Balanced Birthing Blog
If one thing’s for certain, it’s that having a baby exposes you to more poop than you ever thought possible. Just keeping up with the diaper changes can seem daunting enough, but on top of that, baby poo undergoes a dramatic metamorphosis in just the first few days of life. What’s normal? When should you be concerned? Is there a difference in stool between breastfed and formula-fed babies? Here’s a short guide to what you’ll find in those diapers as time goes by.
The first few days of your baby’s life bring big changes to his digestive tract, as it begins processing nutrients on its own (while in utero, nutrients are delivered directly to your baby’s bloodstream by way of the placenta and umbilical cord). This means a change in his stools from meconium, a thick, black or dark green, tar-like substance that lasts for the first 24-48 hours, to thinner, lighter-green transitional stools between days 3-6. This is generally true of both breastfed and formula-fed babies, but by day 6 or 7 baby’s poo will look somewhat different depending on whether you are exclusively breastfeeding or not.
The Breastfed Baby
At around day 6 or 7, an exclusively breastfed baby’s stool will become more liquid, lighter in color, usually a mustardy yellow, with a mild, even sweetish odor, and will often contain milk curds (‘seeds’). During the first month or so of life your breastfed baby should poop at least once or twice a day, but after that she might go days without a bowel movement. This does not mean she’s constipated. As breast milk is the perfect food for your baby, it is almost completely digested, resulting in very little waste (AKA poo).
The Formula-Fed Baby
By the second week of a formula-fed baby’s life, his stool will be firmer than that of a breastfed baby. It will most likely be tan or brown in color and stronger in odor than breast milk stool. Because formula contains elements that are less digestible than breast milk, a formula-fed baby will have more frequent bowel movements, even after the first 4-6 weeks of life.
Adding Solid Foods
At about 6 months, most parents begin introducing their babies to solid food. This will once again change the color and the consistency of bowel movements. Stools will become more solid and may take on the color of what your baby has eaten, such as peas or carrots. The odor will become stronger and you may find undigested food during a diaper change.
Constipation and Diarrhea
Although diarrhea is fairly easy to recognize, it’s sometimes difficult to tell when a baby is constipated. Young babies (up to about 6 weeks) are still figuring out how to use their digestive tracts and may have trouble passing both stool and gas. They may grunt and strain and turn red in an effort to evacuate a perfectly normal stool. True constipation is when she not only has trouble with her bowel movements, but the stool is also dry and hard. You should call your pediatrician if you believe your baby is constipated.
A breastfed baby will normally have fairly loose stools, but true diarrhea will be brown or green and have a very strong, unpleasant odor. Diarrhea causes dehydration – if you believe your baby has diarrhea, you should contact your pediatrician right away.
When to Call the Doctor
Aside from constipation and diarrhea, what is cause for concern?
- Your newborn still has meconium after 5 days
- Red blood in a stool
- Black stool after meconium is gone
- Mucus in a bowel movement
- White or colorless stool
There’s a lot to prepare for when expecting a baby. But while most people spend considerable time keeping healthy during pregnancy and getting ready for labor and delivery, fewer first-time parents give as much thought to what comes immediately after. If you already have children then you know what to expect postpartum – along with the joy of getting to know your baby, there’s also sleep deprivation, hormonal craziness, adjusting to breastfeeding (or formula feeding, which comes with its own set of issues), entertaining the many visitors who want to meet the new arrival, and simply taking care of baby, which is far more time-consuming at first than most people realize. As new parents you have one essential job – bonding with and taking care of your newborn. Without proper postpartum planning, this can mean near-chaos in other areas of your life.
So, what should you be putting in order before you welcome your baby?
Finish projects: Now is the time to finish any home projects you have underway. Not only will it be harder to find the time to finish once baby arrives, it will mean one less thing on your mind (and less clutter!), as well as a new or renovated space to enjoy.
De-clutter and deep clean: Speaking of clutter, clearing out the accumulated stuff will make room for baby’s stuff. Deep clean after de-cluttering, but be sure to use natural cleaning products!
Consider installing light-blocking shades or curtains: Sleep is at a premium when there’s a newborn in the house – you should be napping when he does, and light-blocking window coverings will make that easier.
Get nursery or baby’s space ready: Whether you’re planning a full nursery for your baby, or just a space in your bedroom, organizing it before you bring baby home means having everything at your fingertips when you need it.
