Baby bowel movements

Advice on 'normal' bowel movements for breast fed and forumla fed babies, plus information on constipation and other irregularities.
What's normal?

One of the most common concerns for new parents is whether their baby's bowel movements are normal. While it is important to keep an eye on the consistency and frequency of your baby's stools, this is something that you should try not to become too obsessed about as bowel habits vary greatly between babies and (something you may notice with your baby) even on a day to day basis. Over time as your baby's digestive system begins to establish a routine, you will become attuned to whats normal for your baby.

The first few days

As your baby's digestive system begins to develop and function in the womb amniotic fluid is swallowed. This collects in baby's intestine as meconium ready to be expelled after birth. Meconium is passed as a dark green/black sticky substance in the first few days of baby's life.

After 2 or 3 days you will begin to notice your baby's stools lighten in colour as milk starts to be digested. The colostrum that breast fed babies first receive from their mothers actually helps to expel the meconium from their system quicker.

Over the next few days you will notice your baby's stools become more yellow in colour as the meconium is passed completely.

The first few weeks

After meconium has been passed from baby's system and a feeding routine has been established you will notice that your baby's stools become less sticky and vary in colour along the spectrum of yellow, brown and green. As long as there is no blood in baby's stools you shouldn't be too concerned about the colour as this can vary depending on the mother's diet or on what type of formula milk is being used.

In general, breast fed babies pass stools more frequently, often after every feed during the first few weeks. The stools of breast fed babies tend to be looser than those fed on formula and are often a mustard like colour, have a seedy quality and are less odorous. Babies fed exclusively on breast milk are unlikely to become constipated. However, if stools become very green and watery you should check with your doctor as this may either indicate a sensitivity to a particular food in the mother's diet or that too much foremilk is being consumed (this can happen if you switch breasts often during a feed).

Bottle fed babies pass slightly firmer stools that tend to be of a tan colour and peanut butter consistency. It is common for bottle fed babies to pass 4 - 5 stools a day.

After the first month

Your baby will now begin to have fewer bowel movements and it is common for breast fed babies to go a day without passing stools. The frequency of your babies bowel movements shouldn't be a particular cause for concern unless there is no movement for 4 - 5 days or if baby seems to be in pain. You should check consistency of the stools rather than frequency, as solid, pellet like poos may indicate constipation. Ideally your baby should be passing soft poos about the size of a £2 coin.

Many babies grunt, cry, strain or go red when passing stools - this can be normal and doesn't necessarily mean they're constipated. As long as the stools are soft and reasonably regular it should be fine.

On to solids

Once you start to introduce solids into your baby's diet the frequency and texture of stools will vary widely and they're also more likely to smell. By introducing a range of different types of food gradually into your baby's diet you will be able to detect any irritation in your baby's bowels.

Once the weaning process has started formula fed babies should also be given water to drink to prevent them from becoming dehydrated and constipated, breast fed babies can also be given water but this isn't a necessity as breastmilk is a food and drink all in one.

As long as your baby is passing soft stools reasonably regularly, you should have little cause for concern. However, as always if you are unhappy or unsure about your baby's bowel movements it is always best to seek advice from your health care professional.

