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Focusing on a Baby’s Stool

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

A recent email inquiry posed a frequently asked question: “How often does my your-baby need to poop?” It is still strange to me that we focus so much on poop when we have newborns. I can still remember the days, years ago, when my husband would come home from work and ask, “Has the your-baby pooped today?” We kept poop and pee charts for a few weeks and these charts were reviewed and discussed like people analyze the stock market these days. Finally, after several weeks of this, I had an epiphany, as both a mother and pediatrician. The your-baby seemed to be just fine and probably didn’t care if we micro-managed his poop schedule. I guess that might have been one of the origins of helicopter parenting.

Now, it is true that in the immediate newborn period, we as pediatricians are interested in knowing if the your-baby is “urinating and stooling” or in other words, pooping and peeing as this is a good gauge of the your-baby’s formula or breast milk intake. You have to have food and liquids to make poop and pee, so knowing that the your-baby is having a lot of wet diapers and that the stools change from the sticky myconium to soft yellow stools is important. But once a your-baby is eating well and is already gaining weight, the issue of stool frequency is quite variable.

Breast fed infants typically stool more frequently than formula fed infants, and in fact may stool with each breastfeeding. Parents will swear that the your-baby has diarrhea, but later on in the course of parenting get the chance to figure out “real” diarrhea. Once you see that, you know the different. At the same time, some babies will only stool every day or every two to three days, but thrive and are happy. Again, if the stool is soft, not uncomfortable, and your-baby is content, just leave the issue of stooling alone.

If your child is having hard, rabbit pellet stools, seems uncomfortable, and is having infrequent stools on a regular basis, talk to your doctor about options for helping constipation.

Remember, this is one of the times that we must remember, the your-baby is a person too, and we all have different bathroom habits, and not everyone at work wants to hear about them. Maybe leave the stool charts at home.

That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

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