Meconium: Your Baby's First Poop after Birth

Baby’s First Poop (Meconium)

When your child finally makes his grand entry to this world, he is extremely vulnerable and is highly dependent on you. As new parents, you would be curious about all the new things associated with your baby. But all of them may not be pleasant to watch. Some babies tend to vomit after birth while nearly all babies have their first poop after birth. That first poop can be quite a shocker for most parents because that isn’t the poop we all expect it to be like. While doctors and nurses might be fine with it, it might take you a while to get to terms with it. A better understanding of meconium or baby’s first poop will put your anxiety to rest.

What is Meconium?

Meconium is a medical term that is used to describe the very first poop of a baby after his birth. One of the strangest things about it is the absence of smell on its part, which is what makes it comparatively sterile as compared to the usual stools. This is primarily because your child has only had amniotic fluid as an intake while he was in your womb. The body processes it, making it a combination of salts and acids of the stomach, along with a bunch of other substances that have been present since your baby was merely 16 weeks old in the womb.

At times, babies do end up excreting out the meconium from their body even before they are born. This results in the meconium floating within the womb, mixing with the amniotic fluid, giving it a yellowish-greenish colour. This can be quite dangerous for the child since he might be at the risk of breathing in the meconium via the amniotic fluid and developing a meconium aspiration syndrome. Doctors generally opt for amnioinfusion or a suction technique to pull it out in order to protect the baby.

Do All Babies Have Meconium?

Absolutely. It is a natural process of the baby’s birth, just the way pregnancy is a natural way of the foetal growth to form a baby. Meconium also serves another function for the baby by keeping the large intestine open properly. The expulsion of meconium is what sets all the process properly, which is why it exists even if a baby is premature or has any defects.

A mother cleans her newborn baby's poop

What Does Your Baby’s First Poop Look Like?

The appearance of meconium often makes parents worry about their baby. While poop generally has a brownish-yellowish colour and a specific texture, meconium resembles a tar-like substance, which is extremely thick and dark black in colour. This undergoes a change only when you breastfeed your child, leading him to have a green-coloured poop, which gradually morphs into a yellowish one.

What Causes Colour Changes in Baby’s Poop?

Once the meconium exits the body, the outer air finds its way into the intestinal tract. This stimulates the formation of E.coli bacteria, which thrive within the bowels. The presence of the bacteria is what causes the poop to turn brownish-yellow, and their activity gives the disgusting smell to the poop. The colostrum present in breastmilk further brings out the colour. Most of these colours might jump between green and brown, which is fine. However, the presence of white or red colour may indicate the existence of problems in a child.

When Does a Newborn Pass His First Stool

In general, the babies born after a full-term pregnancy, excrete the tarry black meconium within the first 24 hours of the delivery. Some babies might take a day or two more to do so, passing the stools in batches until it starts getting greenish. The passage of meconium is a tad difficult and extended in case of premature babies since they require extra effort to push it out.

What If Meconium Does Not Pass?

In a few cases, babies may not pass meconium even when more than 72 hours have passed. This usually indicates the presence of an obstruction in the path, causing bowels to fail in pushing out the meconium. This is rather dangerous for a baby since it can manifest in the form of jaundice in the child, which even gets severe at times.

A newborn baby crying

What Is Meconium Ileus & When Does it Occur

Ileus is termed as the lower region of the body’s colon. When the meconium lodges itself in that area and fails to proceed further, it causes meconium ileus. This usually occurs when the meconium is a lot more thick and sticky as compared to the usual ones, ultimately resulting in an abdomen that is distended.

The reasons for this is usually the presence of a genetic condition termed as cystic fibrosis. The results of this condition are usually a pain in the abdomen as well as constipation in the baby. Not all babies with cystic fibrosis suffer from meconium ileus but the vice versa can be held true.

Handling meconium ileus is possible only when it is diagnosed appropriately. It can be detected prior to the delivery if spotted during radiography or the ultrasound checkups. The only way to handle meconium ileus is to administer an enema, which, if fails to work, might require the need for surgical intervention.

What is a Meconium Plug?

Blocking of the lower ileus is one condition. There is also a possibility where the meconium might be stuck within some region of the colon itself. This condition is observed in 1 out of 1000 babies, however, this is not the same condition as the mucus plug.

The symptoms of meconium plug are quite evident in a newborn baby. The major ones are the absence of any meconium even after the passage of 36-48 hours, further accompanied by a loss of appetite, vomiting green coloured liquid, and general irritation. The doctor might choose to undertake either an ultrasound or a radiography to locate where the meconium is lodged within the colon or conduct a biopsy of the rectum or opt for the application of a contrast enema.

Another reason for meconium plug to be a possibility in a child is the presence of pregnancy-induced diabetes in the mother. This usually results in the baby being born with a colon that is abnormally small on the left portion. It generally requires no intervention and the colon begins to develop in a normal manner, once it gets rid of the meconium. A genetic condition termed as Hirschsprung’s disease, which is quite rare in children, could also result in such a situation.


Tips to Deal with Meconium Stool

Once your child excretes out the meconium, it is a good sign for his health. But taking care of it is not as easy as usual poop, given its weird texture. Thankfully, there are a few tips that can help you clean it up efficiently.

  • Some parents might choose to opt for a cloth throughout the baby’s life. The meconium can possibly leave a few stains on the cloth as well as on the diaper. Once you clean it up, you can make use of a baking soda and peroxide combination, using it to wash the cloth. Let it dry nicely in the sun.
  • Since meconium can leave a lot of sticky stains and make it difficult to clean up, you might choose to avoid cloth diapers for the initial days until his poop returns to normalcy. You can use the usual disposable diapers until then.
  • When your baby excretes the meconium, there is a good chance it will create a mess and remain stuck to his skin. Use easy wipe tissues with some olive oil to clean it up so that you don’t end up irritating the skin. The smell of the oil will be a good cover-up as well.

When to Consult a Paediatrician

Most of the times, the doctors and nurses in the hospital will be present to take care of the baby in case of any problem while passing meconium. Once that has been successfully done, your doctor might allow you to return home. These are still the initial days of your baby’s growth and certain precautions need to be taken as well. Don’t hesitate to contact your paediatrician if you seem to observe any of the following conditions.

  • Your baby is passing stools but the texture seems to be quite hard and dry. This might make it difficult for your little one to poop, which will be evident if your baby cries while pooping.
  • At times, the poop of the baby might be combined with some red shades or even blood drops. This is a serious sign and could indicate an injury within the body or an inflammation present in the intestine. Either of these conditions needs to be addressed immediately.
  • There have been observations when a baby who is younger than 21 days does not poop for more than a day or so. In some cases, this is usually normal and is not a problem as long as he continues to drink milk normally and doesn’t complain about it. He might poop the next day. If this doesn’t seem to be the case, you might need to contact your doctor immediately.

A baby’s first poop after birth is one of the important signs that doctors generally rely on to get an assurance that the baby’s bodily functions are proceeding ahead in a normal fashion. All the numerous substances and amniotic fluid present within the baby’s body need to find its way outside so that he can start adapting to the new life lying ahead for him. Most babies do tend to pass meconium rather easily within the first couple of days after birth, while some other may face a problem with that. If the stools that follow are hard and thick, feel free to use an ointment on your baby’s anus to provide him some relief.

Also Read: Baby Poop Frequency

Previous article «
Next article »