Sunday, November 26, 2006

Baby poop

Eeeeew, yucky topic, I know, but it is amazing how people have had so little exposure to this natural function that they don't know what is normal, and baby comes along, and panic sets in.
Newborn babies first pass meconium, a thick blackish tarry poop, which is very sticky. It has been collecting in the baby's gut in utero. Often the hospital or clinic staff change those diapers/nappies, but sometimes it is Dad's job, lucky guy.

As baby takes in more breastmilk, the poop will become lighter, first becoming a greenish colour after a day or so, then becoming more yellowish, as baby gets more milk. By about Day 5 you should see baby with more copious stooling patterns, and the poop will be mustardy coloured and LIQUID. The poop will sometimes have curdy bits that look like cottage cheese, sometimes it will be more watery, and sometimes it may even have a greenish tinge to it. None of these things are cause for concern.

How many times a day do we expect babies to poop? When they are very little, they should be going several times a day, and the number of poops is pretty reliable as an indicator of whether baby is drinking enough breastmilk or not. If things are going well with breastfeding, you may see between 2 and 5 poops every day, sometimes more. If your baby is less than a month old and not stooling at least twice a day, it could be an indicator that baby is not getting enough breastmilk, and you should have someone observe your breastfeeding to be sure baby is actually transferring milk during the time spent at the breast. Lots of parents take their babies to the doctor at this point, wondering what to do about constipation.

Breastfed babies RARELY ever get constipated. In the first couple of weeks, if they are not stooling, it generally means they need more frequent and effective breastfeeding. More calories makes more poop. It is amazing how many doctors suggest using Q tips to get baby to poop. It is such a dangerous practice, and parents often go home and use that method each day to get baby to poop. A baby who doesn't poop should first be checked to be sure your baby is breastfeeding frequently and well.

Let's just repeat this: More calories more poop. Isn't it more important that your baby is getting enough breastmilk rather than focussing on getting the poop to come out?

Breastfeed at least 8-10 times a day, even more if you are worried. If you have been told by the hospital or clinic to breastfeed only 5 or 10 minutes per breast (a common practice in Japan), it is very likely this is contributing to your baby's shortfall of calories.

Breastfeed longer and as effectively as possible on one side first. Be sure you hear baby swallowing. Finish the first breast first before offering the other side. If baby is sleepy, you can burp or change him to help him wake up enough to take the other side.

For more details about poop colour, see Dr Jay Gordon's page

The final thing is, parents wonder when the baby will start to do more formed bowel movements. These start when baby begins solid foods. So enjoy the less odorous breastmilk poop while you can, because once babies are on solids, then everyone within a large radius knows when someone has done a poop...!!