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Diapering: The Good, The Bad and The Stinky

Expectant parents are often teased about two things – lack of sleep and the exorbitant number of diapers they will need to change. Both are very real parts of a baby’s first year.

The good news is that frequent diaper changes are a positive indicator. Pediatricians and lactation consultants treat the number of wet and poopy diapers your baby produces as a barometer of how well-nourished and hydrated he or she is. In fact, doctors and doulas will often give breastfeeding moms a chart which they can use to record the number of wet and poopy diapers their baby produces each day. Parents can compare their baby’s “output” against a general guideline.

While your image of those first days with your newborn probably never included a poop chart, you will be amazed at how reassuring such note-taking can be in those early weeks. In the haze of feeding, changing and trying to decode your newborn’s cries and needs, it can be difficult to remember details such as how often your baby wet or soiled his diapers. You will also find yourself second-guessing if your baby is indeed getting enough to eat, especially if you are breastfeeding.

Of course, approach such charting with the healthy perspective that every baby is different and that the guidelines are just norms not goals. However, if you notice significant deviations from the baseline your doctor provides, you should raise the issue with your pediatrician.Together, you will be able to ensure that your baby is indeed getting what he needs to thrive.

Poop - What to Expect

In terms of diapering, most babies experience a similar pattern of bowel movements in their first few days of life. If you are not a big fan of TMI and would rather just be surprised when you open your baby’s diaper each day, skip on over to the Diapering Safety Section of this article.

  • If you are not easily put off by the description of bodily fluids, read on….
  • Day 1 - a baby will typically produce one wet diaper and one black, tarry stool
  • Day 2 - two wet diapers and two brownish-black tarry stools
  • Day 3 - pediatricians like to see three wet diapers and three brownish to green stools
  • Day 4 - The color at this point begins to vary depending on the baby and the method of feeding but, in general, the stool becomes lighter in color now that the meconium has already been excreted. Day four should bring approximately four wet diapers and four stools.
  • Day 5 and beyond - lactation consultants and pediatricians like to see five soaking wet diapers and three stools a day.

Formula-Fed vs. Breastfed Babies

It makes sense that what goes in your baby will affect what comes out. Your choice to either formula-feed or breastfeed will affect the frequency and appearance of your baby’s poop. Many breastfeeding moms find that their baby poops after every feeding. Breastfed baby poop tends to be yellow, green or brown with a looser, seedy consistency. Formula-fed babies tend to produce poop that is pastier and a darker brown color.

Whichever you choose – formula or breastmilk - you can expect to change A LOT of diapers each day. The average parent goes through 8-10 diapers daily in that first month or two.However, all those diaper-changing sessions will likely turn into a fun time for you and your baby. With such a captive audience, it presents a good opportunity to talk and sing to your newborn. As he or she gets older, diaper changes will include lots of tummy tickles and rounds of peek-a-boo.

Diapering Safety

Many parents change their baby on a diaper-changing table or on top of a bed. When you do, make sure to have all your supplies with you so that you are not tempted to step away from your baby to grab anything that is missing. While your newborn may seem too small and immobile to squirm or roll off the diaper-changing surface, it can and often does happen. Such a fall can be dangerous. So, if you find yourself ready to change your baby’s diaper and discover that the wipes are in another room, make sure to pick your baby up and bring him with you.


Keeping your Changing Pad Clean - Changing diapers can be messy work. You can keep the cover of your diaper-changing pad clean by laying a cloth diaper on top of the pad cover. Then, if you soil the cloth diaper during a messy change, you can remove it and replace it with another. This will save you from having to wash the entire cover every time you change a particularly messy diaper.

Minimize the Upstairs/Downstairs Dash - Keep a stash of diaper supplies on each level of your home so that you do not have to go upstairs or downstairs every time your baby needs a change. A small box with diapers, wipes and diaper rash cream should do the trick. A small diaper-changing pad will make things easier as well.

Changing your Baby on the Go - Buy a roll of poop bags from your baby supply store. Doggie poop bags from the pet store work just as well! Keep a roll in your diaper bag and in your car. Invariably, you will find yourself changing a poopy diaper in the car or when you are out and about and this will keep the mess contained until you can find a garbage can.

Worth the Mess

Yes, as a new parent, you will change a lot of diapers in that first year. While that might sound exhausting, you might actually find it to be a special time for you and your baby. Changing your baby’s diaper requires the two of you to work together in a sense and is a metaphor for your relationship as parent and child. When your child needs you, when they are uncomfortable and messy and not able to take care of themselves, you are there, ready to lend a hand – literally. The magic of parenthood isn’t necessarily in the milestones. The everyday tasks and experiences are what ultimately make the journey so amazing and memorable.