There are many things you can’t predict with a newborn – like when he’ll cry, or how well he’ll sleep. But one thing’s for certain, a full nappy will happen, and it will happen a lot. As your baby starts taking in milk his bowel will wake up and that means one thing, poo.
Dr Miriam Stoppard OBE explains, “for 72 hours after the birth, perhaps even longer, your baby’s body is just trying to get rid of a substance called meconium from his gut. That’s essentially what he’s swallowed in the womb. Your baby has been sipping at the liquor (fluid surrounding him in the womb) for months, so that’s in his bowel when he’s born”.
The first few nappies
Meconium is a darkish green colour, and quite sticky. You might need a good few wipes to get rid of it but rest assured if it’s there, it means his bowel is working well. Expect your baby’s nappies to be filled with that for a good couple of days. Then, as the milk you’re feeding him gets into his system, things change a little.
“Whatever a person eats pushes the content of the bowel down and out,” says Miriam. And it’s the same for your baby. As milk goes in, things move along.“Your baby’s bowel is stimulated to move food along every time he sucks,” she adds.
“The quantities you feed your baby are quite large compared to what he’s ingested in the womb. So as he takes them in, his bowel starts to move more and he has bigger bowel movements.
Your first milk, or colostrum, is working like a laxative for him. So after a few days you start getting a different kind of poo. These first ones are creamy yellow.”
Breastfed vs formula-fed
Poos can be different depending on how you’re feeding your baby. “Because there is more residue, you will usually find that a baby who’s being formula-fed will do bulkier stools,” says Miriam. “Formula-fed babies might also fill a nappy every time they’re fed, although that’s not always the case with breastfed babies.
Formula-fed babies might fill one every two to three hours, while with breastfed ones, it could be just once or twice a day. Bottlefed poos will usually be a stronger yellow colour and smellier, too,” says Miriam. “Generally the poo should be runny and soft, a bit like firm pancake mixture, and it should take a good few wipes to get it all off his bottom.
The poo won’t be more formed until your baby is toddling, as that’s when the activity will get the bowel moving and form more solid poos.”
Weaning and wind
Of course your baby’s poo will change when you introduce foods other than milk. If your baby is passing wind more than when you were just breast or bottlefeeding that’s good news, as it means you’re giving him a good selection of healthy veg, says Miriam.
“The poo will get darker – darkness is due to the maturing of the liver, but it will never be as dark as adult poo before at least 4 or 5 years old.” The poo will be more formed and solid once you’ve started weaning. If there are only little bits, rather than one mass of poo, then that’s a sign that you need to give your baby more fluid. Water is fine, rather than juice.
Get Help if poo is…
Baby poo shouldn’t be watery. “Formula and breast milk can’t irritate the bowel, so water would indicate a problem,” says Miriam. “Alarm bells should ring as it can indicate dehydration. The way to spot if your baby is dehydrated is that the fontanelle (the soft spot on the top of the baby’s head) will be sunken. If you’re worried, go to your GP and take a specimen with you from the last nappy.”
Babies can get constipated when you switch from breast to bottlefeeding, so take it gradually. Speak to your health visitor if you think your baby might be having problems.
“After my partner changed Annie-May’s first dirty nappy he smothered everything around them in poo as he ran out of wipes halfway! Now I make sure everything he needs is to hand if he’s on nappy duty.”
Zoe Shropshire, 31, from Telford, mum to Jodie, 13, Jake, 11, Keri, 8, and Annie-May, 3 months