Parents, remember our goal: make pooing pleasant for your child, beginning as a newborn. Start baby’s life off with the right poop. Follow these three steps to get your precious bundle of joy off to a good start.
STEP 1: FEED BABY THE PERFECT MILK FOR PERFECT POOP: BREASTFEED
Over my 50 years as a baby-poop observer, I’ve noticed that most breastfed babies have perfect poop. This observation taught me the most important lesson in perfect pooing:
“What children eat affects how they poo. Feed the right food into the top end and the right poop comes out at the bottom end.”
Smell and tell. One huge advantage of exclusive breastfeeding is: poop doesn’t smell bad! In our medical practice I can tell what milk a baby is fed by the smell of the leftovers. It might smell and look like honey-mustard, a nice production from your little honey. Poop reveals a lot about a baby’s health and nutrition.
Show and tell. Compared to formula-fed infants, the poos of breastfed infants are more frequent, softer, and have an easier-to-pass consistency. Within a couple weeks after birth the poops of healthy breastfed babies usually become yellow, seedy, sweet-smelling, and have a mustard-like consistency. Because breastmilk is a natural laxative, the daily number of poopy diapers is often more for breastfed babies. We often use stool color change, from brown to yellow, as a clue that mother’s milk has “come in.” So, in the early weeks a newborn’s stools normally change from brownish-black to greenish-brown to mustard-yellow as baby gets more milk fat. As I examine a baby and take the diaper off, I often say “Good poop! You are feeding your baby good food.”
THE SECOND-BEST MILK FOR THE PERFECT BABY POOP
Mothers who for medical reasons are unable to breastfeed completely or even partially, conclude their only choice is to use formula. New insights have downgraded infant formula to the third milk alternative, the second being donor milk.
The long-term health benefits of breastmilk led the World Health Organization to advise mothers to breastfeed for at least two years. There is a worldwide increase in the use of donor breastmilk. The World Health Organization (WHO) has officially endorsed donor milk as “the second-best milk” for baby.
Designating donor milk as the second-best milk for babies and putting infant formula in third place is one of the newest and poo-healthiest trends in infant feeding. Twenty years ago, this was new. Now it’s standard. Breastfeeding friends and relatives are usually delighted to be a “milk donor.” Milk banks are sprouting up everywhere. I remember calling the father of one of my milk-needy moms and saying, “How would you like to make the best investment into your new grandson’s life?” He was overjoyed at being able to fund the expense for donor milk.
BOTTLE-FED AS YOU WOULD BREASTFEED
“Combo moms” (both breast and bottle) would often tell me that their baby poos more often and more comfortably on days when they primarily breastfeed, such as on weekends when they’re not working outside the home. When bottlefeeding, there is a tendency to offer baby larger volumes at longer intervals—just the opposite of what the poop-making parts of the gut like. The smaller the volume, the more completely it is digested, and the less leftover there is for the colon to have to process. Some bottlefeeding babies feed in big gulps too fast, and their poo gets out too fast. I learned this by treating “explosive poopers.” This nuisance subsided when Mom slowed baby’s feedings according to my “rule of twos” – feed baby half as much, twice as often.
THE SMELL CHANGES AS BABY’S DIET CHANGES
- Formula-fed infants tend to have less frequent, firmer, greener, and smellier poo.
- Combo-feeders (breast and formula) tend to have a combo of both textures and smells.
- Poop smell changes as baby eats solid foods.
STEP 2: BEGIN BABY ON POO-FRIENDLY SOLIDS
Think out of the box. Thankfully, gone are the days when rice cereal was the first solid starter food. Instant rice cereal is not real food—it is too processed. Grains are generally not an intestine-friendly starter food, and they can be constipating.
In addition to mother’s milk, what food comes close to what baby’s head brain and gut brain (the microbiome) need? The first food must have three features:
- Full of soluble and insoluble fiber, a favorite food for baby’s growing gut garden.
- Full of fat. Baby’s brain is 60% fat. Mother’s milk gets 40-50% of its calories from fat.
- Mushy and veggie-tasting. Beginning early, you want to shape young tastes to crave fiber-rich vegetables.
STARTER FOOD NUMBER ONE: MY TOP PICK FOR BABY’S FIRST FOOD: AVOCADO
Avocado is the fruit highest in healthy fats and protein, the top two “grow-nutrients” that baby needs.
STARTER FOOD NUMBER TWO FOR HEALTHY “NUMBER TWO”: SWEET POTATOES
They are sweet and fibrous for baby’s growing gut garden. Babies are born with a natural preference for sweet tastes. (Mother’s milk is naturally sweet.) For more about choosing solid foods, see AskDrSears.com/StartingSolids
GO WILD WITH WILD SALMON
Surprised, moms? By a smart design of human development, the top fat in salmon is the top fat in baby’s brain. Since a baby’s brain doubles in size during the first year, babies need smart foods. Feed fish to your little “fathead.” You can start salmon as early as seven months. See more about choosing safe starter seafood: AskDrSears.com/SafeSeafood.
