Picking up your baby, you discover he has left you a “surprise” in his diaper. You go to change him, but when you open up that Pampers or Huggies covering, you find yourself faced with a bowel movement that looks different from previous ones. When you’re preparing for or rearing a newborn, especially if it’s your first child, there are a lot of concerns to think about, and you may have questions regarding those concerns that need to be answered. One of those concerns is probably whether your baby’s bowel movements are normal.
Many newborns will have their first bowel movement, which will typically be dark, sticky, and tar-like, soon after they’re born. A baby’s first bowel movement is called meconium and consists of materials ingested while the infant was in the mother’s uterus. If the newborn fails to pass meconium within the first few days of life, he should be taken immediately to a pediatrician to be checked for Hirschsprung’s disease. This disease “occurs when some of the nerve cells that are normally present in the wall of the intestine do not form properly during fetal development” (Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center) and this results in partial or complete bowel obstruction because normal stool movement cannot occur. However if the newborn passes meconium, the following bowel movements depend on the child’s diet.
How subsequent bowel movements look and smell depends upon the infant’s diet. If the newborn is breastfed, the stools will be almost liquid, though not watery like diarrhea, will resemble small curds, and will usually be less smelly than a bottle-fed baby’s bowel movements. Newborns that are bottle-fed will have firmer and larger stools than those of a breast-fed baby and the appearance of the stools will alter depending on the formula brand you choose to feed the infant. Breastfed babies will have bowel movements almost every time they nurse, while bottle-fed babies will pass fewer stools, about once or twice a day. For both breastfed and bottle-fed infants the color of the stool will range from yellow to brown and may even be green.
A newborn’s bowel movements, however, do not necessarily have to follow what is typical among most. A baby’s bowel movements can change from one day to the next and can be very different from one baby to another. Some babies may even go a couple of days before having a movement and be perfectly healthy. If the stools exhibit, though, blood or a red coloration, whiteness, mucus, or you’re just concerned about your infant’s bowel movements, seek a healthcare provider. Otherwise, as long as the newborn’s stools are soft, everything is probably okay.
Hirshsprung’s Disease, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center
Meconium – Overview, University of Maryland Medical Center
Parentpedia, Baby Bowel Movements, Disney Family Parenting