I would never have read an article about baby poop before my baby was born. Most people don’t want to know ANYTHING about baby poop…….UNTIL they have a baby of their own. Then, watch out, because it might become a very weird obsession.
If you are getting a chance to learn about baby poop before your baby comes, then good for you! It doesn’t look like most people expect it to, and it goes through a lot of very strange changes over the first few days, weeks, and months of life. That can be really surprising–and even worrying–for a lot of new parents.
A baby’s first poop is actually called Meconium. It’s very different from the poop we know, because it’s not made of digested food. Meconium is made up of all the things that get into the baby’s digestive system while they are in the womb, but that doesn’t actually include food. They are not eating and drinking like we do.
Babies get everything they need from your blood. Your blood transfers across the placenta and into the umbilical cord. The umbilical cord is many blood vessels that carry oxygen and nutrient rich blood TO your baby, and some that carry waste products and carbon dioxide BACK to the placenta so your body can dispose of it. So, there is no actual poop in the baby’s digestive system. The baby is only swallowing amniotic fluid, so Meconium is a substance made of the things in amniotic fluid that are not absorbed as liquid such as little hairs and skin cells that the baby sheds while floating around in there.
Meconium is what you see when your baby has the first bowel movement. It has no smell, and it looks a little like tar. It’s dark, usually blackish-green in color, and very sticky!
Your baby should pass all the Meconium after a couple of days and things will start to look a lot different.
It’s nice that diaper changes are not a smelly problem yet, but a Meconium smeared bottom can be a big challenge. It’s very sticky, so basic wipes don’t usually do the job. Try using warm water or add a little gentle soap to the water, and use a washcloth to wipe the sticky bottom. Another useful trick is to prepare your baby’s bottom with a layer of diaper cream or even just coconut or olive oil. This will provide a barrier so the poop won’t stick the next time your baby has a bowel movement.
For the first couple of days that you are feeding your baby, the breast milk is called colostrum. There isn’t very much of it, but it’s extra thick and rich in exactly what the baby needs to get a good start with digestion. Don’t expect to see one big poo everyday. At first, breast milk poop will probably look green or greenish yellow. That’s the transitional poop. There is still a little meconium passing through, and it’s mixing with the yellow breast milk poop to make it look greenish. That’s totally normal! It might still be a little bit sticky too.
There are usually many dirty diapers per day at this point, but because they are eating small amounts, it might just be small smears on the diaper. There might be a little smell at this point but probably not as bad as you might be expecting!
Breast Milk Poop
After approximately five days, the poop should look like it will be until your baby is a little older. Once your mature milk is in and you have a good supply, there may be more poop in the diapers. You may see a dirty diaper after every feeding or just 2-5 per day.
On average, babies poop about four times a day by Day 5 of life. Fewer dirty diapers at this point could mean your baby is having trouble getting enough milk, but if your baby is gaining weight well it could just be normal for them. The poop will be soft or even runny, yellow (it might be as bright as mustard!), and you might notice a funny texture. Some people describe it as seedy, pebbly, or like cottage cheese. There will be more of a smell, but most people aren’t too bothered by it. Some might even describe it as sweet-smelling!
Breast milk poop
After about six weeks of age, babies will usually start having fewer dirty diapers and sometimes might only poop once a week!
My daughter was one of these babies. Right at that six week mark, she suddenly stopped pooping every day and it ended up becoming a once a week event. I was very worried about that at first, but was reassured by my pediatrician that she was gaining weight well and was very healthy. This just happens sometimes with breastfed babies. Some babies are good at using everything they get very efficiently and with very little waste.
When this happened with my daughter and I finally understood that she was healthy, I got to enjoy this break from dirty diapers. I even used this as an opportunity to try out cloth diapers. I knew I wouldn’t need to wash dirty diapers, just wet ones, so I saved a lot on disposable diapers for those months and learned enough to feel confident to continue using cloth diapers even after that. I never switched to cloth diapers full time, but even just using them when we were at home helped to save a lot of money and waste.
If you’re interested in learning more about cloth diapering, this is a great introductory video leading to an instructional video series by Whitney at Enlightened Baby, a local Austin baby store.
Solid Foods Poop
Everything changes again once your baby starts eating solid foods. A lot of babies are ready to eat solids by six months, although it’s also OK to wait longer if your baby doesn’t seem interested. Consider taking our Starting Your Baby On Solids: Let Baby Lead the Way class if you’d like to learn about how, when, and what to feed your baby when they are ready for more than milk.
Once your baby is eating solid food, the poop will change again. It will likely get more solid and more brownish, and more stinky. Breast milk has many benefits, and better smelling poop is definitely one of them! At this point, your baby’s poop will resemble what most people know poop to be. Just like yours, it may change depending on what they ate that day, how hydrated they are, and whether they are generally healthy.
Things are different if a baby is formula-fed. Formula is a lot more stable than breast milk which means that the calorie, carbohydrate, fat, nutrient and water content will stay the same for every feeding.
There’s a lot more variation with breast milk. From very early on, formula-fed babies tend to have fewer bowel movements per day. They are usually bigger, more solid, and also yellow, although they might be more brownish-yellow and have less of the strange breast milk poop texture. Formula poop tends to have more odor. If your baby is formula-fed from the beginning, the poop likely won’t change all that much until they start eating solid food. The number of dirty diapers will stay pretty consistent.
I know it seems weird to be thinking about poop so much and looking at pictures of dirty diapers, but when you start changing those diapers, you’ll see! Fortunately, the obsession does go away (for most of us at least) once they start using a toilet and wiping themselves…..out of sight, out of mind.