Turn down the temperature on your water heater: Pregnant women should avoid bathing in water above 98.6° and bathwater for babies should be between 90° and 100°, so turning down your water heater is a good idea. It’ll also save you money!
Add essential phone numbers to your phone: If you don’t already have one, make a list of essential phone numbers and add them to your cell phone. Make sure it includes your pediatrician, postpartum doula, babysitter, pet sitter, non-emergency numbers for your local fire and police departments, poison control center, closest hospital, neighbors, and insurance agent. Make paper copies of the list – keep one near the landline at home, and one in your wallet or purse.
Update health, life and home (or renter’s) insurance: A new member of the family means new insurance needs.
Update (or write) your wills: If you don’t yet have a will, now is the time to write one. If you do, update it. Find forms online at https://www.nolo.com/, https://www.lawdepot.com/ or https://www.legalzoom.com/
Choose guardians: The last thing you want to think about when bringing your newborn home is who would take care of her if something should happen to you, but it’s crucial to put your wishes on paper to avoid the possibility of having a court make the decision for you. Discuss this with your partner, formally ask the person or people you decide on, and include it in your will.
Cook and freeze meals: This is a great early labor activity!
Start a meal train: You will have people offering to help – take them up on it! A meal train is an easy way for friends and family to know what you need and when, and it means no cooking for you. A win-win! Start a meal train at https://www.mealtrain.com/.
Stock up on everyday items and pantry staples: For those times when you do need to cook, stocking up in advance will make putting a simple meal together much easier. No trip to the supermarket with a newborn necessary!
Start an errand and chore train: The same principle as a meal train, but for chores and errands. Need the leaves raked? Laundry piling up? Let others help! If friends or family aren’t available try an online service such as https://www.taskrabbit.com/.
Find a pet/babysitter: Even a simple task like walking the dog can be difficult when you have a newborn. And if you have older children you may feel torn in two trying to take care of everyone’s needs. Hire a pet sitter and/or a babysitter before your little one arrives – they can also fill in while you’re in the hospital.
Hire a postpartum doula: More and more families are hiring postpartum doulas to ease their transition into parenthood. Postpartum doulas can take care of anything from cooking meals to helping with baby care. Find one in your area at https://doulamatch.net/.
Decide who can visit, when and for how long: Everyone wants to meet your little one, but having to entertain visitors can be exhausting right now. The same holds true for phone calls. Put some boundaries on who can visit (or call), when, and for how long. Make sure friends and family are aware of the limits. Consider putting a (polite!) sign on the door to explain the rules to those who ‘stop by.’
Clean and organize baby clothes and gear: Have everything clean and tidy before you need it.
Get car seat installed and checked: Most fire stations will install car seats and/or check that they are properly installed.
Stock up on baby essentials like diapers, wipes, and rash ointment, nursing pads (or formula if you’re planning on using it), gentle laundry detergent: Cut down on trips to the store because you’ve run out of diapers.
Find a diaper service: Cloth diapering is better for the environment, but washing loads of dirty diapers is time-consuming. Consider using a diaper service, at least for the first few months.
Find childcare for your return to work: If you’re planning to return to work at some point, you should start looking for childcare at around the same time you’re interviewing pediatricians. Quality childcare can be hard to find, whether you’re considering a center, home-based daycare or a nanny. Starting early will mean not having to spend your maternity leave touring daycares.
As a rule, I strongly recommend that my clients attend a childbirth class. Unfortunately, the response I often get is “We don’t have the time”, “We’re finding all the information we need online”, or even “We’re hiring you as our doula – we don’t need classes!” My answer to this is that your baby’s birth is a once in a lifetime event – being as informed as possible is not only important, it may even make the difference between having the birth you are hoping for, or being swept along by escalating interventions for which you are unprepared.
Obviously, every birth is different and there is no way to know in advance every single thing that could happen, but preparing for birth by educating yourself is critical if you want to be able to make the best decisions for your family when faced with the unexpected.
Today only about half of all first-time parents attend childbirth classes. This number has been dropping steadily in recent years for a variety of reasons, chief among them being the rise in planned C-sections and the use of epidurals for pain relief. Experts also point to an increase in reliance on the internet and social media as a means of gathering information, as well as the mistaken assumption that most childbirth educators are intent on pushing so-called ‘natural’ childbirth. Whatever the reason, it’s a worrying trend. Lower childbirth education attendance rates means higher numbers of under- or wrongly-informed expectant parents, which in turn can lead to poor outcomes for both moms and newborns.
