Parents can learn a lot about the baby just by checking their diaper. Just as the eyes are said to be the windows to the soul, what you find in the baby’s diapers can be a window to his health. The baby’s diaper will give you clues about his body, anything from changing poop colors to blood. It can tell you how much your child is eating, what he is eating, and if his diet needs to be adjusted.
As a new parent, you likely don’t know what to expect your child’s diaper area to look like. You may not be sure what normal is, and when you should be calling your doctor. You will be surprised at how much your baby’s poop occupies your mind. You should always be on the lookout for anything that looks odd to you. You will soon be able to tell what is normal, and what is not. And then once you think you have it all figured out, something is bound to change again. It can be confusing as to when you should call the doctor, when to treat on your own, or when let it just ride out.
To help you out, we found 15 important reasons to check your baby’s diaper right now.
15 Messy Meconium
One way to know if your newborn’s bowels are working correctly, is by checking the stool he passes for the first three days following his birth. The stool should be a blackish-green color, and is a very sticky substance similar to what tar is like. This is called meconium and is often hard to remove from the baby’s bottoms, requiring many wipes to take care of it.
Meconium is made up of amniotic fluid, mucus, and whatever else the baby ingested while he was in the womb. It’s messy, but does not have any stinky aroma. Meconium is believed to actually be sterile. It's free of bacteria because the baby's intestines have no microorganisms yet.
You should be concerned if your newborn is not pooping at all, or has not pooped in more than 24 hours. Also, if your baby continues to have meconium poops after 4 days old, check in with your health care provider.
14 Breastfed Babies
It’s normal for your breastfed baby’s stools to be loose, seedy, and a have a yellow mustard color. When your breastmilk first comes in, your baby’s stool will resemble more of this yellow, seedy texture, mixed in with the meconium, It may even be sweet smelling. Well, as sweet smelling as stool can be. Your infant may move her bowels after every feeding at first, but that they should normalize once her bowels get into a routine.
Before your milk comes in, you produce colostrum which contains carbohydrates, protein, and antibodies which your baby needs to stay healthy. The colostrum acts like a laxative, helping to push out the meconium from your baby’s body.
After your baby is four days old, there should be no signs of meconium left, and you should only be seeing yellow stools. If you are not seeing the recommended 3-4 wet or soiled diapers, call your pediatrician since he may want to see her.
13 Formula Feeding
If you choose to formula feed your baby, you can check her diaper to make sure everything looks normal in her stools. A formula fed baby will have a stool that might remind you of the texture of toothpaste. It is thicker than breast fed stool since it cannot be digested as fully as breast milk. The smell of it is stronger; smelling more like an adult’s bowel movement.
Babies who are formula fed are unfortunately more prone to constipation, but they are also more likely to sleep through the night faster, since it takes the stomach longer to digest the formula.
If your baby’s stool is harder that the toothpaste consistency, he might be constipated. If he is younger than 4 months old, don’t feed him anything other than his current formula and contact your doctor. If you give him other fluids to help, such as water or juice, you might accidentally deprive him of essential nutrients.
12 Dirty Diarrhea
Check your baby’s diaper for any signs of diarrhea. If your child’s stool is more runny than normal, or he is exploding right out of his diapers, he likely has diarrhea. Babies who are breast fed are not likely to get diarrhea because your breast milk prevents that bacteria that causes it to grow.
Some things that can bring on diarrhea is an infection, too much fruit or too much juice. It can also come on because of a food sensitivity, an allergy, or just changing a brand of formula.
If your baby is teething, that can also cause his stools to become looser. It’s not usually diarrhea though, so make sure to watch for other signs.
Infant diarrhea is often contagious, so be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after every changing. Doctors don’t usually recommend over the counter medications, and will probably prescribe an antibiotic instead. If your baby ends up with severe diarrhea, he will possibly end up in the hospital to receive fluids through an IV.
11 Tough Stuff
You can learn if your child is constipated by checking his diaper area. If you notice your baby turning red, straining, or grunting when having a bowel movement, all of these are normal signs. Constipated babies tend to have a really difficult time passing a stool. Their stools may me small and dry, or large and hard. You might also notice your baby’s belly become tight and harder than normal.
You might even see some blood being passed in your baby’s stool. This is from the hard stools passing through the anus and creating tiny cracks in the skin around it.
