Many people don’t like to talk about poo; it can be an embarrassing subject. It is important to realize though, your baby’s poo gives you a little peek into what is going on inside his body.
Let’s first start by discussing colour; there are many colours which are considered normal when we are talking about baby poo.
• Green-black. During the first few days after birth, your baby’s bowel movements are greenish-black and tarry. This type of baby poo is known as meconium. It is a mixture of a build up of skin cells, mucus, amniotic fluid and water.
• Green-brown. The meconium is now replaced with green-brown bowel movements, as your baby begins digesting breast milk or formula about three days after birth.
• Yellow. By about five days after birth, breastfed babies usually have seedy, loose bowel movements that are mustard yellow in colour.
• Light brown. Formula-fed babies usually have light brown, pasty bowel movements. The colour may sometimes take on a yellow, tan or green shade.
• Dark brown. Once your baby starts eating solid food, around six months, they will usually have dark brown bowel movements. You may also find chunks of undigested food in your baby’s bowel movements.
• Other colours. Babies eating solid food may occasionally have bowel movements in seemingly odd colors. Baby poo may look red after eating beets or may contain streaks of dark blue after eating blueberries.
Now let’s move on to frequency. A lot has been written about how often a baby should have a bowel movement…and I will say this, every baby is different, and just like sleep patterns or food likes/dislikes, no two babies will be the same. Now in saying that, our bodies are designed to work in a pattern of food goes in, food should come out scenario. With that in mind it would make sense that as one meal goes in a previous one should come out. In a perfect world maybe, but we know we don’t live in a perfect world, so what can you expect.
Breastfed babies should have between 6 to 10 bowel movements per day for the first couple of weeks, and then it should drop down to about 2 to 5 per day. You may also notice your breastfed baby skipping a day or two, as long as your baby is healthy and gaining weight, this is perfectly normal. Breast milk is very absorbable and your baby utilizes every bit of it leaving little to be removed from the body.
If you are formula feeding your baby, bowel movements can vary greatly in the beginning, but your baby should be producing a minimum of one bowel movement daily. Formula requires your baby’s digestion system to work a little harder, and since it is not as absorbable as breast milk, it will leave your baby with waste to be removed from the body.
And now the biggest concern of many parents…constipation. Constipation is not the absence of bowel movements; it is hard packed stools which require some straining to pass. Basically what happens is the poo sits in the intestines waiting to be passed. As it sits there water is reabsorbed back into the body; the longer it sits the more water is reabsorbed and the harder the poo gets, making it difficult and sometimes painful for your baby to pass. Although infants under 6 months can be constipated, most of the moms I work with are dealing with constipation which begins when their baby begins eating solid foods.
The first culprit tends to be rice cereal. With your baby’s inability to properly digested grains due to a lack of enzymes and the iron fortification of rice cereal which is known to cause constipation, I highly recommend avoidance of rice cereal as baby’s first food. As solid food introduction begins it is important to ensure purees are thin in consistency, especially the fibrous vegetables. Fibre is excellent for ensuring bowel health but too much fibre and not enough water is the perfect storm for constipation to occur. Remember your baby is new to digesting foods; his digestive system still has a lot to learn. I have heard of some parents lately beginning food introduction with meat. It is important to keep in mind meat has no fibre and can be difficult for your baby to digest. If you have chosen meat as a first food, serve it up with some fibre rich fruit and vegetables and ensure adequate hydration.
Some parents find they have no bowel issues when their baby starts solids, but constipation hits in the toddler years. There are many foods which can trigger constipation in a toddler including dairy, wheat and gluten. Gluten is a protein found in some grains including wheat, kamut, spelt, rye and barley. Constipation can also be triggered by an allergy or sensitivity to certain foods – again the common culprits are those listed above. So what can you do? Become a detective…remove these possible triggers from your toddler’s diet for one month and then add them back in one at a time looking for signs to show up. Keep in mind, just like solid food introduction; it can take up to 72 hours for a reaction to show up.
So your little one is constipated, here are a few things you can do to help ease the situation.
• Increase water intake
• Give flaxseed oil as a stool softener – start with 1tsp and slowly increase as needed to 2tbsp per day
• Probiotics – continue giving daily probiotics, if you have been giving, if not, start. Probiotics are “good” bugs for our digestive tract and help to normalize digestive function as well as stimulate peristalsis (the movement of the large intestine to move waste through the colon).
• Give dried fruits – apricots, prunes and raisins all have a laxative effect. Prune juice also works well.
• Castor oil – rub a twoonie size amount over abdomen and lower back before bed, this can help to clear the blockage
Keep in mind finding the root cause, why your little one is constipated, is important, as treating the symptom will not solve the constipation long term, only offer relief for short periods of time.
Has your little one been constipated? What, if anything, did you do to help your little one out?