The First Poop
Many North Dallas parents alarmed by the appearance of your newborn’s first bowel movement. It's actually pretty common for parents to be a bit startled by the greenish-black poop encountered in their new baby’s diaper. It’s called meconium, which is a sticky, tar-like substance that gradually filled your baby’s intestines during their time in utero. Despite its appearance, meconium is totally normal and an indicator that your child’s bowels are functioning properly!
The Transitional Stool
After all the meconium has been passed from your newborn’s body, dark greenish-yellow stools will appear. These are loose in consistency and occasionally “seedy” in texture (especially in breastfed infants). They may also contain mucus or traces of blood. While the blood is likely the result of swallowing some of your blood during delivery, show the diaper to a nurse or doctor just to make sure all is well.
When these transitional stools have been passed, usually in three or four days, the type of food your baby is eating will determine the color and consistency of his or her poop.
Normal vs Abnormal Poop
The appearance of baby poop is greatly affected by whether you’re breastfeeding or formula-feeding.
- Breastfed: bowel movements will often be mustard-like in color and consistency, loose or watery, and sometimes seedy, mushy, or curdy
- Formula-fed: poop will usually be soft, but more solid than a breastfed baby’s stool, and anywhere from pale yellow to yellowish-brown, light brown, or brownish-green.
For the first five days of life breastfed babies generally average one poopy diaper for every day of life: one poop on day one, two poops on day two, etc. After day five, the average breastfed newborn will have about five dirty diapers a day. However, any number in the range from one dirty diaper every few days to several a day is in the normal range!
By 6 weeks of age, the bowel movement frequency of babies who are breastfed begins to change. It’s normal for some breastfed babies to go one to three days between bowel movements, while others will continue to have bowel movements several times per day during their first year of life. As long as your baby is happy and thriving, it’s not necessary to track daily bowel movement numbers.
Formula-fed babies generally poop more often than breastfed babies. Infants who are fed formula usually have three to four times bowel movements per day. Occasionally, however, some babies will go several days without pooping. As long as the stools are soft and your baby isn’t constipated, there is usually no cause for concern. Don’t be alarmed if a baby grunts, groans, frowns, or strains when pooping. This is all very normal (and occasionally comical.) If your newborn goes more than five days without pooping, call our office for an appointment.
Blood in the Poop
While traces of blood in transitional stool is normal for a newborn, you should take note of blood in the poop of an older infant. If you are breastfeeding, blood in the baby’s stool could indicate that your nipples have bled while feeding or a sensitivity or allergy to something in your diet. Your pediatrician may recommend that you try eliminating commonly problematic foods like dairy, soy, peanuts, or tree nuts for two to three weeks to try and determine what is causing a problem.
If your baby is formula-fed, blood in your baby’s poop could indicate a milk allergy and may necessitate a change in formula.
However, sometimes no correlation between foods and allergic symptoms exists. It’s possible that your baby might have some small tears or fissures in the anus that caused the bleeding.
What is melena?
Thick, black or tarry stools are called melena. Melena differs from the meconium stools that occur during the first few days of your baby’s life. Melena can indicate bleeding in the digestive tract, which can be dangerous for your infant. Contact our office immediately if your baby has thick, black, or tarry poop.
For breastfed babies, constipation is uncommon. However, less than one poop a day in the first few weeks of life can indicate your baby isn’t getting enough to eat. Around the age of six weeks to 3 months, the bowel movement frequency could slow down to one a day or possibly one every two to three days. Formula-fed babies typically go a little longer between bowel movements. Call our office if your baby hasn’t pooped for more than three days in a row.
Constipation in babies
Even babies who feed well can experience constipation. Briefly straining, turning red-faced or crying when trying to poop are common for infants and not necessarily signs of constipation. How can you tell if your baby is constipated?
- Small, hard poops that your baby strains to pass
- Irritability or fussiness
- Several days since the last bowel movement
Diarrhea in babies
Frequent, runny, watery stools mean that your baby has diarrhea. The biggest problem with diarrhea isn’t that it’s messy (although it is!) In addition to the mess, diarrhea can cause dehydration. Also, the increased frequency of this runny poop can cause diaper rash.
When to call the doctor
While some babies poop every day, it’s possible and not necessarily problematic for a baby to go from a few days to a full week without a bowel movement. The most important thing to take note of is what’s normal for your little one. Here are some indications that a call to our office may be in order:
- Your breastfed baby doesn’t poop for three or more days
- Your formula-fed baby doesn’t poop for more than five days
- Stools are hard, or thicker than peanut butter
- Your baby’s stool is red or black, which could indicate bleeding
- Your baby’s stool is white or clay-colored. This could indicate several things: a dairy allergy, a stomach bug, or a liver problem. It could also be the result of medication. It’s best to contact our office for an appointment with Dr. Leung to check things out.