FACED with a newborn that cannot speak or express its needs, what’s a new mother to do? In this case, turn Sherlock and investigate all possible clues when it comes to your baby. A great indicator turns out to be their poop; a literal refuse during normal circumstances, it transforms into an invaluable resource for Sherlock moms.
Dr. Rosanne M. Sugay shares, “The truth is the ‘normal’ for babies is pretty varied. From liquid poop to pasty poop—they can all be acceptable and safe. It all depends on how the baby reacts to it.” Nevertheless, Dr. Sugay gives us some hints on how to navigate this new terrain of motherhood.
The first poop The first stool is called menconium stool. Its molasses-like tarry black consistency makes for sticky bottoms, and tough clean-ups for new parents. All term babies should pass their first stool within 24 hours. Most newborns even pass the first menconium stool in as little as 12 hours. All menconium should pass from your baby’s system in two to three days. After which, another transition in stool type will occur.
Breastfed infants Breastfed infants typically have grainy, yellow mustard stool. They’ll also poop more, often pooping after each feeding. Dr. Sugay advises parents not to worry about frequent bowel movements saying, “If the baby is eating well with good wet diapers (of poop and pee) after feeding, and they are gaining good weight* then there is nothing to worry about.”
After four to six weeks, expect another upheaval in bowel habits due to the natural decrease in the amount of fiber found in breast milk. Some babies even go for one week without pooping! Dr. Sugay again patiently reminds parents, “If the baby is still eating well, is happy, and continues to gain weight, then it is not an issue.”
Formula-fed infants On the other hand, formula-fed infants have stool that is “typically tan, smooth, and a little thicker.” Babies on iron-fortified formulas can also sport green poop as well. They tend to poop less often than breastfed babies—three to five times a day as compared to five to eight times a day. Expect no changes in poop after four to six weeks because of the consistent formulation of your baby’s milk. Formula milk also has a higher propensity to cause constipation, so keep an eye out and call your pedia if no poop has passed after 24 hours.
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The jig’s up Unfortunately, predictability is not the game of life. “Once the baby starts eating (solids), all bets are off. All the colors of the rainbow are acceptable as long as the parent can relate it to food the baby ate,” says Dr. Sugay. Red poop can appear after eating beets; green poop after eating veggies. As long as your baby continues to exhibit a happy disposition, you’re in safe territory. In case your baby does exhibit signs of change in their normal attitude, don’t hesitate to call your pediatrician.
*It is normal for babies to lose as much as 10% of their weight during the first 10 days of life. Please include this information when assessing what is “gaining good weight.”
Dr. Rosanne Sugay practices in Las Vegas, Nevada, and is Board certified in pediatrics and internal medicine, as well as a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.