It's a subject you've unwittingly become intimately aware of (or will – soon – if you're expecting). Here's a rundown (pardon the pun) of everything you never wanted to know about your baby's poop.
The Age: 0-5 days
The Stage: Newborn
The Poop: Meconium/transitional
The Scoop: It's sticky, it's tar-like and it's usually black or dark green. This is the poop that no new parents should have to clean by themselves. Just take one look and hand her off to a nurse to pry the stuff off her little bottom and soak her in the tub. Thankfully, by her third or fourth day of life, your baby will be passing transitional poop, which is usually greenish yellow or brown, and grainy.
Poop Problems: A surefire way to know when something's wrong with your baby is to know the usual contents of her diaper. If you see any blood in her poop, that could mean she has rectal fissures, or even a milk allergy. Jennifer Walker, RN, BSN, co-author of "The Moms on Call Guide to Basic Baby Care" (Revell, 2007), suggests calling your pediatrician if your baby's diaper contains less than one teaspoon of bright red blood for three or more stools, or more than one teaspoon of bright red blood at any time.
The Age: 0-4 months
The Stage: Infant
The Poop: Pre-solid foods
The Scoop: Call me crazy, but I love the smell of infant poop – especially when you compare it to 3-year-old poop, which is absolutely vile. If your baby is formula-fed, her poop will be either light brown, bright yellow or dark green, and slightly formed. Breastmilk stools are usually sweeter-smelling than formula stools, and a lot less formed. They can be seedy, curdy, creamy, or lumpy, and either yellow or green.
Poop Problems: "After the first week of life – if you're lucky – bowel movements slow down from every feeding to maybe once or twice a day," says Walker. " If your baby's BMs slow down too much, though, she might become constipated, signified by hard, pebble-like stools. However, the pediatric nurse points out, "There is a difference between constipation and infrequent stooling. Infrequent stoolers are gassy and have a large, soft bowel movement every three to seven days." If your baby's poop is soft and she's not overly fussy, her digestive system is doing its job.
The Age: 4-12 months
The Stage: Baby
The Poop: Introduction of solid foods
The Scoop: Now that your baby has started solids, you'll start to see the contents of her diaper bear an uncanny resemblance to the contents of her lunch. When you feed her carrots, her poop will be orange; when you feed her peas, her poop will be green. Her system is still so pure at this point that what goes in is literally what comes out. By the end of the first year, when she's eating a variety of foods, her poop will become less technicolor and more brown – a melting pot of all the yummy foods you're feeding her.
Poop Problems: If you notice that your baby is pooping more frequently, or that it's watery or greener than usual, she might have diarrhea. Mucousy stools can be a sign of a cold or stomach bug. Pay special attention to her poop whenever you introduce a new food, since blood in the stool can be a sign of a food sensitivity. Walker recommends seeking medical attention if your baby has black, tarry stools; stools that look like coffee grounds; or clay-colored stools for more than two weeks.
The Age: 12-36 months
The Stage: Toddler
The Poop: Adult-like
The Scoop: Here's where the poop gets truly gross, because it now resembles your own. This presents tremendous motivation to potty-train your child as soon as humanly possible. It just seems wrong to be changing diapers of fully formed, brown, adult-like poop. That stuff goes in the potty.
Poop Problems: Some toddlers become resistant at the first mention of potty training, and will refuse to poop. They may not be ready to poop in the potty, but if they're having trouble passing their poop in their diaper or training pants, that's when you need to get some help. "Avoid any food your child cannot chew easily, and avoid cooked carrots and bananas," advises Walker. Try adding more water, fruits, veggies and fiber to their diet to ease the process.
Getting rid of poop
Your baby eliminated, and now it's your turn. How can you get rid of the poop?
Diaper disposal systems
These are air-tight systems that lock away odor, so you never have to smell the stink or clean the pail, because the diapers never touch the pail. The drawback: you have to buy diaper refills from the manufacturer--no ordinary garbage bag will do.
Plain-old diaper pails
These are exactly what they sound like--dedicated garbage cans for diapers. They usually have such amenities as hands-free or one-hand operation and odor-reducing design. Just be prepared for a big stink when you open up the pail on garbage day.
Disposable diaper sacks
These little scented bags are a godsend when you're on the go, or if you don't feel like investing in a diaper disposal system or dedicated diaper pail. Just put the diaper in the bag and toss it.
When your baby starts passing adult-like poop, you might consider just emptying the contents of her diaper into the potty. After all, her poop is solid, and she's not doing it so often anymore that she needs a dedicated diaper pail. It's a potentially messy but odor-free solution.
The diaper rash breakout
Most babies can't escape this inevitable fact of diaper-wearing life – diaper rash. They're sitting in their own waste, which is, after all, toxic. Here's how to prevent and treat the rash.
An ounce of prevention
- Change diapers frequently.
- Sprinkle your baby's bottom with cornstarch (not talcum powder).
- Consider letting your baby play au naturel on a waterproof pad.
An ounce of treatment
- Skip the wipes and use warm water and cotton balls or even baby oil.
- Spread a thick layer of diaper rash cream (zinc oxide) on the affected area.
- Seek medical attention if the rash persists or worsens.