What To Watch Out For In Your Baby’s Stool?

When it comes to your baby’s stool, what’s normal will depend on several factors. Do you know it depends on her age, whether she is breastfed or bottle-fed or if she has started solids?

By Monali Bordoloi

What To Watch Out For In Your Baby’s Stool?

Kritika Tiwari, a first-time mom panicked one night when she saw green stool in her seven-days-old son’s diaper. She immediately woke up her husband thinking something bad had happened to their son. Thankfully, before calling the doctor, her husband did a quick search on the net and reassured her that its normal for a breastfed baby of that age to pass green stool.

Often, new parents are confused about what to make out of the contents of their baby’s nappies. To help decode this complex world of baby stool for parents, ParentCircle talked to Dr Asmita Mahajan, who is a consultant neonatologist and paediatrician at SL Raheja Fortis Hospital, Mumbai.

How to know if your baby's stool is normal or not?

The first stool newborn passes is dark green or black in colour. The sticky tar-like stool is called Meconium. Ideally, a newborn should pass it within first 24 hours after birth. This odourless stool is sterile in nature. It consists of amniotic fluid, intestinal gland secretions, bile pigments, fatty acids, exfoliated cells, etc.

However, beware of tarry black stool later in life, it may signify upper GI bleeding.

Once the baby sets in a routine of breastfeeding by day five to seven, the baby starts passing green coloured transitional stools, which may contain granular materials or particles; which is normal.

Then at one week of age, the stools of an exclusively breastfed baby become typically golden yellow in colour. It is semi-solid to even liquid inconsistency; which is normal. It is not considered as loose motions.

A newborn may pass stools once a day or thrice a day or even after every feed, even then, it’s not a matter of concern. Some babies who are exclusively breastfeeding pass stools once every three to four days or even once a week! This is normal too and no need for medical intervention, provided the babies are comfortable, feeding well and not vomiting.

Look for a change in consistency and colour and on the frequency of stools by babies to detect any abnormal patterns.

The danger signals to be read from baby’s nappies

The next time you open your baby’s diaper, make a note of the colour of the contents as the colour of your baby’s stool says a lot about her health.

Lime green stools: If your baby’s stool colour is lime green, usually it means there is some digestive distress. One reason for green stool is a foremilk/hindmilk imbalance. That means, the baby is not getting enough of the rich creamy milk at the end of a feed and, consequently, getting too much of the liquid foremilk that is higher in lactose and lower in fat. This usually happens if you have too fast a letdown or oversupply. In most cases, it will eventually normalise. Making sure the baby finishes one side of the breast before offering the other often fixes this problem.

However, sometimes, green stools can also appear as you introduce solids in your baby’s diet.

Bright green stools or blood in stool: These are usually signs of some infection. At times, it could be a sign of a severe type of lactose intolerance. 

Passing of mucus in stools in an older child may signify Amoebiasis or other infection.

Blood in stools, especially of a newborn, can be a danger sign and should be assessed by a paediatrician immediately.

Dark green stools: It is normal for a baby who is taking an iron supplement. In older children who are on solids, iron-rich food will also result in dark green stools.

Brown, yellow and orange coloured stools: It could look scary, but this is perfectly normal. As the baby starts taking more solid foods with different colours, it will start showing in his diapers too.

Undigested food in stool: Don’t be alarmed when you see whole or parts of food in your child’s stool. As their digestive system are developing, undigested food comes out in the stool.

Chalky white or grey stool: Baby’s stools that are chalky white or grey in colour could be a sign that baby is not being able to digest properly and that his liver is not producing enough bile or there are any obstructions in the biliary tract. See your paediatrician right away if you notice it.

If baby’s stool is otherwise normal but contains flecks of red, it’s most likely caused by a dairy allergy; it is better to eliminate dairy products and see if it improves. If it does not improve within a week, consult a doctor.

If baby’s poop is hard and dry, which are signs of constipation, and contains red streaks, it’s likely caused by small tears in the skin created by straining to pass stool.

Children often complain of constipation. Flip through the ClipBook below on constipation among children and learn new ways of dealing with it.  

How to recognise the signs of diarrhea from baby’s stool?

Generally, older infants, toddlers, and children have one to two bowel movements per day. Diarrhea is defined as an increase in stool frequency to twice the usual number per day in infants, or three or more loose or watery stools per day in older children.

When should you seek doctor’s help?

In diarrhea, you will notice an excessive change in pattern or frequency of stools in your child. The child will be exhausted. The stools may be semi-solid or full of mucus or even watery; it could come out like a spray, it may or may not be foul smelling.

Ideally, diarrhea should go away on its own within 24 hours in babies, if it does not, it is time to consult a doctor.

At times, older children may suffer from chronic diarrhea, (that is diarrhea which is persistent for a long duration of time). In that case, malabsorption of nutrients problem should be ruled out first. Your paediatrician or a paediatric gastroenterologist can treat the child for the same.

If the baby has high fever accompanying diarrhea, it is best to seek a doctor’s help. As diarrhea leads to dehydration, your child may need intravenous or oral hydration.

It is best to seek a doctor’s help if your child has diarrhea along with the following symptoms:

  • Blood in the stools or dysentery
  • Severe abdominal or rectal pain
  • Sunken soft spot on the top of the baby's head
  • Skin that isn't as elastic as usual (doesn't spring back when you gently pinch and release it.)

In very small children or infants, diarrhea can be a sign of or co-existent with Urinary Tract Infection. Therefore, a stool routine and urine routine examination should always be done together in those kids.

What are the symptoms of diarrhea in babies?

If your child is having diarrhea, apart from loose motions, he may appear exhausted, weak, drowsy or very irritable. He may pass lesser urine than normal and has a tired look with dry eyes and mouth. 

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