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Pregnancy & ChildbirthWellness & PreventionTreatment & Care

Baby Care: Diaper Matters

Your baby’s diaper should be very wet 6 to 8 times in 24 hours. If you are breastfeeding, your baby may not have this many wet diapers a day until your milk comes in.

When the baby is wet or soiled, clean the diaper area with a warm washcloth using a mild soap and water, and then rinse the area with clean water.

Diaper rashes can usually be avoided by carefully washing the diaper area, using a clean cloth for each diaper change, and washing washcloths and diapers properly. Do not use powders and baby oils. If your baby’s bottom looks red or sore, leave the diaper off and expose the area to the air frequently. Your pediatrician may recommend an ointment to treat diaper rash.

If dark pink to orange or rust-colored areas are noticed on the diaper, these are probably uric acid crystals, which are common.

Diapering Girls
Baby girls may have a swollen bottom and may have a white mucus discharge from the vagina for several days after birth. The discharge may even be blood-tinged within the first week from the effects of the mother’s hormones. This is normal and not a cause for concern. Gentle washing of the outside area (vulva) and wiping from front to back are all that are necessary.

Diapering Boys
When washing baby boys, be sure to lift the scrotum to remove any stool. Even small amounts of leftover stool can cause irritation.

Stools or Bowel Movements
Babies should have at least 2 bowel movements, or stools, each day. The stools are usually a yellow or brown color. The bowel movements of breastfed babies will appear loose and may happen more frequently than those of a bottle-fed baby. It is normal for your baby to grunt, strain, and turn red when having a bowel movement. This does not mean the baby is constipated.

Signs of Constipation
If your baby has no bowel movement for 4 days, notify the pediatrician. The doctor will tell you how to treat your baby’s constipation. If your baby is fussy, does not eat well, or cries for a long time when having a bowel movement, call your pediatrician.

The formula or the iron in formula does not cause constipation.

If your baby does not have many stools but is eating well and does not seem uncomfortable, do not worry.

Diarrhea is a large increase in the number of stools your baby usually has or stools that become looser in consistency. Diarrhea can also be watery stools or stools with a water ring around them. (Normally, stools are soft. Some are mushy or pasty.)

If your baby has several watery stools one right after the other within 6 to 8 hours, call the pediatrician immediately. This can be a symptom of an illness or food intolerance. It causes babies to dehydrate (lose fluid) easily and quickly.

The signs of dehydration include:

  • Dry lips and mouth or thick saliva.
  • Small amounts of dark urine in the diaper.
  • Soft spot on the head (fontanel) sinks in when your baby is held upright or in a sitting position.
  • Skin forms a “tent” when pinched, and stays pinched up.
  • Dark circles around the baby’s eyes.
  • Baby may be fussy, sleepy, not hungry, or hard to wake up.
  • Call your pediatrician if your baby shows any of these signs.