POO-FRIENDLY FOOD PREPARATION
Think of the consistency of starter foods like the consistency of perfect poop: soft and mushy. Since six to twelve month olds don’t have many teeth to “chew-chew times two,” it’s important to blend and mash the food. Begin with poo-friendly foods such as avocado, sweet potatoes, bananas, and wild salmon. Babies prefer beginning with blended foods (slow speed in a blender), then gradually increase the consistency from blended to mashed.
The age at which babies can easily chew and self-mash (called masticate) solids varies from baby to baby. Some sensitive eaters need mushy foods well into the second year.
Poop changes as food changes. Because no solid food is as easy to digest as mama’s milk, it’s usual to notice a change in poo frequency, color, and consistency with a change in diet. This is why it is so important to continue the volume of breastmilk as you add solid foods. Solids shouldn’t replace breastmilk, but, rather, supplement it.
STEP 3: NIBBLE YOUR WAY TO PERFECT POOP
Small, frequent feedings are more likely to yield more frequent, comfortable poops—at all ages. Left to their own devices, toddlers are natural nibblers. They like to pick and eat throughout the day. Remember, toddlers have tiny tummies, around the size of their fist. If they eat too much, too fast, that is a pain in the gut—constipation—waiting to happen.
OUR FEEDING SOLUTION
Prepare a nibble tray. Using an ice-cube tray or muffin tin, we put nutritious and delicious tidbits into each compartment, and tagged each fiber-friendly food with cute names: “banana wheels,” “broccoli trees,” “funny beans.”
Since little fingers love to dip, reserve two sections for dips: hummus, organic whole-milk yogurt, guacamole, and goat cheese. Play show- and-tell: “Cheese on trees,” as you dip broccoli into cheese sauce.
By the end of the day, the nibble tray will be empty; and your toddler’s tummy full. No hassles.
The simple term “regular” says it all. Your gut, the most sensitive organ in your body, loves being regular, meaning:
- Passing poops that are consistently comfortable and predictable to pass.
- A regular number of poos each day, usually at least three.
- Enjoy the after-poo feeling: “I feel so relieved!” Be regular and enjoy comfortable bowel habits.
DR. BILL AND MARTHA’S REMEDY FOR BABY CONSTIPATION
Take a bath together. Relax in a tub with warm water breast high. Have someone else hand baby to you. Once baby is also relaxed back-to-chest, massage baby’s abdomen.
Massage the movements along. Here’s a nice abdominal touch that we have used to ease bloated babies of gas or constipation.
- Place baby on your lap facing away from you, or on the floor nestled on a soft towel. Rub coconut oil in your hands and start massaging using gentle circular motions forming an “I” along Baby’s upper left side downward. Imagine you are touch-coaxing any stuck stools to move downward. Oftentimes, this downward left-sided massage is enough to get things moving.
- Sometimes, if the constipation is worse, gas backs up requiring you to massage across the top of your child’s abdomen and down the left side like an upside down “L.”
- If baby is really gassy and bloated, massage the whole abdomen the direction of an upside down “U.”
Leg pumping. Another movement to help bowels move poop along is pumping the child’s legs in a bicycle motion.
Reprinted with permission from Dr. Poo: The Scoop on Comfortable Poop by Bill Sears, MD and Martha Sears, RN. You can download the free eBook at askdrsears.com.
Bill Sears, MD
Dr. Sears has served as a professor of pediatrics at the University of Toronto, University of South Carolina, University of Southern California School of Medicine, and University of California: Irvine. He is the father of eight children and together with his wife Martha has written more than 40 best-selling books and countless articles on nutrition, parenting, and healthy aging. Dr. Sears has appeared on over 100 television programs, including 20/20, Good Morning America, Oprah, Today, The View, and Dr. Phil, and was featured on the cover of TIME Magazine in May 2012. He is noted for his science-made-simple-and-fun approach to family health.
Martha Sears, RN
Martha is the mother of eight children, a registered nurse, a former childbirth educator, a La Leche League leader, and a lactation consultant. Martha is the co-author of 25 parenting books and is a popular lecturer and media guest drawing on her 18 years of breastfeeding experience with her eight children (including Stephen with Down Syndrome and Lauren, her adopted daughter). Martha speaks frequently at national parenting conferences and is noted for her advice on how to handle the most common problems facing today’s mothers with their changing lifestyles.