It can be important to note changes in your baby’s bowel movements. Your baby cannot tell you how he or she feels, so a nappy is often a good way to determine internal health.
A baby’s very first nappy after birth is often black. This is called 'Meconium'. Meconium is an amalgamation of waste and tissue collected whilst in the womb. It has a sticky tar-like consistency, which makes that first nappy one of the trickiest ones to change. Wet wipes can help, but it is advisable to use water-based baby wipes on newborns because their skin is so delicate. Cotton or wool moistened with cooled boiled water is often available in maternity wards and can aid in changing nappies.
All babies are different, however you should expect newborn bowel movements to occur several times each day and throughout the night for the first few months. Whilst on an exclusive milk diet, movements will usually be yellow in colour and putty-like in consistency.
If your baby does not produce a bowel movement for a few days, you should contact your health visitor or GP for medical advice. This is usually a simple problem which is easily solved, but caution is always the best approach with infants.
When a baby is between four and six months old, he or she should begin eating solid food. This will create changes in bowel movements. Initially, bowel movements may become slightly less frequent. This is because your baby will be eating approximately three times each day instead of drinking milk throughout the day and night. Stools may become firmer as dry food is introduced to the diet. The colour changes dramatically from a straw coloured yellow to a more definite brown shade with this introduction. The odour also changes!
A nappy that appears to be too dry or hard can be a sign that your baby is not drinking enough. This can serve as a prompt to provide more drinks for the baby throughout the day. By this stage, your baby may be drinking water in addition to milk. Fruits and vegetables prevent constipation, so your baby’s bowel movements will be easier for them if you include plenty in his or her diet. Certain fruits act as lubricants in the bowel, and the fibre from fruit and vegetables helps the digestive system work smoothly and effectively. These foods also fill up those little bellies for longer. Some vegetables can appear in stools and look almost the same as they did when they were eaten but this is no cause for concern.
A very loose bowel movement that is watery can be a symptom of an upset stomach. It is also a common side effect of teething. This is often nothing to worry about, but do contact your GP or health visitor for guidance and advice.
As your baby reaches 12 months, bowel movements become less frequent and your toddler may only produce a stool once each day. However, no two toddlers are the same, and yours will soon find a pattern.