Convo with Heather Kelly: What Your Baby’s Diapers Can Tell You

{disclosure : written by guest writer | i am a bravado ambassador }

You want your baby to thrive and grow steadily. Once you get the hang of breastfeeding you will begin to easily recognize your baby’s signs of fullness and contentment. You should be checking in regularly with your pediatrician to make sure your child is thriving and growing. Your baby’s weight and behavior are also great indicators of their health. But there’s one more thing you can check, on a more daily basis, that is a great indicator of their well being. Diapers!

Diapers are the earliest and the easiest sign to measure quickly whether your baby is getting enough from feedings. In a nutshell, what goes in must come out. So if your baby is taking in enough food, you’ll know it from his diapers.

Here’s the part of parenthood that shows unconditional love. Yes, you need to check (or rather, inspect) your newborn’s diapers, on a continual basis. It’s amazing how much information you can glean from dirty diapers.

Let’s start with stools: in other words… poo!

The rule of thumb is that the number of stools your baby passes should correspond to the days of your baby’s life. Day 1, at least 1 stool; day 2, at least 2 stools, and so on. But don’t worry, this levels off around 4-8 stools per day. Your baby won’t be having 27 stools on day 27!

These numbers are minimums; if your baby has more stools, that’s just fine. Some babies have stools after every feeding – up to about 10 on day 7. Just make sure that in these first few weeks your baby is having at least 4 stools a day. These should be about the size of a large button or coin, or larger. Around weeks 5-7, don’t be surprised if this pattern changes.  At that point your baby may go days without stooling or may only have 1-2 stools a day. This is normal.

Day 1: Meconium – This is the stuff that your baby swallowed in utero. When it comes out, it’s black, tar-like, sticky and copious. Even though it’s not a stool caused by feeding, it’s important to monitor to make sure that it’s coming out. Your newborn should have at least 1 meconium stool, or more, on their first day of life.

Day 2-3: Transitional stool – This stool color is brownish-black. It is now moving away from being meconium and showing the effects of what your baby has begun to eat in the first few days of life and is becoming progressively browner. Don’t be alarmed if it appears dark green as well – this is all perfectly normal.

Day 4: Yellow stool – Now your baby’s stool is yellow – bright mustard yellow – with about the same consistency. It almost looks like diarrhea, but not to fear, this is normal too. The change to a yellow, liquid-like stool in a positive indication that your milk has come in. The stool will stay this way until your baby begins to take in solid foods. Again, their stool may sometimes look a little green. Sometimes their stool may even have what looks like little ‘seeds’ in it. These variations of color and consistency are normal and perfectly fine!

Note: If your milk has not come in by about day 4 or 5 and your baby is not stooling as they should be, it’s okay. However, you may want to talk to your healthcare professional about supplementing your baby until your milk supply is at a good level.

Urine output, like stool output, should increase as the days progress. Sometimes with disposable diapers that are very absorbent, however, it’s difficult to determine if they’re wet or not. If you’re unsure about your baby’s urine output, try this trick: put a tissue or piece of toilet paper into your baby’s diaper. If it’s wet, he’s urinated. Simple!

The urine should be clear or light yellow. If it’s dark yellow (or any other color), you should talk to your doctor as it could indicate a problem.

In the very early days before your milk has come in, you might notice what looks like blood or red “brick dust” in your baby’s urine. Don’t be alarmed! It’s not blood; it’s uric acid crystals, which are common. These crystals are normal in the first few days, however if they persist past this point, it could mean that your baby’s intake is not where it should be. Again, you may want to talk to your healthcare professional if you have concern.

Continue to be vigilant about checking your baby’s diapers at each change, for at least the first few weeks. It’s the simplest way to monitor their progress, and along with weight gain and behavioral cues, will let you know that your baby is receiving the nourishment they need.

Diaper “Reading” Tips:

  • The number of stools your baby has should correspond to her days of life, and levels off at around 4-8 stools per day.
  • The minimum amount of stools she should have per day is 4. This may reduce around weeks 5-7.
  • Urine output should follow stool output, with the color being clear or light yellow.

This information is courtesy of Bravado Designs,  the brand synonymous with nursing women and their success for eighteen years.

Heather Kelly is a Lactation Consultant and specialist for Bravado Designs. Heather is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant practicing in NYC since 2001.

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