No one talks about poo more than a new parent!
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.
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 as 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). Lots of very explosive, frothy green poo coupled with large weight gains and 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, as it is commonly a case of oversupply, which can be managed with block feeding as a temporary measure.
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 to 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.
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!
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.
WORDS // Simone Casey
Simone Casey is an Australian Breastfeeding Association counsellor and community educator from Northern Melbourne. She’s breastfed three children over nine years and has been volunteering with ABA for over 13 years, with a 6-year stint as group leader of the Pascoe Hume Group and several years as regional representative of the Tullamarine Region. Simone was a journalist for 20 years so has loved combining her writing skills with her breastfeeding knowledge to create blogs for the national website and now recording this podcast series. In 2011 she qualified as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and works in a private inner city hospital and runs her own lactation business doing home visits. Her volunteering highlight was at a branch conference in Ballarat when a trainee referred to her as ‘the Kylie Minogue of breastfeeding’!
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