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Baby Bowel Movements

Baby bowel movements differ from those of an adult in a number of ways. Babies’ digestives systems are still developing and are not able to break down or digest the same kinds of foods as adults’ systems. This fact affects the appearance, texture, and odor of a baby’s bowel movement since it may contain undigested food matter such as meat and vegetable fibers.

What Should I Expect from My Baby’s First Bowel Movement?

When an infant is still in utero, he or she swallows small portions of amniotic fluid that is stored in the intestines, along with other cells. Within an infant’s initial bowel movement following birth, these substances will be visibly excreted as an amalgam of substances known as meconium.

After this initial bowel movement, the texture and color of baby bowel movements are significant as they can communicate the health of the baby. Differences can be seen and will vary depending on the form of nourishment the baby consumes.

Breastfeeding and Bowel Movements

Breastfeeding is highly recommended by health practitioners as it provides the richest source of minerals and nutrients as well as a natural method for strengthening a baby’s immune system without drugs. Antibodies from babies’ parents promote the growth and reproduction of beneficial bacteria within the digestive tract. Beyond improving physical health, breastfeeding also creates emotional security and bonding between parent and child that supports lifelong emotional and mental health.

When a baby is breastfed, bowel movements commonly appear runny, with a seedy consistency and a hue resembling the yellow of mustard. In many cases, breastfed baby bowel movements do not smell foul but actually give off a sweet smell.

Formula Feeding and Bowel Movements

For babies that are fed formula, their bowel movements will most commonly appear more solid, slightly tan in color, and will probably have a more pungent odor.

The frequency of baby bowel movements again depends on the type of nourishment a baby receives. Breastfed babies will typically have a bowel movement soon after most feedings while formula fed babies’ bowel movements will be spaced a little further apart—four to five per day. Formula fed infants will still have frequent bowel movements (as long as everything is working properly) but it will be less frequent than in breastfed infants.

It is common for newborns to have frequent bowel movements. Many new mothers mistake this for diarrhea and become alarmed. However, it is natural and healthy for parents to go through five to eight diaper changes due to baby bowel movements each day.

Unusual Baby Bowel Movements

When a baby reaches one month of age, bowel movements tend to abate somewhat. This lessening in frequency is normal and, in many cases, a day or two may go by without production of any baby bowel movements. This is natural as long as it doesn’t occur too frequently or the “absence” lasts more than a single day. Babies that are breastfed do not usually suffer from constipation. However, for formula fed babies that consistently do not produce a regular bowel movement, or especially if they appear to be in pain, constipation can be the cause.

Now and then, green bowel movements can appear. In most cases, these verdant BM’s are not worth a great deal of concern. There are a few different reasons why this discoloration could be occurring. Iron-fortified formulas can cause green baby bowel movements due to the high iron content used to supplement the formula. If the baby does not seem to be in pain or unusually constipated, this is not a serious cause.

Babies with jaundice may also produce dark or greenish colored stools. This situation normally clears up once the baby is well again. If you notice blood in your baby’s stool, this can be very alarming. Small streaks of blood in the stool are usually not something serious. However, if the baby bowel movements resemble dark red jelly or are streaked with mucous, you should consult a qualified healthcare practitioner right away. You should also call your doctor if your baby seems to be in pain or has persistent bleeding that does not go away.

In some cases, babies with a dairy sensitivity (lactose intolerance) produce unusually colored bowel movements. This may be a sign that something the mother ate is stressing the baby’s digestive system. Green stools, bloody stools, or skin rashes can all point to a food allergy.

Encouraging Healthy Bowel Movements in Your Baby

Eliminating common allergens from the diet of the mother may help prevent such discolorations in baby bowel movements. Sometimes, neither formula nor breastfeeding is an option. While breastfeeding is the healthiest choice for babies, the next best alternative is clean, raw goat’s milk as an organic substitute for human breastmilk. Goat’s milk closely mimics human milk regarding its immuno-stimulatory and nutritional properties, and babies can digest it easily.

While even normal, healthy baby bowel movements vary greatly in texture, smell, and color, it an important signpost for monitoring a baby’s overall health. In the majority of cases, varieties of color are normal and healthy and shouldn’t cause worry. Perhaps the most important thing is simply to become familiar with your baby’s “ins and outs” so to speak.

You should be able to notice any sudden or extreme shifts in patterns based on how you feed your baby and the resulting “effects” discovered during the next diaper change. Learn what is normal for your baby and then you’ll recognize when something is wrong, in other words. So you can look upon bowel movements as just another way to familiarize yourself with the health habits of your child

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