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it was very helpful but is it normal to go from having a dirty nappy after every feed to then going 1-2 times a day as my baby seems to have gone from very settled to very uncomftible
by louisereames 20th Jun 2013, 3:25pm
Its really very useful
by Rasipraba 14th Sep 2011, 9:37am
My baby is now 6months old and from 3months old he has made a gasping sound just before a dirty nappy, we have seen endless doctors who all say his chest is clear and oxygen levels are fine and recently seen a paediatrician who suggested it may be acid reflux. The thing is the episodes used to last from 5 to 10 seconds but just lately they are lasting over two mins which seems a lifetime watching your baby gasping in pain , towards the end he is looking really uncomfortable and crying his heart out, it's so disturbing to have to watch my baby go through this!we have cut down on milk n been giving him more solids but this is not helping at all n he never spits up which you would expect fron acid reflux !we are currently waiting a stool sample to be checked for bowl infection! am worrid sick can anybody please help???????///
by mumbb 18th Jan 2011, 4:34pm
i'm new in parenthood and would need some advices on the bowel movement of my 3-week-old daughter (Kay). She cries non-stop each time passing stools. However, I noticed her stools are in normal condition (no blood, not watery, yellowish in color(mustard-like), soft texture). Can anyone explain to me why is she crying continuously until her face turn red and sounds difficult to breath. I'm worry... Thanks
by estherkay 7th Dec 2010, 8:43am
For all you ladies mentioning green stools, this is sometimes a sign of lactose intolerance (your baby can't or isn't absorbing the lactose sugar in his/her milk) My LO is on lactose free milk and has slight green tinge to his stools which my HV (and my mother) say is the lack of lactose passing through baby. Anyway, if it's green let your GP or HV know and they may suggest lactose free diet for your baby, which sadly means no dairy for you girls BF!
by Woodles 3rd Dec 2010, 5:37pm
katie2189, my baby is also 2 weeks old and is exactly the same. he only goes once a day
and we are bottle feeding him. we have also tried water, but i think he is just going to be a baby that poos once a day and not 4 or 5 times as i have seen written anywhere!! i have also read that if the poo is runny then it is not painful for them, and it is normal for a baby to strain and go red and make noises when they are trying to poo.
by Stinny 19th Aug 2010, 3:11pm
my baby girl is 2 weeks old and she isnt having frequent or regular bowel movements. She struggles and gets upset when she is trying to go but when she does go its runny so i cant see why its causing her problems but she is clearly in pain :( ive tried boiled water and infacol. please help!!
by katie2189 11th Jun 2010, 5:40pm
My daughter is two and a half months old.In the past day she has had 2 or 3 diapers that are green in color.Is this definitely diarrhea or is there something else that could cause this?Because her temperature is fine.Can somebody answer me?thank you.
by ameliadaddy 11th Jun 2010, 5:29pm
My daughter was breast fed for 6 months, now she is nearly 10 months and eating well. The only wet nappy I change is in the morning after that its normal to have up to 6 dirty nappies a day. A lttle less often would be nice.
by Citychick 14th May 2010, 5:41pm
my baby was six months yesterday and i noticed he hasnt stool, today he started crying when i started feeding him on cereal though i hav been giving him small ceral before now and i introduced him to formular right from birth
by mcoco 16th Dec 2009, 6:08pm
my daughter is 4 weeks old and she has trouble having a bowel movement. The doctor doesn't seemed concerned but as soon as I spread her butt checks apart and hold her legs up she generally will go. They tell me this is normal for breast feed babies. Just checking with other professionals to see if this is normal or should I be concerned.
by supernana 9th Oct 2009, 9:29am
Hi all
I am a first time mum and I breastfeed for 6 weeks and then introduced a bottle of formulae a day.
My son then started having irregular bowel movements.Since then, He goes out once in 3-5 days and sometimes once every 2 days.I only wanted to use a natural form of relief for him, it was suggested that we could also give him 1 part apple juice and 4 parts boiled water, as well as sugared water. I did try the sugared water (using very little Brown Sugar )and it works...I've also tried Vaseline and it does work as well as Glycerine Suppositories.
by Pearl15 6th Oct 2009, 12:49pm
my son is 5 days old and hasn't had a BM (poop) in over 24hrs and only peed 3 time in the last 24hrs . Mom has been breast-feeding regularly but no dirty diapers
anyone else experience this?
by thebabybug 6th Oct 2009, 12:48pm
hi autumnrainz
i have 4 month old daughter i breastfed her untill 6 weeks old at which point i had to substitute with bottle as she is a hungry little monster and i have low milk supply. i too have been to doctors numerous times and also hospital when referred, health visitors, websites you name it i have asked and they all say colic. i know how frustrating this is for you. mia started with the problem from around four weeks which eliminates the idea of it being because of changing on to bottle. She only passes stools once every three to four days which was also thin and watery as they put her on lactulose and sennakot, and seems to be in pain for a day or two before passing as if building up and regularly was crying in pain almost screeming her little lungs out which is very distressing expecially when u dont get no answers however through trial and error i believe that they only upset her stomach more and so make the problem worse. i decided to stop giving her it which helped slightly i have tried every thing i can she still doesnt go that often once every two days but is more settled and has less boughts of pain and crying. this is due to combination of things i found to work i started by thinning her milk