Uh oh, we can feel you cringing already. Buckle up, because today we’re talking about your kid’s poop. Trust us, it’s important. From the moment your child is born until they’re about 13 years old, their gut will work overtime to create a balanced microbiota filled with good bacteria. When “bad bacteria” overpowers the “good bacteria” it’s common to experience digestive issues ranging from diarrhea to constipation. Unfortunately, people are pretty afraid to talk about poop, so the topic can feel mysterious to parents. Fear not! We’re going to give you some tips so you can be on poop patrol—explaining what to look out for and how you can improve digestion so potty time goes smoothly.
Everyone poops… differently
Poop can be a wide range of colors and textures, most of which we’ll talk about a little later. But across the board, it consists of the bacteria, proteins and undigested food released by the intestines. Poop can be a difficult subject to teach your kids about, in part because adults have such a difficult time talking about it!
Keeping digestion normal (or at least, as normal as possible) for your kids is crucial as they grow up, because healthy habits can prevent problems down the road. If a child experiences pain or discomfort, often associated with constipation, they might start “stool-withholding,” in other words, refusing to go poop. Pediatric gastroenterologist Deborah Goldman, MD. explains that “stool withholding, in which a child avoids having bowel movements, is a fairly common issue that we encounter.” She goes on, “Kids eventually get toilet trained, but it’s important for parents to address this problem right away because it can lead to other issues down the line.”
So, let’s toss the stigma and talk about poop shall we!
The “good” poop
Dr. James Landers assures parents that “There’s a wide range of normal,” when it comes to healthy poop. So don’t worry about getting too over-analytical about it (not that you want to in the first place). Generally, healthy poops can fall in this range:
- Yellow-brown or green-brown: common in breastfed babies
- Pasty, light brown: common in formula fed babies
- Green: babies who are eating a lot of spinach, or are taking iron supplements
Consistency is key when it comes to monitoring your child’s poop. If your child’s digestive system is producing poop that resembles “mushy blobs, thin snakes, or soft-serve ice cream, all is well. Pudding, a fresh cow patty, hummus — all good, too,” explains Steve Hodges, MD. We know, it’s not the prettiest topic. But aren’t we teaching our kids it’s what’s on the inside that matters, anyways?
The “bad” poop
By definition, constipation in adults is anything less than three bowel movements per week. But even severely constipated children can poop up to one time per day! Steve Hodges, MD., tells parents that relying on the consistency of poop is a much more reliable way to tell if your child is constipated.
Essentially, anything “firm and formed,” or smaller (or larger) than a few inches, is an indicator that your child is constipated.
When it comes to color, as long as nothing is pale, white, or red, you’re likely in the clear. Like we said, the color of healthy poop can have a pretty wide range. However, white poop may indicate a clogged bile duct, which requires immediate doctor’s attention. And red poop is also concerning, unless you’ve been feeding your child foods with red dye, in which case, move right along!
Give poop troubles the boot
As a parent, avoiding constipation is key for multiple reasons. Firstly, constipation can result in painful bowel movements, which might instill a fear of using the bathroom in your children. And secondly, constipation is a sign that things in the gut aren’t doing so great, which isn’t what we’re about at Jettie. So if you’re noticing your child is exhibiting signs of constipation, it’s time to bring out all the stops.
Right off the bat you should make sure you’re feeding your child a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Oh, and lots of water! Poor diet and a lack of exercise might result in constipation in children, so make sure they’re eating well and challenge them to run laps around the backyard… or something (we don’t judge).
Sometimes, getting the necessary nutrients into their little bodies can feel impossible (you want dinosaur chicken nuggets again?). Dr. Landers also suggests probiotics as a way of improving digestion for children. Probiotics are “meant to replenish or foster the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut,” and he “recommends this to patients, especially if they have been on an antibiotic– which can kill healthy bacteria in its mission to eradicate bad bacteria.
As a parent, understanding your child’s digestive system might be a challenge. But we promise, it’s more awkward for you than it is for them (throw some potty humor in there and you’ll win them over). Explaining that bowel movements are an indication of good health is how you’ll build a foundation of positive digestive habits. So the next time you’re looking in the toilet and deciding if their poop is giving you more of a “hummus” or “grape” vibe, just remember, their tiny guts need you.