by Jen Milligan
From around 84 nappy changes per week in those first few weeks, down to just one night nappy, a parent sees an awful lot of poo!
So how do we know what bowel movements are normal? Poos are telling us a story of what is happening in your baby's precious little body and can be such a helpful tool for us to know how best to care for our little ones.
So...let's talk poo!
A normal poo for a breastfed baby is mustard-coloured and runny. That’s your gold standard! A formula-fed baby will have a slightly formed poo, often resembling a soft serve ice cream (delightful!). It is often a bit greener in colour due to the extra iron in the formula.
What if my baby’s poo is explosive and/or green and frothy? This can be an indication that your little one has a sad and sore tummy. If a mum breastfeeds a little from one breast, then a little from the other breast during the feed, the baby is getting a big hit of the front milk (foremilk) which is higher in sugar. This milk is by no means bad; however, too much of it in one feed and not enough of the back milk (hind milk) can cause the sugar to ferment in the gut and produce excess wind and discomfort. See our blog on Colic for further information on this topic.
What if it is green and has streaks of mucus or blood? If the issue of excess front milk has been addressed and there is still mucus or blood, this can indicate that your baby doesn’t enjoy the dairy you are eating. By stopping your dairy intake, including milk, cheese, yoghurt and chocolate (sorry!), this can greatly improve this issue. If the issue continues after at least one week of being dairy-free, or if your child becomes unwell, you will need to consult your doctor.
Note - it can often take at least 6 weeks after birth before the above issues show themselves in the nappy.
How do I know if my baby has diarrhoea? All babies have runny poo! You will know that it is diarrhoea as it will have a very offensive smell and your baby will most likely be pale and sad. It is very important to seek medical attention in this situation as babies become dehydrated very quickly.
Do bowel movements change once solids start? They sure do! It’s time for a peg on the nose. The poo should be soft and would have been formed had they not squashed it when they sat in it!
Are 'pellets' normal? Pellets are a sign of constipation. It means the bowel and poo is too dry. If they have not yet started solids, try increasing the milk feeds to increase fluids. Despite what some text books say, from professional and personal parenting experience, it is not ideal for a breastfed baby to go for longer than 4 days without doing a poo.
If they have started solids, increasing their water intake at meal times and adding a prune to their meals should help. If it is not working, don’t let constipation go untreated. Chat to your early childhood nurse, your doctor or us at The Nurtury and we will help you on the road to a healthy bowel for your little one.
Are smelly streaks in the nappy or undies normal? This is also an indication of constipation. There can be a blockage in the bowel as small amounts of liquid poo can slide down around the blockage and into the nappy or undies without the child even being aware.
We run our Coughs, Colds & Common Concerns class regularly on the Central Coast, where you will learn so much more about constipation and many other common childhood illnesses. We will also equip you to manage burns, choking and an unconscious child.
Jen is a midwife with almost 20 years experience in a Sydney birthing unit. She now lives & works on the Central Coast, supporting new mothers as they transition into motherhood.
Ingrid is a birth & postpartum doula, living and working on the beautiful NSW Central Coast.