Written by Dr Stephanie Ooi – a GP working at MyHealthcare Clinic
Weaning and your baby’s poo
Let’s talk about poo! A subject I actually talk about fairly frequently being a GP but EVEN MORE so when I became a Mum! Babies and their poo can feel like a bit of a minefield can’t it. Is it normal? Why is it that colour? Why are my friends’s babies doing something different? All these questions are totally normal and hopefully whatever your question, you will find the answer here!
How many times a day should my baby be pooing? And what should it look like?
There are no strict rules here.
At 4 weeks old, the average baby poos 3 times daily but this can range from once every 2-3 days up to 6 times daily. It varies hugely! What’s important is to know what is normal for your baby so try not to compare to others (I know that’s easier said than done!). As long as the poo is soft and is passing easily that is really reassuring.
In the first week of life, baby poo will go through a rapid colour change from black (the first poo also called méconium, hooray!), to green, sometimes orange before settling to a yellow colour.
Breastfed babies usually have a mustard colour poo, very soft runny consistency sometimes with little seeds (undigested milk fat).
Formula fed babies also have mustard colour poos but often a slightly thicker texture like peanut butter. The occasional green poo can be normal or sometimes this occurs in breastfed babies who don’t have enough hind milk so need to be encouraged to feed a bit longer on the breast.
The colours to be concerned about are red (indicates bleeding), black (except for meconium, indicates blood from higher up the gut that has been altered and turned this colour) and white/pale (could indicate a liver problem). These should be discussed with your GP immediately.
Why does poo change when weaning?
Switching from a milk-only diet to include solids means the digestive system has to adapt. It will become more similar to adult poo – thicker, usually darker in colour and smellier too. The appearance can change depending on what food they are given and some foods (e.g. sweetcorn) may be difficult to digest at first and appear practically unchanged in their poo. How often your baby poos may also change and in general frequency decreases as they get older. On average a 1 year old poos twice a day but again this varies between babies. As I mentioned before, what is normal for your child is the most important!
How do I know if my baby is constipated?
Constipation is very common when you start weaning. The National Institute for Health Care and Excellence (NICE) defines constipation as “A decrease in the frequency of bowel movements characterised by the passing of hard stools which may be large and associated with straining and pain”.
Typical symptoms include:
- Baby pooing less than 3-4 times a week
- Hard large poos or smaller “rabbit droppings”
- Distress or pain when passing stool
- Sometimes bleeding from the bottom due to the hard poo
How can I help if I think my baby is constipated?
A few things to try:
- Give sips of water with meals (can be tap water if over 6 months)
- Try including some fruit in their diet. Pears, apples and strawberries can be helpful with constipation. (Nb. Ensure these are prepared in a safe manner for your child to eat depending on their stage of weaning)
- Bicycle legs – moving their legs in a bicycle motion to help stimulate the bowels
- Tummy massage
If these measures don’t seem to help much over the course of a week or two then I would recommend seeing your GP. Prescription medication is available but not always appropriate so best to have a further discussion with them.
Can my baby get diarrhoea during weaning?
Yes! Poo can also become more loose with weaning. Diarrhoea is watery poo and usually occurs more frequently than what is normal for your baby. This may occur if there is too much high fibre such as fruit in their diet. There are other potential causes such as a stomach bug or even a delayed food allergy reaction. However obviously this should all be discussed with a GP if you suspect these symptoms aren’t related to weaning.
When a baby does have diarrhoea, they are at risk of dehydration so look out for these more concerning symptoms: sunken eyes, fewer wet nappies, dry mouth/lips, absence of tears. If you notice any of these please see your GP.
When do I need to see my GP?
Although constipation and diarrhoea can be normal during the weaning process, sometimes they can be a sign of something else underlying. I have mentioned some things above that warrant a trip to the GP but will summarise all of these and a few extra things below:
- Not improving with treatment
- Any signs of dehydration as mentioned above
- Not gaining weight
- Regular symptoms that last a long time
- Any bleeding from the bottom
- Red, black (except meconium) or pale coloured poo
- Tummy looking bloated with vomiting
- If *you* are worried! Parental instinct is so important too.
I hope this was a useful overview for you! My bottom line is always to ask if you’re not sure.
If you have any further questions please send me a message. I can’t give any specific medical advice but happy to answer general questions!
This article is written by GP Dr Stephanie Ooi is a GP working at MyHealthcare Clinic and also Mum to a 2 year old girl with multiple food allergies. She is passionate about empowering people, especially parents, through reliable medical information in a digestible format. She also shares her experience as an allergy parent along the way.