What is meconium?
Changing your newborn’s very first poo nappy can be disconcerting, to say the least. Baby poo is quite different from adult poo, and the first few poos your baby passes are different from any other poo they’ll ever do! Called meconium, this black or greenish-black, tarlike, sticky first poo (or first few poos) is made up of everything your baby ingested in the womb – amniotic fluid, mucous, lanugo hair, water….
Meconium usually doesn’t smell very strong, but it is the colour and consistency that is off-putting to inexperienced parents and parents who have been there, done that alike! Dark, brownish-black or greenish-black, it is also extremely sticky and tarlike, and quite difficult to remove from your newborn’s tender bottom, not to mention any clothing it may happen to touch. Midwives recommend using a cotton pad (the kind you would use to remove your makeup) or cotton balls dabbed in baby oil to wipe meconium from your baby’s skin. Once your baby’s bottom is clean, putting a thin layer of nappy balm or nappy ointment on their bottom may help the next meconium poo not to stick to their skin as much and be easier to clean.
Meconium is usually stored in your baby’s bowel until after they are born, to be passed in the first few days of life. However, if your water breaks prior to or during labour and you notice that it is not clear, but is greenish or brownish coloured, or is clear with green or brown streaks, this means that your baby has had a bowel movement either prior to or during labour, and can be a sign that your baby is possibly in distress. Meconium in your waters is more prevalent if your baby is overdue, and what’s concerning is that it may be inhaled into your baby’s lungs. This is called meconium aspiration syndrome and can lead to serious complications to your baby’s breathing and health.
During the first few days after your baby’s birth, you should notice their meconium poo changing colour and consistency, depending on whether you are breastfeeding or formula-feeding your baby. Breastfed babies’ poo will start to be mustard-yellow and seedy or curdy, while formula-fed babies will have brown, pastelike poo. If your baby is beyond the newborn stage and has been having “normal” poos for a while, but you suddenly find a meconium-like, dark, tarry poo in their nappy, visit your GP, as this is not meconium and could be a cause for concern.