Ask the expert

‘My baby’s nappies never seem to be the same colour twice. What’s normal – and how will I know if something’s up?’ Petra, the panicky poop-watcher, Jumeirah Islands

It’s amazing how interesting the smelly stuff becomes once you have kids. But, as the saying goes, you generally get out of your kids what you put in, and their digestive tracts are no exception. However, funny-coloured ‘mucky’ can be an indication that little tums aren’t quite as settled as they could be, so there are some pointers.

Colicky babies often produce green-tinged poops – usually accompanied by lots of knee-drawing, parps and grumbles. But green poo isn’t implicitly a cause for concern, says Dr Michael Klein, a specialist in internal medicine and gastroenterology at the Health Bay PolyClinic in Umm Suqeim. ‘Often it’s simply that the food has passed more quickly through the baby’s digestive tract and the stool contains more bile. If the child is well and healthy, that’s the most important thing. Sometimes, however, green stools can be a sign of bowel inflammation, which causes faster transit.’ He explains that checking the colour and the texture of ‘constitutionals’ regularly is particularly important when it comes to babies and small children.

The healthy deposit of a contented breast-fed baby is, according to Dr Klein, creamy mustard yellow, while older tots on solids can produce all manner of colourful creations, depending on what they’re consuming. Tomatoes, carrots, beetroot, spinach, and avocados can all make interesting potty results and, though parents should check consistency and colour, they should also make mental notes on what junior had for his last meal to avoid unnecessary panics.

‘But there are some colours you should consider a warning,’ says Dr Klein. ‘Pale or white stools can be an indication of liver problems, while black or reddish stools might be caused by bleeding.’ All these things do need to be checked out by a doctor – especially if junior seems under the weather as well, he adds.

Runny ploppies should also be monitored, although if the trots are not accompanied by vomiting and baby seems perfectly chirpy, you can safely wait for 24 hours before booking a clinic appointment. ‘Just make sure their fluid intake is good,’ says Dr Klein.

And if you do decide that perhaps little Mildred’s ‘accomplishment’ requires an extra pair of eyes to check it over, don’t hesitate to scoop out a couple of spoonfuls and pop it into a clean, plastic container. If this just so happens to be on a Friday night (isn’t it always?) and you can’t see the family doc until Sunday, keep the sample in the fridge. ‘But make sure it’s not too near the food to avoid cross contamination,’ advises Dr Klein.

We also suggest labelling the tub for added safety. After all, the last thing we’d want is dad rooting in the fridge for some Dijon and getting more than he bargained for in his sandwiches.
Dr Michael Klein is a specialist in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology at Health Bay Polyclinic, Umm Suqeim; 04 348 7140.

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