You can help ease discomfort caused by constipation, and get things moving, by massaging your baby’s tummy. You can also give your baby bicycle legs, which is gently moving the legs up and down as if she is pedaling a bike. A warm bath sometimes helps as does a little bit of water if okayed by your doctor.
10 Green Stools
Green stools often indicate that your baby is not getting enough hind milk needed to fill her up. Hind milk is the milk found at the end of a feeding. It has a higher fat content than the beginning milk. To ensure she is getting the hind milk, be sure to make sure she is completely finished on one breast before offering the other.
There are other factors that can turn your child’s poo to green. If you change the brand of formula she is drinking it can mess with the color. Also, green stools can point to food sensitivities, side effects of medicine, and even a stomach bug.
An occasional green stool is normal in a breastfed baby, but consistently green stools are not. If you notice her stools becoming green, and staying that way for a period of time, call your baby’s doctor so he can rule out any sort of infection.
Many babies develop jaundice shortly after they are born. Jaundice is a condition in which the liver doesn’t properly process bilirubin. A sign of jaundice is if your baby’s skin turns yellow, or if the whites of his eyes appear yellow. It can also cause stools to be a very pale color, which is why it’s important to keep an eye on the diaper area.
Jaundice usually clears up a couple of weeks after birth, but more severe cases may require the need of light therapy, which is called photo-therapy. It may mean your baby has to wear a Bili blanket, or even be readmitted to the hospital for treatment. If your baby is showing signs of jaundice, you doctor may have your return to the hospital daily for a lab draw to check bilirubin levels.
Jaundice will most likely clear up, but if your child has pale chalky white stools, make an appointment right away with your doctor. Those characteristics indicate possible liver disease.
8 Bloody Diapers
It’s not uncommon to see little streaks of blood in your baby’s stool, especially if she is breastfed. It’s important to note the color of any blood you see, as it can give clues about where it originated. Blood coming from the rectum or colon is usually red and only streaks the outside of the stool. If the blood is darker, like maroon or black, the blood is probably coming from further up the GI tract, and it will mix throughout the stool instead of streaking just the outside.
A common reason to see blood is due to a slight anal tear that happens when your baby strains to pass the stool. Another reason may be due to food allergies. If you are breastfeeding and have a cracked nipple, your baby may ingest blood from it, and it could show up in her stool.
Always talk to your baby’s doctor if there is blood in the stool. He will ask questions to determine if your baby needs to be seen.
By checking your baby’s diaper, you are able to tell if she is getting enough to drink, or if she might be getting dehydrated. When your baby is drinking enough breast milk, her urine is a clear, pale yellow color, and doesn’t smell. If you happen to notice some pink spots on the diaper, or if her urine appears to be a dark yellow color, it's a sign that you should probably feed her more.
Once your baby is born, her diaper should be a little heavier with urine every day. This is especially true by the 3rd day since that is when your milk will generally come in. She should be having 6-8 wet diapers in a twenty-four-hour period by the time she is a week old.
If you don’t feel your child is drinking enough, you can always take her to the hospital for a weight check. They can also put you in touch with someone to help out with your breastfeeding techniques.
6 Yeast Infections
Babies are bound to get diaper rashes at some point. If your child does happen to come down with one, you should keep an eye on it to make sure it isn’t a yeast infection.
Yeast infection rashes are usually a beefy red color. The rash has slightly raised borders and red lesions that are a slight distance away from the main big rash. Her skin might also appear scaly. Yeast infections are also more typically found on girls than boys.
A rash from a yeast infection will hang around longer than two days, and despite what creams you put on it, it won’t get any better. Not only is it on the baby’s bottom, but can also be found in the folds of the groin area too.
Yeast infections need to be cleared with an antibiotic, so if you suspect one, call your pediatrician’s office. You can try to prevent yeast infections by checking your baby’s diaper often, and changing as soon as you notice a wet or soiled diaper. Also, when changing her, let her bottom dry completely before putting the new diaper on. You can even let her have some time without a diaper, leaving her bare bottom out to get some air. Let her play on a towel, naked, for a bit to ward off possible infections.
