March 2012

Parents often become more concerned over the type and frequency of stools that their child has than about any other single bodily function. Occasionally a child will have sufficient difficulties with his/her bowel movements to cause concern, but this is actually quite uncommon. Normally a baby will have from one stool every three to four days up to six or seven stools in a single day. Bottle fed babies usually have fewer stools than breast fed babies.

The appearance of the stools will vary from loose, mushy, watery stools to firm, toothpaste consistency stools. They will occasionally have mucous mixed throughout. The color will vary from mustard yellow to dark brown with an occasional green stool (especially when the baby receives iron fortified formula). Breast fed stools tend to be looser and more frequent than bottle fed stools. One accurate description of a breast fed stool is “Karo syrup with a little cottage cheese mixed in.”

As long as the stools are passed spontaneously with little signs of distress, they are normal. However, it is normal for a child to grunt and strain with bowel movements and occasionally turn red in the face, though prolonged crying may indicate difficulties. Never use cathartics, laxatives, enemas, or suppositories without first consulting us. In most instances, when stool problems are present, dietary manipulation is all that is necessary to resolve the difficulties (see section on “Feeding”).

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