4 ways to check your breastfed baby’s poo

From the Australian Breastfeeding Association’s Simone Casey, we learn a few home truths about breastfed babies and poo!

I’ve always loved a bit of toilet humour, so talking about my baby’s poo almost gives me a perverse pleasure – suddenly I have permission to discuss stinky excretions in detail – no jokes required. It’s amazing how aware you are of your little one’s nappy contents, the frequency, colour and texture, but of course you are, you’re the one wiping it up! There is such a wildly variable degree of what’s normal in a breastfed baby, and although some mums freak out at poo changes, most of the time, there isn’t anything to worry about.

1.Colour

Your baby’s first poo will be black and sticky; you just about need a Barbie Mate to scrape it off. Once your milk’s in, the yellow, runny, seeded mustard is the look – but it can be more brown or even green and still be normal. American breastfeeding expert Dr Jack Newman once said  he wished he could give all the new parents sunglasses so they couldn’t tell the colour of their baby’s poo, it would cause a lot less angst. Occasionally if a mother has cracks in her nipples, there can be some blood in the poo, but there is no harm done to the baby (but the mum will need to seek help with positioning and attachment so they can heal). A very explosive, frothy green poo coupled with an unsettled baby sometimes is misdiagnosed as lactose intolerance, so if this is happening, seek out a lactation consultant or ABA counsellor to chat about symptoms, it is almost always a common case of oversupply, which can be managed with block feeding (sticking to one side every 3-4 hours) and lots of upright time after feeds.

2.Frequency

At first, most babies poo almost every nappy change, just little squirts here and there, and the odd poonami that goes all up their back. As their little systems mature, usually around the 6-week mark, this changes to more of your once-a-day scenario. Again, this varies a lot. One mum of a 14-week-old exclusively breastfed baby described her daughter, who pooed 3-6 times a day, as an ‘industrial strength poo machine’. Others can go up to 10 days between poos and this is OK too. I am yet to hear about an exclusively breastfed newborn with constipation, it just doesn’t really happen. If you think your baby is uncomfortable waiting for the poo to happen, bicycling the legs and a relaxing bath may get things moving.

3.Smell

A breastfed baby’s poo really isn’t that offensive to the nose. The ABA literature compares it to that of ‘newly mown hay’, while one mother I know reckons it smells like porridge. Sometimes even if you sniff your baby’s bum up close, you still can’t figure out if there’s an odour. Some babies’ poos are a bit stronger smelling, perhaps related to the mother’s food intake. Once they are on solids, of course, it’s a different story. I still remember the first time my daughter ate chicken, boy, that nappy was a stinker!

4.Mess

If you are using cloth nappies, there are cool squirty things you attach to your toilet to get rid of the excess, although with newborns, I always found they soaked in and there weren’t many chunky bits to get off until they’re on solid food. There are also some great covers with elastic on the legs to contain poo explosions and avoid the up-the-back scenarios that some nappies just can’t hold. I do have to tell one poo story though. When my daughter was about 18 months old, one side of her nappy came undone when we were in a toy shop and a big solid poo dropped out with a ‘splat!’ on the floor! I actually had forgotten to bring my nappy bag and ended up wiping her with the lone piece of paper towel left in the public toilet and fleeing home with a nappy-free babe in her car seat.

Further information:

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Simone Casey regularly blogs for the OBC’s parent website, the Australian Breastfeeding Association

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