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Your Baby's Poop

  • Diaper close-up: A dark-greenish, sticky, tarlike goop. There isn't much of an odor, but it can smell like licorice.
    When it happens: Within 24 to 48 hours after birth
    What's going on? Meconium. The sludgy stuff is the waste that your newborn has been accumulating in utero -- amniotic fluid, cells that flake off his skin and hair, and intestinal secretions. It's excreted within 24 to 48 hours after birth, so your baby may pass most of his meconium in the hospital.
    How to handle: If you're nursing, your colostrum (the first milk) acts as a natural laxative; the initial poop may take longer for formula-fed babies. Meconium can be hard to wash off -- a dollop of petroleum jelly or mineral oil can help. If your newborn doesn't poop within a few days of being born, call your doctor.

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  • Diaper close-up: A yellow, creamy liquid, which can look like mustard mixed with cottage cheese. It may also be seedy and have a mild, sweet smell.
    When it happens: Breastfeeding
    What's going on? Breast milk gives your baby's poop its color, texture, and odor (some moms liken it to pancake batter or buttered popcorn). Breastfed babies tend to produce fewer stinkers than their formula-fed chums.
    How to handle: Don't rush to change your baby's diaper the minute you hear an explosion (yep, that's what it can sound like). Many babies have several small poops -- or, rather, squirts -- in succession, so wait a few minutes to be sure yours is done.

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  • Diaper close-up: Similar in color and consistency to creamy peanut butter. It may also have a strong ironlike odor.
    When it happens: Formula feeding
    What's going on? Thank formula for your baby's increasingly solid and stinkier poops. Don't worry about the number of bowel movements your baby has, as long as the stools are soft.
    How to handle: Don't freak out if the texture and color of your breastfed baby's poop changes when you add formula to her diet -- it's perfectly normal.

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  • Valerie Fischel

    Diaper close-up: Dark brown, firmer, and smellier.
    When it happens: Introducing solids
    What's going on? Prepare your nose for a workout as new foods are introduced. The appearance -- color, consistency -- may change day to day, depending in your baby's diet. What comes out can look eerily similar to how it appeared when it went in.
    How to handle: Introducing a new fruit might cause loose stools temporarily -- cutting back on it a bit should give your baby time to adjust. Dairy, meat, and egg yolks (to reduce allergy risk, talk with your doctor about when to serve egg whites) tend to produce the stinkiest poops.

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  • Diaper close-up: Brown, dry, and hard, either small and pelletlike, or large and knobby.
    When it happens: Constipation
    What's going on? Infrequent poops -- or difficulty passing them -- can affect all babies, though exclusively breastfed infants are usually spared. The pain that it causes can make your baby withhold stools, worsening the problem.
    How to handle: For bottle-fed infants, a formula switch may get things back on track. If your baby is eating solids, ask the doctor about giving her high-fiber foods (prunes, pears, peaches, plums) or a teaspoon of juice.

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  • Diaper close-up: Loose, watery stools.
    When it happens: Diarrhea
    What's going on? Diarrhea is often caused by a virus, so your child may also be fussy or feverish, in addition to having the runs.
    How to handle: To prevent dehydration, which is common with diarrhea, begin serving your baby an oral rehydration solution as soon as she gets the runs, and call your pediatrician.

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