Bowel Movements

A baby’s first bowel movements are greenish black and sticky like tar. This substance is called meconium. As your baby eats, he will gradually clear the bowel of the meconium. The stools will turn brownish green and then yellow. Once the meconium has cleared, breastfed babies have bright yellow loose stools that look a lot like curdled mustard. Formula fed babies may have more solid brownish green stools.

The frequency of normal bowel movements can vary widely. Some babies have a bowel movement several times a day, usually after a feeding. Others may go infrequently. Do not be concerned if your child goes as long as four days without a bowel movement. Most normal babies grunt, strain, or cry as they pass their stools.

Much more important than the frequency of stools is their consistency. If the bowel movement is hard and difficult to pass, a stool softener may be used. For infants, Colace Liquid, one dropperful twice daily, may be added to the formula. Colace Syrup, one-half teaspoon orally twice daily, is another alternative. Colace is not habit forming and may be obtained without a prescription. In older children, Metamucil or Maltsupex may also be helpful. Both are non-toxic natural substances.


Most breastfed infants will have frequent, loose stools. This is normal. True diarrhea in children is most often caused by viruses. Antibiotics do not help and may worsen such diarrhea. Treatment of diarrhea consists primarily of giving the baby adequate fluids while continuing the child’s regular diet. Please call your pediatrician if:

  1. The diarrhea persists longer than four days.
  2. The stools become bloody.
  3. Your child shows signs of dehydration (no urine output in 6-8 hours, dry sticky tongue, hollow eyes, no tears when crying.)
  4. A persistent fever above 103ƒ occurs.
  5. Your child is under two months of age, and there is a fever above 101.5ƒ (taken under the arm).
  6. Your child is very listless and weak

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