It’s common for baby to pass the first stool at time of birth or shortly after. . .and there’s no doubt, it’s icky stuff! Meconium is thick and pasty, and usually a dark greenish-back color. Robin Williams once described it as a “cross between velcro and toxic waste,” and he wasn’t just being funny! Why does it look like this? Because baby’s intestines have been accumulating this gunk for a good portion of your pregnancy, and it’s a concentration of the solid parts of things floating around in the aminiotic fluid. Baby is a filtration system, working to keep the amniotic fluid fresh, clear and clean. Unbelievably, baby “recycles” his amniotic fluid every three hours or so by a process of swallowing and urinating. Meconium is what’s left, composed of bile, shed skin cells, vernix, mucous, and lanugo (the fine down hair that covers baby’s body). Usually baby doesn’t pass meconium in utero, and this keeps the amniotic fluid healthy and clear.

Tar Bubble

Some rights reserved by karindalziel (via Flickr)

Now that we’ve established what we’re dealing with, how do we deal with it? It stains, it’s sticky (but not really stinky), and tends to escape a newborn’s diaper, no matter how expertly it’s put on. The good news is that meconium only lasts a few days. Breastfed baby stool gradually lightens to green, then yellow, and by day 4 or 5 baby will have mustard-colored, loose seedy stools, which are generally quite inoffensive. While you’re waiting, you should make sure you change any meconium diapers promptly to avoid leaks (the volume can be astounding — you’d never imagine so much poop can come out of such a tiny thing), and squirt a little olive oil on a wipe to prevent the next round of stool from sticking to baby’s bottom. I’ve found stains are best handled by spraying off the solids and putting the item right into a bucket to soak with warm water and a couple scoops of OxiClean before laundering. Meconium. . .”loads” of fun!

One Response to Meconium: A sticky situation

  1. lemn says:

    Really worthwhile write-up. Pay awareness