: Diaper Signs: What's Normal and What's Not
Normal bowel and urinary function varies considerably from baby
to baby. Regularity and frequency of bowel movements varies not
only between babies - it can even change in the same baby from
day to day.
During the first six weeks, newborns generally have at least one
bowel movement per day, and may have as many as 15. Stool frequency
in breastfed babies can vary even more - from as many as 15 per
day to just one bowel movement every few days, after a few weeks.
The passing of only one stool every few days does not necessarily
indicate constipation. Neither does grunting, pushing, or turning
red in the face while passing a stool. This is normal behaviour,
as long as stools are soft, do not contain blood, and do not appear
to be causing pain.
The colour, consistency and odor of bowel movements also vary
with age and diet. During the first 36 hours after birth, the
newborn should pass a greenish-black, sticky stool called meconium.
Over the next few weeks, an infant's stools are likely to be semi-liquid
and green-brown. The semi-liquid consistency of stools at this
age is normal, and shouldn't be confused with diarrhea, in which
stools are abnormally frequent and very watery.
After about the third week, the stools of breastfed babies tend
to be orangey-yellow, fairly loose and have a sweet-sour smell.
Stools of formula-fed babies at this age tend be pale brown and
somewhat more solid. Odor is generally stronger than with breastfed
babies, and varies with different types of formula. As babies
grow older, they have fewer bowel movements, and their stools
become more formed or pasty. This becomes more pronounced when
solids are introduced into the diet.
Newborns generally urinate up to 10 times per day. Urine typically
ranges in colour from clear to pale yellow, and has little or
no odor. As the baby grows older, she will urinate less frequently,
but in larger amounts. An odor of ammonia may become more apparent
in the urine. This longer the urine is left in the child's diaper,
the more intense the odor becomes. Blood in a baby's urine may
indicate infection, and should be evaluated by a doctor.
Consult your doctor if there are any sudden variations in the
pattern of your baby's bowel or urinary habits. Any streaks of
blood or mucus in a baby's stool should also be evaluated.
Diarrhea is sometimes a sign of other problems such as infection,
allergy, or food intolerance. It is characterized by abnormally
frequent and liquidy bowel movements. Unlike normal bowel movements,
diarrhea often has a particularly offensive or unusual odor. Bowel
movements may be so watery that they leave a water ring in the
diaper. If diarrhea is persistent, or if it is accompanied by
other signs of unwellness, such as fever, crying, or abdominal
pain, consult a doctor.
Diarrhea in an infant needs to be monitored carefully, even if
there doesn't appear to be other signs of unwellness, because
it can lead to dehydration. Dehydration is a dangerous condition
in which excessive loss of body fluids results in a potentially
life-threatening imbalance of water and essential body salts.
Signs of dehydration include decreased urination, dry mouth, lack
of tears, lethargy and sunken eyes. If you suspect your baby may
be dehydrated, get medical attention immediately.
A baby is considered to be truly constipated only if the bowel
movements are hard and/or associated with signs of abdominal pain
or discomfort, such as crying while passing a stool. If this is
the case, parents should consult their doctor.
Generally, once a constipated baby has been evaluated and the
child's health is found to be otherwise normal, the problem can
be treated by simply giving your child more liquid or by adding
some table sugar to the child's milk. In babies older than 3 months,
strained prunes or prune juice may help relieve constipation.
To find out which method is most appropriate for your baby, consult
your physician. Never give your child laxatives, enemas, castor
oil or mineral oil unless advised to do so by your doctor.
Other Newborn Issues
The information provided in this site is
designed to be an educational aid only. It is not intended to
replace the advice and care of your child's physician, nor is
it intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. If
you suspect that your child has a medical condition, always
consult a physician.
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