After bringing home a new baby from the hospital, the joy is almost overwhelming. Unfortunately, that joy is often tempered with anxiety. This is especially true for new parents. One of the main points of concern is feeding and waste elimination. Parents worry about their child getting enough nutrition and subsequently the bowel movement that follows. This article will offer some information regarding infants and bowel movements.
In the first few days of life, an infant’s bowel movements are quite frequent. The initial substance and color will be very dark and could have a greenish tinge. The fecal matter is quite sticky as well. I remember changing my oldest daughter in the hospital for the first time and being amazed at what was in her diaper. Although I had read all the books and was warned about what to expect, I was still surprised and a little concerned about this black substance that looked like tar. The nurse on duty quickly alleviated my concerns.
By the time you get your newborn home, the bowel movements should be changing into more of a normal consistency and appearance. The color should be lightening up and the stools should be firmer. If you are breastfeeding your infant son or daughter, expect to see a bowel movement after every feeding. If you are feeding your baby with a bottle, a bowel movement may not occur after every feeding, but four, five or even six times a day is perfectly normal.
I remember this fact very clearly, as my oldest friend had a son eight days before I had my first daughter. She was able to breastfeed her infant, while I was not. Those first weeks as new mothers found us on the phone quite a bit, comparing notes and seeking advice and comfort from each other. She used to be amazed that her son would have a movement each and every time she fed him, even if he was feeding every hour and a half. On the other hand, my daughter certainly had a full diaper every time she took a bottle, but only about half of those times would I find a bowel movement.
The first weeks with an infant go by very quickly. Before you know it, an entire month has passed. You are both in more of a routine with feeding and sleeping. Around this time, the frequency of bowel movements begins to decrease. Again, I remember this time well because my friend and I were comparing notes almost daily. Her breastfed son began to go several days at a time before having a bowel movement. Initially concerned, she came to find that this is perfectly normal. A baby who is being breastfed exclusively can go as long a week without a movement. I received a frantic call from her one morning after realizing it was coming up on seven days and he still had not pooped. One phone call to the pediatrician later, and her fears were put to rest. One healthy movement a few hours later, and she was a very happy mother.
My daughter, on the other hand, was still presenting me with a bowel movement once a day. Formula fed babies will move their bowels about once a day at this stage. My friend and I laughed about this role reversal. I was now on the receiving end of a diaper full of poop at least once a day, while she would often go days or a week before getting that treat.
While breastfed babies have very little trouble with constipation, formula fed infants can encounter this difficulty. If a baby who is being fed from a bottle goes several days without a bowel movement, a call to the doctor should be in order. He or she can advise you on ways to alleviate this condition, or even recommend a change in formula if necessary to soothe the baby’s intestinal distress.
Any serious concerns about your baby’s frequency or consistency of bowel movements should be directed to your child’s pediatrician. While most issues are nothing to worry about and can usually be remedied fairly quickly and easily, it never hurts to get the opinion of your child’s doctor.