted pear or prune juice
· Switch formulas to one that may be more agreeable to your baby’s stomach
· Gentle baby massage on the stomach and abdomen or cycling your baby’s legs up to his chest and away from his body may help work things through.
Here are a number of things of additional things you should be on the lookout for however, and if you notice any of these, be sure to seek some advice from your family doctor:
1. Blood in the stool
2. Baby not gaining weight, or losing weight
3. If your baby has a fever
4. If there are green or yellow discharges coming out with the poop
5. Green or yellow spit up
6. If baby hasn’t passed the meconium in the first few days since birth
Other symptoms such as those detailed above may be signs of an obstructed bowel, and you should talk to a medical professional that your trust to calm any fears you may have.
In the End
Before long you will be fluent in baby poop and get to the point where nothing new surprises you. Colour, texture, smell; it’s all just a kaleidoscope of fun. You will have everything under control, so much so that you decide to have another baby. So little do you know.