Poop - it’s probably not your favorite topic, but it is a good indicator of your child’s digestive health. But you have to know the signs in order to see them, so here’s what you can learn about your kid’s health from their poop.
What to look for
There are a few different indicators to consider, but the most important are frequency, consistency, color and size. In general, the parameters for what is considered normal and healthy are pretty broad, so don’t get too caught up on exactness.
Children should have, on average, one bowel movement per day. However, two or three times is nothing to be concerned about, as long as they pass easily enough and are solid. And while you may think frequency would be the main indicator of whether or not your child is constipated, consistency will actually tell you more.
Are you familiar with the Bristol Stool Scale? It’s a chart for describing the shape and consistency of bowel movements, and will be incredibly helpful in analyzing your child’s poops.
Types 1 and 2 on the chart (separate hard lumps and lumpy sausage shaped) are indicators that your child is probably constipated. Types 3 and 4 are the healthy poops - solid, but soft. And types 5, 6 and 7 - mushy, ragged, fluffy and watery - lean towards diarrhea.
3. Color + Size
The stool color itself will vary, but there are a couple things to watch out for. Blood, mucus or grease could be a sign of some health issues. As for size, your child shouldn’t be regularly clogging toilets or bleeding when they have a bowel movement. So if any of these occur, it’s best to consult your pediatrician.
So what causes constipation and diarrhea, and how can you avoid them?
Constipation can be a result of an unhealthy diet and insufficient exercise. However, kids themselves can also be the reason. Holding in a bowel movement can cause the stool to harden, making it more difficult and painful to pass.
It’s important to establish a bathroom routine early, to prevent constipation from becoming a cycle. Keep your child on the potty until they go, even if it means you have to be there too and keep them entertained.
Other signs of constipation include stomach pain, pee accidents and bed wetting, and recurring urinary tract infections in young girls.
A diet full of whole grains, fiber, fresh fruits and vegetables, and beans can help keep your child’s digestive system healthy and regular. You can also add food with probiotics to their diet to help, like Yakult, Activia or GoodBelly.
Diarrhea for less than two weeks typically signifies an infection. However, if it lasts more than a month, you’ll want to consult your pediatrician. Chronic diarrhea could be a sign of lactose intolerance or other dietary issues.
When your child does have diarrhea, it can cause them to become dehydrated, so make sure to give them plenty of water and Potty Wise. You can also help their bowel movements get back to normal with a diet of bananas, rice, applesauce and toast.
From diapers to potty training to the school age years, monitoring your child’s poop will help you keep tabs on their digestive health and take action when needed.