by a scoop which helped a little then by a futher less scoop just untill it seemed to elieviate her symptoms then slowly built back up by half a scoop per week only after changing her milk to cow + gate comfort which is easier to digest. along with this i give her cooled boiled water with a tiny bit of sugar, which was suggested by many of my grandparents generation and seems to help apparently the sugar helps break things down in the gut and also when i notice she is starting to have problems or she is straining badly and in discomfort a little vaseline around her bum and lay her with her legs up to her belly it takes quite a while maybe half hour but definately helps her to get moving not sure if any of this will help but i am a single parent and know how hard it is when you know they are in pain and there is nothing you can do and how frustrating it is seeking professional advice and all you get is colic colic colic hope some of this is useful also along with the sugar and water she has hipp organic fennel tea u can get it off hipp website 3.20 for fourty tea bags a specialist at the hospital suggested it could be a disease that causes bad digestion similar to irritable bowel i took a soiled nappy with me to the doctors and demanded they test it just to rule out the possibility good luck
by slaverchops 1st Oct 2009, 9:14am
hi autumnrainz,
my baby had same sort of symptoms as yours, im now using Aptimil easy digest. it takes a week or so to get into the babys system but has helped us loads its worth trying.
by janey1 7th Sep 2009, 12:00pm
I have set of twins on the 13th they will be 4 months old...We are having issues she is constipated,they put her on (Kristalose) now its more diarrhea...but when she is trying to have bowel movements she gasps for air.. All the doctors around here are so easy to blame everything on colic...I dont think colic causes constipation and causes a baby to gasp for air ..she is a bottle fed baby and always took good to the bottle and now she really doesnt eat much and when i try to feed her she gulps and its loud ..then she starts crying like it hurts..I dont know what it could be cause we cant get any answers from any doc. Its always colic..Please Someone help if you are going thru the same thing ,Thanks
by autumnrainz 6th Aug 2009, 10:31am
my 11 week old son has been having loose bowel movements for a few days, yesterday he was sick but this has stopped, he is still feeding ok n seems bright enough. He has started showing a few signs of teething, drooling chewing his fists etc, could the loose movements be connected with this
by boosmum13 6th Jul 2009, 9:06am
my son is 3 months old and was 6 weeks early (and still weighed 6#12oz) he started on breast milk hen i got real bad postpartum and they put me on some medicine that i couldn't breastfeed with, so he's had to change formula a few times now he's on allimentum and he only poops like every 4-5 days and he screams constantly what should i do????
by tarez 9th Apr 2009, 9:28am
My 11 month old twin has diahorea and sickness, just got it today, never had it before, and has a high temp. Should i still offer him his meals and bottles of formula?
by TPT 9th Mar 2009, 9:30am
my baby is a month and a half.i started supplementing with formula when she was amonth old.initially all was well but since a couple of days she has started passing stools only twice a day and that too only after being bottle fed.moreover, she seems more irritable than earlier.I don't know wether it is because of the formula or what?some body please help. and rizing regarding your baby's stool having chemical smell I think you should check the composition of the formula .
by sudarshana 3rd Nov 2008, 10:16am
I started out breast feeding my baby and supplemented with formula. I have a low milk supply. That's another problem all together. My baby has had loose watery stools since he was born. I expected that of him since he was being breastfed. He is now two months old. He has thrush that comes and goes. He had the live rotavirus vaccine at his two months check up. His stools are green and sticky now and he's is soley on formula. What gives? His doctor says he's okay since he's gaining weight fine. What gets me is that his stools have a chemical smell to them, what could that be? Anybody know?
by rizing 2nd Oct 2008, 9:19am
Molly is almost nine months old and since she was born she was contipated. She had an enema on 7months and since then she have to take laxelose to help her go, and she cries when she is going. And when she is not going she doesn't want to eat at all. I've been told its normal and just to give her louds of fluid and homemade food, and I've done it. And the I was told it was the milk (she started on SMA Gold, Cow and gate comford, cow and gate premuim, now she is on cow and gate purple). What can I do to help her. I've been to the Dr. so many time and the Health visitor. And she is not putting on enough weight. was 9.7 punds when she was born and is 17.8 now.
by AskBaby10974 13th Jun 2008, 8:39am
If your baby is breastfed, it's not unusual for them to go for longer than 4-5 days without a bowel movement. If they do it's nothing to worry about, unless of course they do seem to be in a lot of pain. It's all based on the baby's genetic make up. Just like some babies will have several bowel movements a day, others can go for over a week without having one. My second baby is just like that, I worried when I read that it's a concern if they go that long but when I called my midwife to see what can be done she said not to worry. There isn't much that can bother a well fed breastfed baby so just let their body do what it does. If you feel the need to do something, I was told to try giving a couple teaspoons of cool boiled water, or after a bath gently rub your baby's tummy with oil in a clockwise direction to encourage movement but your baby's body knows what it's doing. Naturally they will seem uncomfortable when it's getting close to having a movement but that's normal too and as long as they aren't in pain then don't worry too much about it.
by BabyME 30th Jan 2008, 9:47am