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Baby

How to clean meconium

This simple, gentle solution will make diaper changes a whole lot easier.

By Today's Parent
Photo: iStockphoto Photo: iStockphoto

Baby wipes and warm cloths tend to just smear the tar-like first newborn poop around. Instead, try using olive oil on a clean cloth. It gently removes the mess and acts as a protective barrier that makes the next cleanup that much easier.

Is green poop normal? Here's a guide to your baby's poop colour.

Mustard yellow

Why: Mustard yellow is a very standard colour for breastfed babies. The "seed" texture is from partially digested fat and calcium (entirely common). What to do: Keep doing what you're doing!

How to clean meconiumIllustration by Dave Quiggle

Yellow-brown

Why: Formula-fed babies commonly have pasty yellow-brown poos. "Seed" texture is common here, too. What to do: Keep doing what you're doing!

How to clean meconiumIllustration by Dave Quiggle

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Black

Why: Sticky, tar-like newborn poops are meconium. Though alarming, black stool could also be dried or digested blood from mom's cracked nipples. What to do: Meconium will pass. For new breastfeeders, heal your nipples (check your latch, use your own milk to soothe and give the ladies plenty of air time). If you're concerned, your doctor can perform a quick test to see who the dried blood belongs to. 

How to clean meconiumIllustration by Dave Quiggle

White

Why: Poo gets its colour from bile, so an absence of colour—chalky white poo—means there isn't enough bile. This may signal a problem with the liver or gallbladder. What to do: If it's a one-off, don't worry. But if it's more than one bowel movement in a row, chalky poo should send you to the doctor.

How to clean meconiumIllustration by Dave Quiggle

Red

Why: Unless your baby has been gorging on beets, the red in your baby's poo may be blood. Red specks or streaks may be a sign of a reaction or allergy, which affects both breastfed and formula-fed babies. It may also indicate an intestinal problem. If your baby is constipated–passing hard, pellet-like stools–blood could be coming from small anal tears. What to do: See your doctor if you've ruled out constipation as a source of blood in your baby's stool. 

How to clean meconiumIllustration by Dave Quiggle

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Green

Why: A very common colour, green means stool is passing through the gut more quickly than usual. What to do: If your baby is feeding well and happy, and shows no signs of discomfort, don't sweat the green stuff. 

How to clean meconiumIllustration by Dave Quiggle

A version of this article appeared in our February 2016 issue with the headline, "How to deal with meconium," p. 40.

This article was originally published on Jan 21, 2016

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