Meconium: Your Baby’s First Poo
The first few hours and days after your baby’s birth can be a magical time as you finally get to hold and gaze at your newborn after so many months of waiting.
Of course, not every moment is idyllic. Some aspects of parenting are a little messier and, for most people, poo falls firmly into this category! Still, even the messy moments are an important part of the parenthood adventure that lies ahead.
Meconium is your baby’s first poo. Read on to find out precisely what meconium is, where it comes from and how to deal with it.
What Is Meconium?
In a nutshell, meconium is your baby’s first poo. It’s a nearly odourless, greenish-black, gooey substance that’s passed during your newborn baby’s first few bowel movements, usually during the first 24 hours after birth.
Meconium looks and smells very different from the regular baby poo you’ll be finding in your little one’s nappies before long, which will usually be a lighter colour with a less gooey consistency.
What Is Meconium Made Of?
You may be wondering why your newborn baby even needs to do a poo at this point, given that he or she has hardly had a meal yet.
Well, at around 14 weeks of your pregnancy, or perhaps even a little earlier, your little one started sipping the amniotic fluid that surrounded him or her in the amniotic sac.
Practicing these swallowing motions helped your foetus’s digestive system to develop in preparation for life outside the uterus.
A lot of this fluid was passed out again as urine, but some — along with a bunch of skin cells, lanugo hairs and various other particles floating around in the amniotic fluid — remained in your baby’s intestines.
All these ingredients built up inside his or her bowel to make the gooey, tar-like poo known as meconium.
How to Deal With Your Newborn Baby’s First Poo
Meconium – your baby’s first poo – comes soon after your baby is born, usually within the first 24 hours. This might happen before or after the first nappy goes on, so depending on the timing of that first bowel movement you may get a closer look than you bargained for!
You can use gentle baby wipes to help clean up your baby. Once you’ve done that, a comfortable, absorbent nappy can go on.
Meconium has a tendency to stick to things, so – no matter how careful you are – you might get some on your clothes or your newborn baby’s first bodysuits, especially if you’re still getting the hang of changing your baby’s nappy.
Although it might not happen for a while yet, experiencing that first blowout is a rite of passage for many new parents.
When Will Your Baby’s Regular Poo Start?
It can take a few days for the meconium to pass out of your baby’s system. You’ll know when this happens, because your newborn baby’s poo will start to get runnier and lighter in colour.
For a day or two, your baby’s stools may turn a brownish-green as the meconium mingles with the first poo made from breast milk or formula.
After that, if you breastfeed your baby, his or her poo will eventually take on a yellow, mustard-like hue.
If you give your baby formula, your newborn’s regular poo may turn a darker, brownish shade (although some formula-fed baby’s poo can be dark green).
Keep in mind that the exact colour and consistency of your baby’s poo may vary, even from day to day.
When to Call Your Doctor
Meconium is usually harmless, if a little messy sometimes. However, on rare occasions it can cause complications, so it’s best to be aware of these just in case. Here are some examples of when to see your baby’s doctor:
No bowel movements. If your baby doesn’t have a bowel movement within the first 24 hours of being born, chances are this is just due to a meconium plug, which is just a bit of poo that has got stuck, but it’s important to rule out a very rare complication known as meconium ileus (which occurs when the meconium is too thick to pass), as this could be a sign of a more serious underlying condition.
Red poo. Traces of red aren’t necessarily blood – for example, harmless urate crystals, formed from concentrated urine can stain the poo red or orange – but it’s still important to have it checked out, just to be on the safe side.
White or pale poo. If you ever notice that your baby’s poo is white or clay-coloured, tell your baby’s doctor immediately so he can investigate the cause and rule out any rare conditions that might need urgent treatment.
Meconium Aspiration Syndrome
Sometimes newborns have their first bowel movement during birth or while still in the uterus. This means some of the meconium ends up in the amniotic fluid. This is known as ‘meconium staining’ of the fluid.
Rarely (only 2 out of every 1000 babies are affected by this) your baby may inhale some of the meconium-stained amniotic fluid, leading to a potentially serious complication called meconium aspiration syndrome (MAS), which is when meconium gets into the lungs.
Your doctor or midwife will be watching for any signs of this, and they know exactly what to do to make sure that your baby gets prompt and effective treatment, so as to prevent or minimise any long-term effects.
Most cases of meconium aspiration syndrome are not serious, and early treatment usually prevents complications. If it does happen to your baby, you can rest assured that your little one will be in good hands.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Before getting pregnant, you probably never thought that one day you’d be getting so excited about something like poo, but now the meconium lining those first few nappies is a reassuring sign that your little one’s digestive system is raring to go. You’ll treasure all these little firsts, even the gooey ones!
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