Many new parents will choose to circumcise their boys. Circumcision is when the foreskin is removed from the tip of the penis. It’s usually done to make it easier to keep the penis clean, and it also decreases the risk of urinary tract infections. If you do decide to have the procedure done, it is important to check his diaper area often to watch for signs of infection.
You can prevent an infection by making sure to remove any poop that might be on his penis, while changing his diaper. Be sure to apply petroleum jelly to the circumcised area after each diaper change. Without it, the scab can stick to the diaper, making it painful to remove. Keep the diapers loose, so there isn’t any pressure placed on the wound while it heals.
When checking your son's diaper after a circumcision procedure, it’s normal for it to be a little red. You may also notice some yellow oozing, but that is just the body sending healing fluids there. It’s even normal to see a tiny bit of blood in the diaper.
You will want to call you doctor if you notice there is persistent bleeding, and if the blood in the diaper that is larger than the size of a quarter. Also call if the incision remains red for more than 5 days after the procedure, and if the yellow discharge lasts for more than a week. Contact his doctor if your son comes down with a fever, has swelling, develops crusty sores, or is not urinating very much.
A hernia is a lump found under the skin, and is usually seen in the tummy or groin area. Hernias happen because the muscles in a baby are not fully developed yet.
An umbilical hernia is found on the tummy and is more commonly seen with certain ethnic groups. An inguinal hernia is found on the groin, but may extend up to the tummy. Five in one hundred children will end up getting an inguinal hernia.
Hernias are more common in boys, and happen more to preemies. You may first notice it, as it seems to bulge out when your baby coughs, cries, or strains to make a bowel movement. Hernias are concerning because part of the bowel can become trapped and squeezed.
Hernias usually require surgery at some point to correct. It’s typically an outpatient procedure, but your doctor may choose to keep your child overnight for observation.
Your doctor may have you wait a while before scheduling the hernia repair, but you should take your child to the E.R. if the lump becomes hard, and does not get soft or go down when the baby stops crying and his muscles relax. It’s also a concern if the lump is painful when touched, or if your baby begins to vomit and show signs of illness.
Another rash to be on the lookout for when changing your baby’s diaper is Impetigo. Impetigo are red sores that break open and begin to ooze. They then develop yellow brown crusts on them. It is the most common skin infection found in babies, and is very contagious. It can be spread by person to person contact, by sharing toys, sleeping on the same sheets, and using other items. Scratching the rash can lead to it spreading on other parts of your baby’s’ body.
Impetigo is caused by bacteria, and it’s common to get it after having a cold. The skin beneath the nose is usually raw from wiping and blowing, and susceptible to picking up impetigo.
The rash is typically not painful, but can be very itchy. The dots can range from the size of a pimple to the size of a coin. The dots will increase in number, and the rash doesn’t respond to diaper creams. If you do suspect impetigo, contact your doctor as they will confirm it and prescribe an antibiotic to clear it.
2 Diaper Rash
When changing your baby’s diaper, don’t become alarmed if you notice him showing signs of a diaper rash. Diaper rashes can be caused by a number of things. It may develop as a result of too much fruit or juice. Teething also can bring a rash on. If your baby has several bowel movements in one day, his bottom may become irritated and a rash may begin.
A rash may first appear red, like a sunburn, and it might smell sour when changing his diaper. If you catch it early that’s great! If not, it might turn into a more painful rash, and could develop sores.
Diaper rashes are linked to infrequently changed diapers, or could show up if your baby is on a new antibiotic.
Over the counter diaper creams are usually successful in clearing up rashes. Change his diaper often, and give it time to air out before applying cream and a new diaper if possible.
1 Wrong Sized Diaper
As your baby grows out of his clothes, he will likely also be growing out of his diaper. It’s a good idea to check often to make sure your child is wearing the appropriate sized diaper.
Check to make sure that the waist is snug with the diaper just under his belly button. The leg openings should wrap neatly around his thighs. If the diaper doesn’t fit your baby properly, it can be prone to leaking which is never fun. It leaks because there isn’t enough absorbent material for the amount of urine soaking in. You can probably size up in diapers of you notice your baby’s diaper isn’t covering his bottom completely, if there are red marks around his waist or thighs, or if the diaper is soaking through.
Too small diapers also increase the chance of a blow out – every parent’s worst fear. They usually happen at the back of the diaper, and baby poop ends up all over the baby’s back, clothes, hair, and even on you.