You may never have thought the contents of your baby’s nappy would be a hot topic of discussion, but keeping an eye on your baby’s bum is a great way to assess his health.
You can tell a lot about your baby’s health just by looking at his poo, and it’s normal for it to vary in colour and consistency as his digestive system develops and his diet changes. This guide will tell you what to expect and when…
Your colostrum (first milk) acts as a laxative and helps to push the meconium out of your baby’s system. Your little one should pass meconium within 24 hours of being born, and may continue to do so until your milk comes in usually around three days after the birth. If he doesn’t pass meconium on the first day, tell your midwife, as it could indicate an obstruction in his bowel.
Newborns can have explosive and strange-looking poos in a range of colours, from green to orange, yellow or brown. Breastfed babies usually have soft and runny, orangey-yellow stools but the colour may reflect what you’ve eaten: if you had cabbage for dinner, your baby’s poo may be green. Bottle fed babies tend to have firmer, pale brown stools.
Your baby’s stools are normally soft and runny, so it’s not always easy to tell if his system’s settling down or whether he has diarrhoea. If he has several watery bowel movements and you’re worried, see your GP, midwife or health visitor straightaway.
There’s no set number of poos your baby should do per a day. Some babies fill their nappy 10 times a day. Many breastfed babies poo after every feed due to the gastro-colic reflex; as soon as the milk hits your baby’s stomach, he’ll poo. But other breastfed babies go for three days without passing a stool. This is because breast milk is so well suited to your baby there isn’t always waste for him to get rid of. Bottle fed babies tend to be more regular – generally once a day.
You’ll find nappy changing is one of the most frequent tasks when caring for your baby. Change his nappy when he wakes in the morning, at bedtime, after a feed and after each bowel movement. You could be changing his nappy up to 12 times a day.
Make sure that everything you need is within easy reach. The last thing you want to discover halfway through changing your baby is that you’ve left the clean nappies downstairs and the cotton wool or baby wipes in the bathroom. There is no need to wash your baby’s bottom with soap in every change: just gently wipe the faeces with a nappy corner then clean your baby’s bottom with water or a baby wipe. Boys often urinate when changed, so cover the penis with a clean nappy as you take the old one off.
If your baby is very wriggly and restless during nappy changing, have a toy handy to act as a distraction. With an older baby, involve him in the process by letting him hold something, or give him a book to look at. Talk to your baby all the time – nappy changing is a great opportunity to interact with your baby.
Because passing urine is automatic, your baby’s bottom will often be in contact with a damp nappy. Urine, if left for any length of time in a nappy or on the skin, is broken down to ammonia by bacteria from the baby’s stools. Ammonia is an irritant: it burns the skin and results in nappy rash.
When you offer your baby solids, his poo will change. Don’t be alarmed if you feed him pureed carrots and it comes out the other end looking the same bright orange. This is normal and will happen less as your child’s system matures. Until now, you baby’s digestive system has been used to one type of food. It will now react to new foods more solid, darker, smellier stools.
By EMMA DEANE
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