Many a new mother has asked me about newborn bowel habits. In fact, it is probably the question I am asked the most, bar none. I frequently get frantic calls from new mothers whose baby has not had a bowel movement for 24 hours. So, let’s talk poop!!
Newborns have bowel movements that vary in behavior. The first few days, they are ridding their colon of a black, sticky substance called meconium. This is very normal. It is a black, tarry looking substance and is very sticky. This is the substance that fills their intestines while they are in the womb. It is hard to clean up and does not rub off easily. After the first couple of days, you should see what are called “transitional stools”, which are still dark in color, but are slowly becoming looser, easier to wipe off their little bottoms and maybe with a few yellow seeds in them. These can vary in color from very dark brown, to green and may have spots of yellow in them.
From this point (approximately 4-7 days after birth), you will start to see progressively more yellow and looser stools. These can also be on the green side, depending on what the baby is taking in. If you are breastfeeding, your diet can have something to do with this. If the infant is on vitamins of any sort, or iron supplements, poops can be much darker in nature. But, they should be fairly loose and easy to clean up. If you are breastfeeding, this trend will continue. Stools will be loose, yellow/greenish and usually in the first few weeks, very frequent. They can also be very explosive!!! This is very NORMAL. What mother has not experienced this or something like it, or the occasional “up the back” poop that boggles your mind?
If you are continuing to breastfeed, you will also notice that as your baby goes through growth spurts, he can go from pooping every time you feed him, to not going for 2-3 days. Again, very normal. Breast milk is very well utilized by their little bodies and in a big growth spurt, just gets down right used up. Nothing is left to eliminate. So, if you are used to changing a dirty diaper every time you feed your little tot, don’t fret when that changes. All babies go through growth spurts. Their bowel habits are ever changing. It is highly unusual for a breast fed baby to be constipated.
If you are bottle-feeding and using formula, their stools could be a little more solid. Usually they are what I call “silly putty poops”. This may be dating myself, but that’s what it looks like. The more solid consistency is due to the way they digest formula differently than breast milk. Bottle fed babies can also have varying degrees of regularity. This is also due to the baby’s growth spurts.
So, you ask, “When do I worry”? Most doctors will not even bat an eye if you tell them your little bundle of joy has not pooped for 2-3 days. It is usually nothing to worry about. We do not call it constipation unless the actual stools look like little solid pebbles. Then, there is some intervening that can be done. Try a warm bath and moving baby’s legs like a she is riding a bicycle. This sometimes helps to relax the muscles. Talk to your pediatrician if the baby seems very uncomfortable for long periods of time or it has gone beyond 3-4 days. There are a multitude of remedies out there; most of them from your own kitchen. But, every pediatrician has different opinions on this, so best to talk to yours.
If the stools are soft or loose, but infrequent, don’t worry. Your baby is just growing. Call your pediatrician if it has gone beyond 3-4 days, your baby appears very uncomfortable for a good part of the day, you see blood in the stool when she does go or the stools are hard, small pebbles. It is very rare, but there are some conditions that may warrant medical attention.
Babies have only eating, sleeping and pooping to concentrate on, so their attention is fully on the “task at hand”. Their intense concentration can sometimes be misconstrued as discomfort, but wait it out. They will be back to their normal angelic looking self in no time. Their little systems are very efficient. They usually run easily on auto-pilot. Just relax and enjoy the moment.