When planning for the safe arrival of your baby, and what to pack in your hospital bag, the last thing you’ll be thinking about is your newborn’s first poo, and how it’ll serve as an indicator of your child’s wellbeing in the months to come. Which is why some moms and dads get a bit of a shock when they change that first nappy, only to discover something that looks nothing at all like poo as they know it.
What to expect?
“Your newborn’s first poo should ideally be passed within the first 24 hours after you give birth and will be blackish or dark green in colour,” explains Cindy Homewood, clinic sister and co-owner of the Bowwood Baby Clinic in Cape Town.
This is what’s known as meconium and is “just the shedding of a lining that’s in the baby’s gut through pregnancy.” It’s expelled from the body before your baby has started to digest breastmilk and will have completely passed after a few days.
How to clean it
Baby wipes aren’t necessary yet during these early days – they could be harsh on brand-new skin – and it’s best to use a few warm, moist cotton wool rounds to get your baby’s bum squeaky clean at this stage. While it doesn’t smell bad, meconium is very thick and sticky and will be tricky to remove.
Cindy advises moms to apply a layer of Vaseline or coconut oil onto their baby’s bottom after each nappy change. This will make it a little bit easier to wipe off each time.
How will it change in the weeks to come?
“As the meconium is passed through the gut and as breastfeeding becomes established, the poo will become less sticky and thick and become more loose,” says Cindy. “It will turn brownish, greenish or yellowish in colour. The texture becomes soft and scrambled egglike and sometimes appears to have little seeds in it,” she says. And you know what? You won’t find it gross at all!
Also read: Newborn health niggles
5 frequently asked questions
1. How many poos should a breastfed baby make a day?
In the first week your baby’s number of poos will increase and he could pass between two to 10 stools per day.
Between two and six weeks, babies often settle down and pass two to five poos per day. “Once breastfeeding is established (from six weeks) a baby can pass anything from one poo per day to one poo every two weeks,” says clinic sister Cindy Homewood, who urges moms not to panic if their breastfed babies are pooping this infrequently as it doesn’t mean they’re constipated.
“As breastfeeding is established and the gut matures, the bulk of your milk is absorbed and there is very little waste product stored up,” she explains. When it does finally emerge, don’t be alarmed if you’re greeted with a mini explosion and need to change your baby from top to toe. No matter how advanced nappies are these days, newborn poo has a way of creeping up little backs.
More about: Cramps and winds
2. Should I worry about green coloured poo?
Green stools can mean many things, including a little bit of overfeeding (the gut has to process larger volumes of milk, which is not harmful) and many babies pass green stools every so often.
So long as they alternate between green and yellow that’s normal, reassures Cindy, but green, infrequent stools could also mean that your baby is being underfed. “If he has green stools as well as other symptoms such as a fever or severe pain, this could mean that there’s a (rare) bacterial infection in the bowel,” says Cindy.
She adds that sometimes, a stool can also be affected by something in your diet or a medication that you or your baby are taking.
3. How do I know if my baby is constipated?
Constipation is quite difficult to diagnose as often parents think that a day or so of no poo means that their baby is constipated. “True constipation usually presents with a hard, dry stool that the child battles to pass comfortably.
Some children experience this on a daily basis but it’s usually a build-up over a week to 10 days. Most babies will push hard, go very red in the face and grunt loudly but then pass a perfectly soft and normal stool. This is not considered constipation,” says Cindy.
4. What if you find blood in the stool?
Discovering blood in your baby’s poo is really very frightening, but blood in the stool is not always a problem, says Cindy. “It could be from slight anal tearing from a hard stool or there could also be small amounts of blood in the stool if you have cracked and bleeding nipples. This will not affect your baby in any way and you can continue to feed if possible.
Must read: What's wrong with my 6-week-old
”If, however, your baby is passing a teaspoonful of blood in his stool on a regular basis you should see a paediatrician immediately, especially if it’s associated with a temperature or refusal to feed,” she cautions. It would also be important to note if the blood was fresh or old (dark brown).
5. Do vaccines affect poo?
“The Rotavirus vaccine can cause stools to be more frequent, green, slimy and sometimes even frothy,” warns Cindy. “This can last for 24 to 48 hours and your baby’s caregivers need to wash their hands very carefully after poo nappy changes for at least a week after the vaccine.”