Poop, Spit-up, and Other Yucky Stuff

How can something so beautiful make such a mess? We'll help you cope with infant ickies.
diaper change

Of all the things you expected to learn as a new mom, controlling your gag reflex probably wasn't at the top of the list. "When we dream of having a baby, it's all the lovely things we think of: the sweet-smelling skin, the cute clothes," says Rallie McAllister, M.D., a family physician in Lexington, Kentucky, and coauthor of The Mommy MD Guide to Your Baby's First Year.

"But then there's spit-up, poop, and all sorts of smelly yuck. It catches a lot of moms off guard." In other words, being grossed out by your little one now and then is perfectly normal. We'll help you handle the inevitable grodiness with grace.

Spit-up

What's normal All babies spit up sometimes. They have an immature lower esophageal sphincter, so the flap that separates the stomach from the esophagus doesn't always close completely. "Babies don't hold their food down like adults do," says Dr. McAllister. It's alarming when your angel seems to upchuck half a feeding, but it's probably nothing to worry about. "As long as your baby is comfortable and happy, that's just part of the process -- an occupational hazard of being a mother."

What to do Keep a supply of burp cloths on hand (and shoulder) for quick clean-ups, and invest in some bibs that will shield her rompers. At bath time, take extra care to wash the folds around her neck, because spit-up stuck in crevices can irritate her skin (and cause a stink). Positioning your baby at a 30-degree angle during feedings and frequently burping her can help her keep food down, says Vinita Seru, M.D., a pediatrician with North Seattle Pediatrics. The good news: Most babies start to spew less frequently at around 6 months, as their GI system matures.

When to call the doc If Baby cries when she spits up or she isn't gaining weight, talk to your pediatrician. The two most common culprits are gastroesophageal reflux (treatable with infant-friendly heartburn medication) or a food allergy. If it is an allergy, you'll need to revisit what she's eating or, if you're breastfeeding, what you're eating. Among the most common triggers: seafood, dairy, coffee, alcohol, and hot peppers. Try eliminating them one at a time for seven to ten days, and see if you notice a difference. Or if your little one is bottle-feeding, ask your doctor about switching formulas. More worrisome is when Baby's not only spitting up but projectile vomiting. If this happens (even once), she could have pyloric stenosis, an obstruction of the lower part of the stomach that affects 3 of every 1,000 babies. Call a doc!

Poop

What's normal For the first few months, your baby's diaper is like a box of chocolates -- you never know what you're gonna get. A newborn's poop changes from black tar-like meconium to seedy mustard stools to brown or greenish mush, depending on what he's eating and how his intestines are processing it. "Moms and dads are, like, 'Oh my gosh, what is this?'?" laughs Erika Landau, M.D., assistant clinical professor of pediatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York City, and coauthor of The Essential Guide to Baby's First Year. "It's normal newborn stool!" And it makes an appearance at almost every diaper change. Food travels through your baby fairly quickly, especially if he is breastfeeding, because breast milk is designed to be super easy to digest.

What to do After a bowel movement, you know to clean the area thoroughly with wipes (front to back for girls). Then play a game of peekaboo before you put on a new dipe to allow Baby's skin to dry. (If you have a boy, cover his crotch with a cloth so you don't get a sprinkle!) "Fungus and yeast grow in dark, damp places like the diaper area," Dr. McAllister says. Apply cream to prevent diaper rash.

When to call the doc Because your average newborn is a poop machine, diarrhea can be hard to identify. Watch for liquidy stools that soak through the diaper five or six times a day and that smell, um, horrible. The odor is an indication that stool is moving through the digestive tract too fast for nutrients to be absorbed. If your tot cries or seems in pain when he poops, and if it resembles rabbit pellets, he's probably constipated. Either condition warrants a call to the doc, as does blood in Baby's stool.

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