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Let’s be honest, talking poop isn’t exactly anyone’s cup of tea but as soon as you become a parent, it’s suddenly getting a pretty regular mention because it can tell us quite a bit about our baby’s health.
‘Normal’ can vary from one child to the next. A ‘normal’ stool can vary in terms of colour, smell, consistency and frequency. Factors like your child’s age, whether or not they are breastfed or formula fed and any solids they are consuming, can directly impact your little one’s stools. While there can be significant variations from one poop to the next, there are some general features that will help you decode what your child’s poop means.
Newborn poop, also known as meconium is quite different from the poop that will become their ‘norm’ after a few days. Meconium is a greenish-black, tarry substance that is made up of mucus, amniotic fluid, and other things your baby ingested in utero. It is typically odourless. Newborn babies will usually pass their first meconium stool within 24 hours of birth and ideally by the time they are 48 hours old. After the meconium passes, their poop will gradually become lighter in color and consistency.
Normal baby poop can range in color from yellow to brown to green. Breastfed babies usually have pale yellow or mustard-coloured stools while a formula-fed bub usually has a more brown-green coloured stool.
Like the colour of poop, the smell of baby poop can vary significantly. Prior to starting solids though, the smell of baby’s poop is usually quite sweet and largely unoffensive (breastfed baby’s poop is often a little sweeter when compared to formula-fed bubs). There are however a few things which can cause a young baby’s poop to be more odourous, like infections (eg. gastro), medications, food allergies, diarrhoea or constipation.
Once they commence solid foods, the foods they consume will impact the smell of their stool and it usually becomes more adult-like and a little more ….well yuck!
Newborn babies typically have runny or watery poop. As they get older, their poop will become thicker and more paste-like.
Breastfed babies typically have looser poop than formula-fed babies. This is because breast milk is easier to digest than formula. Formula-fed babies typically have thicker, pastier poop that is similar to peanut butter in consistency.
By the time babies are 4-6 weeks old, their poop will usually have a regular consistency. However, it is important to note that the consistency of baby poop can vary from day to day.
Here are some things to watch for in baby poop consistency:
The frequency with which your baby poops can also vary greatly depending on age, diet and any medical conditions however generally most babies will poop 2-5 times per day.
Newborn babies may poop up to 10 times per day in the first few weeks of life. As babies get older, their digestive system matures and they are able to digest milk more efficiently. This is why older babies typically poop less often. By the time babies are 4-6 weeks old, they will usually poop 2-5 times per day.
Some babies may poop more often or less often than others. This is perfectly normal, as long as your baby is pooping regularly and their poop is soft and easy to pass.
Here are some things to watch for in baby poop frequency:
If your baby suddenly starts pooping more often or less often than usual, this could be a sign of something else going on.
As touched on above, there are a few things that are NOT normal when it comes to baby poop.
While not normal, constipation in babies is a common problem. Poops will often appear hard, dry and pebble-like and can even result in blood in the stool. It often results in discomfort and difficulty passing poops and your little one may appear to strain and grunt when pooping. Due to the discomfort, it will also often result in infrequent bowel movements.
If your baby is showing signs of constipation, make sure they are well-hydrated by checking that their urine is pale yellow, as opposed to dark yellow. Diet also plays a role, especially diets that are low in fibre or diets that change rapidly to being very high in fibre, such as when starting solids. Gradually increasing your baby's intake of high-sorbitol foods, such as prunes, apples, pears, kiwi, and stone fruits like peaches, plums, and nectarines, can often provide natural relief. However if symptoms persist for more than a few weeks, make an appointment with your GP or paediatrician.
Diarrhoea is another common, although ‘not normal’ occurrence in young children. It is characterised by three or more, loose, watery poops. While one or two loose stools is not cause for concern, the main risk associated with diarrhoea is dehydration. Signs your bub may be dehydrated are a sudden increase in the frequency of poops, very dark yellow urine, fewer wet nappies, odourous poop and/or blood or mucous in the stool. If you notice any of these symptoms or your bub has had diarrhoea for more than 24 hours or is less than one month old, your best course of action is to seek medical attention.
It’s been previously mentioned that poop can vary in colour depending on age and diet. While black poop can be due to an iron supplement and red poop may be due to beetroot (or other red foods) at lunch, in the absence of these, black and red stools may be cause for concern. In addition, if you notice pale, white or chalky stools in your bub’s nappy, get in touch with your doctor immediately.
Remember the purpose of the information above is not to scare you but to equip you with the knowledge to know what is normal and not so normal … because this parenting gig can be testing at the best of times! And if you are ever in doubt or concerned, make an appointment to check in with your paediatrician or GP.
Baby Constipation Symptoms (Hopkins Medicine) <https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/constipation-in-children/baby-constipation-symptoms> (accessed on 25th October 2023)
Constipation, Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne <https://www.rch.org.au/kidsinfo/fact_sheets/constipation/> (accessed on 25th November 2023)
Diarrhoea (0-12 Months), Seattle Children’s Hospital <https://www.seattlechildrens.org/conditions/a-z/diarrhea-0-12-months/ >(accessed on 25th November 2023)
My baby is ready for solids - do I puree feed? BLW? A combo of the two? Which is better for Bub? Which is better for me? Arghh help!
An article to reassure you and give you the confidence whichever mode of feeding you choose for your little one as they embark on their solids adventure!