Down to the 'dirty' business: infants' bowel movements
A frequently expressed concern by new parents is whether their baby's bowel movements are normal: are there too many? Too little? Is this the normal color? What about the consistency? Are there differences between the stools of formula-fed and breast-fed infants?
In the first 48 hours of life, babies are expected to pass meconium, which is a sticky green-black substance that has built up in the baby's digestive system during gestation. Babies usually start passing meconium some time in the twelve hours after birth; this is a sign that the bowel system is healthy and functioning properly. If an infant doesn't pass meconium within the first 24 hours, it could be a sign of intestinal obstruction.
Breastfed babies pass loose, grainy textured stools that look like mustard (I hope you'll still enjoy mustard after having read this!). Breastfed infants' stools tend to have a sweet smell which is not unpleasant. Breastfed babies typically pass a bowel movement after each meal.
In formula-fed babies, the color of the stools is usually brown-green, and the texture is loose and grainy with the consistency of peanut butter, so it's relatively more solid in texture compared to the stools of breastfed infants. The smell is strong. Formula-fed babies usually pass one bowel movement per day.
When your baby starts eating solid foods, his stools will become more solid and variable in color. This is pretty much normal. The odor of the stools will be much stronger because of the added sugars and fats. Green vegetables, such as peas and spinach, may turn the stool a deep-green color; beets may make it red (beets sometimes make urine red as well). If you give your baby meals that are not well mashed or strained, expect that his stools may contain undigested pieces of food, especially hulls of peas or corn, and the skin of tomatoes or other vegetables. All of this is normal.
You also need to remember that your baby's digestive system is still not fully mature, so it will be some time before it can fully process these new foods. If the stools are extremely loose, watery, or full of mucus, however, it may mean the digestive tract is irritated. In this case, reducing the amount of solids and slowing down the solid food introduction is advised. If the stools continue to be loose, watery, or full of mucus, this may signal the presence of food allergy; consulting your child's pediatrician in such case is needed.
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