As healthcare consumers in the U.S., we have been conditioned to accept our providers’ advice and opinions as our best (or even only) option, often without question. This seems especially true where obstetrics is concerned. The truth is that there are many options for pregnant and laboring women, some of which your provider may not even mention unless specifically asked. These include prenatal testing options, different methods of pain relief, alternatives to medical interventions such as labor induction and augmentation, and your right to refuse standard newborn care, among others.
Childbirth education is important, not just for those hoping for an unmedicated, intervention-free birth, but for every first-time parent, and even for many who have had prior birth experiences. In addition to learning about the options mentioned above, the benefits of a good childbirth preparation class include: what to expect in early labor and when is best to leave for your birthing place, meeting and making connections with other expectant parents, facing and calming your fears and anxiety, basics of newborn care, helping your partner or support person to feel more involved and informed on how best to support you, and learning about local resources for pregnancy, breastfeeding and parenting. There is even a theory (the Central Nervous System Control method of pain management) which argues that simply educating yourself may activate processes in your brain whereby you perceive less pain during labor. There is also a study (Levett et al. (2016) RCT of Childbirth Education for Pain Relief during Labor) which suggests that taking a childbirth class which includes specific non-medical comfort measures for labor (and practicing these techniques at home) may lessen the need for epidural relief, shorten the second stage of labor, and reduce perineal trauma.
There is a wide variety of childbirth courses available today, from one- or two-day hospital sponsored classes to the intensive, 12-week long Bradley Method®, which means that everyone can find childbirth education to fit their schedule and budget. Do your research, find which method works best for you and sign up! Take advantage of this invaluable resource and ensure that you are fully prepared for your Birth Day.
(Disclaimer: The information contained in this post is for general information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition. For any medical questions or concerns you should consult your healthcare provider.)
Hi and welcome to my blog!
My name is Jenny Putnam and I’m currently in the process of becoming a DONA-certified birth doula. This journey has been a very long time in the making and I’d like to share how and why I found myself here.
My interest in supporting women in labor and childbirth goes back many years to when I was living in California in the mid-1990s. At the time I was close friends with a woman who was expecting her first child. My friend, who was convinced that her husband was going to pass out during their first five minutes in the delivery room (he did an amazing job during the birth, by the way!), asked me to act as an additional labor companion. I was thrilled and immediately said yes. At their request I attended childbirth classes with them, working together on comfort measures and coping techniques. As the baby’s due date approached I think I was nearly as excited as the expectant parents! The call to meet them at the hospital came in the middle of the night and I met them at the door of Labor & Delivery just as my friend’s water broke. I spent the next twelve hours supporting both mom and dad as my friend labored and gave birth without an epidural (she later told me it was the extra support that I had provided that had helped her to avoid pain medication) or any other medical interventions.
After the birth, I went home, sat on my couch and cried for over an hour. The entire experience had been incredibly powerful and uplifting. It literally changed my life and I began looking into becoming a midwife. This was during the early years of the movement to improve childbirth culture and I had never heard the word doula. Unfortunately, at that point in my life returning to school for a years-long program of study in midwifery just wasn’t going to work for a number of reasons, so I put aside the dream of working as a perinatal health professional, and continued my career as a graphic designer.
Fast forward to 2005 – now married, living in the Boston area and expecting a baby of my own, my husband and I went about preparing for birth. We attended classes at the hospital where we intended to give birth, read the popular books, talked with friends and family about their experiences. By this time I knew doulas existed, but gave no real thought to hiring one for my baby’s birth. “We’ve got this,” I thought. “There’s no need to include a stranger in our birth plans.” It wasn’t until we found ourselves in the birthing suite faced with questions for which I realized we had no answers that I began to understand how critical the support of a trained professional really is. We thought we’d educated ourselves, that we knew everything to expect, that the two of us alone could navigate the intricacies of childbirth and make all the ‘right’ decisions for us. Our son was born vaginally, healthy, with no complications for him or me, but my experience of his birth immediately left me feeling frustrated and unhappy with my choices. I felt like his birth was something that happened to me, not an event in which I was an active participant.
These two completely different births nearly a decade apart helped bring me to a place where I found it increasingly difficult to ignore my longstanding desire to help laboring women and their partners, to provide the informational, emotional and physical support necessary for an empowering and joyful birth experience. Though it still took a few years for me to finally find the path, once I had learned about DONA and their mission to ‘provide a doula for every woman who wants one,” I knew I’d found my calling at last.