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The Scoop on Infant Poop

What's Normal—and What's Not—About Your Baby's Bowel Movements

Before having a baby, you never imagined that someday you'd engage in long discussions with your spouse about the contents of one teeny diaper. Yet that's exactly what you'll find yourself doing, because it's perfectly normal for your baby's bowel movements to change in looks, frequency, and, yes, smell day by day. Plus, your newborn's stools can tell you something about her overall health. Here's a cheat sheet on breastfed and formula fed baby poop and what to expect when you're on diaper duty.

Diaper contents: dark-green, almost black, with a tar-like consistency
What's going on: This is your baby's first bowel movement, called meconium. It's waste that built up in the womb and it usually comes out when you're still in the hospital.
What to do: If you're home when your newborn passes some of the meconium, use a little baby oil to get the sticky stuff off her bottom.

Diaper contents: mustard-yellow with a seedy texture
What's going on: Newborns that are nursing have these yellow, odorless or slightly sweet-smelling, poops.
What to do: When you're breastfeeding, your baby may have a bowel movement after every feeding for the first few months. Be prepared to change a lot of diapers to keep that little rear end rash-free! Don't worry: Your child's bowel movements will become less frequent over time, happening just once a day or less.

Diaper contents: greenish-brown and pasty
What's going on: Formula-fed babies have darker, thicker bowel movements than exclusively breastfed babies. Although these formula fed baby poops are more odorous, they are significantly less frequent than breastfed babies' stools, occurring just one to four times a day at first. If you are both nursing and formula-feeding, as many moms do, you'll see both kinds of poop in your little one's diaper.
What to do: Don't feel anxious if your infant has fewer bowel movements once you introduce formula. That's just as it should be. After a few weeks, a formula-fed baby will defecate only once or twice a day.

Diaper contents: Dark brown or dark green, firmer and decidedly smellier
What's going on: Once you start feeding your baby solid foods, her bowel movements will change markedly. In other words, the color and texture will change according to what she's eating.
What to do: Take mental note of what bowel movements look like after your child tries different foods. You'll see that binding foods like bananas will make the poop more solid, while a food like prunes will cause looser stools. Once you are attuned to how your baby's diet affects what's in her diaper, you won't worry any more than is necessary.

When should what comes out of your baby be cause for concern?

Diarrhea. With this condition, bowel movements are loose, watery, and more frequent than usual. If you're not sure whether your baby's bowel movement is diarrhea or not, look for other signs of illness such as a fever or lack of appetite. Because infants can easily become dehydrated from diarrhea, call the doctor if you are at all worried.

Constipation. Some babies have fewer bowel movements than others, but as long as their stools are soft, they are probably not constipated. When an infant is plugged up, the poop is hard. It may come out in small balls or pellets. If your little one hasn't started solids, talk to the pediatrician about what may be causing your baby's condition; sometimes a switch in the kind of formula she's drinking is warranted (but never change formulas without consulting the doctor). Many brands offer versions of their formulas that are easier to digest; your doctor can tell you more about these formulas. If your child is eating solid foods, your doctor may recommend a diet with more high-fiber foods (like pureed prunes), which will help ease and reduce constipation.

This article was written by the publishers of Parents and American Baby magazines.

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