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The Scoop On Poop

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

It seems that I get a lot of questions and concerns from parents about their child’s stools (poops). Who would have thought that once we become parents we would be so interested in poop!! But from the time a baby comes home from the hospital, so begins lengthy discussions about pooping.

In the newborn period stools are actually very important. A baby begins pooping shortly after birth and will have those dark, sticky meconium stools. It is important that these stools are passed and this gives both parent and pediatrician the sense that the GI tract is working properly.

Soon after a baby begins eating, either breast milk or formula, the stools will quickly “transition” from meconium to lighter more normal appearing poop. Again, the baby’s stools reassure everyone that the baby is getting enough to eat and digesting the milk.

For a breast feeding mother, seeing the stools should also be a gauge of breast milk production, as a baby can’t make poop without milk. It is normal for a breast fed baby to poop with almost every feeding. But be assured poop does change as the baby gets older.

Once your infant seems to be eating and stooling normally, and gaining weight, it is really not necessary to keep a chart of each wet diaper and stool, as you will soon grown tired of charting, and by then it probably really doesn’t matter.

Babies, just like adults, do have different stools. Some babies go more often than others, and there is not a rule as to number of stools your baby needs to have. It is not unusual for a baby to skip a day of pooping, and make it up several times the next day. If your baby is eating well, seems comfortable etc, not to worry about a day (or even two) without poop!

Once a baby is out of the newborn period stools may also change in color and consistency. We get many calls about poop color, from yellow, to green, to brown to khaki, poop does come in all colors. Just wait until your baby starts eating baby foods as once again poops will change dramatically depending on what your child is eating.

They also tend to stink a lot more than when an infant is only drinking milk. No wonder we parents go from worrying about how many times a baby poops, to discussions about how to get your child potty trained. The fascination with poop seems to diminish as your baby/child gets older and I laugh when our nurses ask parents of toddlers about stool history. As a mother, I could not have told you if my toddler pooped every day or not, I was more concerned that they had a bedtime routine and ate their vegetables (we all have our issues).

Rule of thumb for poop is that a stool should be any color except bloody or stark white. If your child has a bloody or chalk white stool, save the diaper to show the doctor.

Most stools that a baby/child has should be somewhat mushy, and not uncomfortable to pass. Again, every one will have an occasional harder, firmer stool. But you should not have a child who is always passing hard stools with difficulty.

Many times it is easy enough to manipulate stools by changing diet and giving more vegetables, prunes, etc. I guess the best advice is not to perseverate about poop, and just know that this too shall pass.

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

Send your question to Dr. Sue!

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