It might not be fun, but checking the contents of your baby’s nappy is one of the best ways to check on the health of your baby.Babies have very delicate skin and need changing soon as possible to prevent nappy rash.
Your baby’s first poo (or stool) will be made up of something called ‘meconium’. This is sticky and greenish black.
After a few days the poo will change to a yellow or mustard colour. Breastfed babies’ poo is runny and doesn’t smell. Formula fed babies’ poo is firmer, darker brown and more smelly.
Some infant formulas can also make your baby’s poo dark green. If you change from breast to formula feeding, you’ll find that your baby’s poos become darker and more paste-like.
How often should my baby do a poo?
Some babies fill their nappies at or around every feed. Some, especially breastfed babies, can go for several days or even up to a week without a bowel movement.
Both are normal. It’s also normal for babies to strain or even cry when passing a poo. Your baby isn’t constipated as long as their poos are soft, even if they haven’t passed one for a few days.
Is it normal for my baby’s poos to change?
From day to day, week to week, your baby’s poos will probably vary. If you notice a marked change of any kind, such as the poos becoming very smelly, very watery or harder, particularly if there’s blood in them, you should talk to your doctor or child health nurse.
Pale (white or near white) poos may be a sign of jaundice. If you’re worried, speak to your midwife or child health nurse.
Most babies have occasional loose stools (poo). Breastfed babies have looser poos than formula-fed babies. Diarrhoea is when your baby frequently passes unformed watery poos.
Diarrhoea can be caused by an infection and may be accompanied by vomiting. This is called gastroenteritis (a stomach bug). It’s usually caused by a virus, such as rotavirus.
If your baby comes into contact with other family members or people (for example, at childcare) who have a stomach bug, ask them to wash their hands using liquid soap in warm running water, and dry their hands, frequently. Keep toilets clean and wash towels frequently. With formula-fed babies, make sure that bottles are sterilised carefully.
Diarrhoea and vomiting are more serious in babies than older children because babies can easily lose too much fluid from their bodies and become dehydrated. They may become lethargic or irritable, have a dry mouth, and have a pale or washed out colour. If your baby becomes dehydrated they may not pass much urine. They may go off their feeds. It may be difficult to tell how much urine they’re passing when they have diarrhoea.
If your baby becomes dehydrated they will need extra fluids. You can buy oral rehydration fluids from your local pharmacy or chemist, or get an advise from your doctor.
When to contact your doctor:
Contact your doctor or child health nurse urgently for advice if your baby has passed six or more diarrhoeal poos in the past 24 hours, or if your baby has vomited three times or more in the past 24 hours. Get expert advice. If your baby is unwell (is less responsive, not feeding well, feverish or is not passing much urine), or if vomiting has lasted more than a day, get your doctor’s advice straightaway or call healthdirect on 1800 022 222 to speak to a registered nurse.
- Give extra fluids. Give your baby oral rehydration fluids in between feeds or after each watery stool, after discussion with your doctor or local pharmacist.
- Do not stop giving your baby milk. Give the extra fluid as an addition to milk.
- Make sure everyone in your family washes their hands regularly with soap and warm water to avoid spreading the infection.
- Don’t share towels.
- Don’t give your baby medicines to reduce the vomiting and diarrhoea. They do not work and may be harmful.
- Don’t take your baby swimming in a swimming pool for two weeks after the last episode of diarrhoea.
- Keep your child away from other children as much as possible until the diarrhoea has stopped.
Toddlers and older children
Some children between the ages of one and five pass frequent, smelly, loose stools that may contain recognisable foods, such as carrots and peas. Usually, these children are otherwise perfectly healthy and are growing normally, but the doctor can’t find any cause. This type of diarrhoea is known as ‘toddler diarrhoea’.
Contact your doctor if:
- your child has diarrhoea and is vomiting at the same time
- your child has diarrhoea that’s particularly watery, has blood in it or lasts for longer than two or three days
- your child has severe or continuous stomach ache.
Otherwise, diarrhoea isn’t usually a cause for concern. Give your child plenty of clear drinks to replace the fluid that’s been lost, but only give them food if they want it.
Don’t give them fruit juice or squash, as these drinks can cause diarrhoea.
Anti-diarrhoeal drugs can be dangerous, so don’t give these. Oral rehydration treatment can help.
You can help to prevent any infection spreading by using separate towels for your child and reminding everyone in the family to wash their hands after using the toilet and before eating.
Don’t return your child to their school or childcare facility until at least 48 hours after the last episode of diarrhoea or vomiting.
Don’t allow children to swim in swimming pools for two weeks after the last episode of diarrhoea.