With so few ways for your baby to communicate, any information can be the focus of a parent’s attention. Which is why poop becomes such a big deal! But very few people find poop interesting. So when parenthood comes, it is an unnerving and disgusting process to be initiated into the world of this topic.
After the bewilderment, there are some comic elements to having so many conversations about poop. Bathroom humor is said to be the lowest form of fun, but it is universal – if you have a baby, you have to laugh with the sheer disregard of their farts, poops, spit-ups, and belches. They are little noise machines! And even more comical, is the point that you are excited about those sounds!
Proof of a well functioning digestive system can get taken for granted. Any parent who has worried about constipation its horrible side effects are not embarrassed by their excitement for loud and rolling diaper deposits. The alternative is a stopped-up baby in pain, who can’t get comfortable, and probably isn’t sleeping. All that matters is helping them get through until they can find some relief.
So what are we talking about when we mean a well functioning digestive system? It’s the frequency and consistency of your child’s excretion is in the normal range for their age.
Most first time parents don’t know what is normal for a newborn, and sometimes normal poops can cause a bit of concern.
Poop Changes The First Week:
On the day your baby is born, their digestion track is getting a wake-up call. All waste is removed through the placenta while in utero. Day one is the beginning of their bowels waking up and working out. Sometimes a baby poops while in the uterus. This is called meconium.
The first poop your baby excretes is thick, blackish in color, and a very hard to clean off their little buns. This first kind of poop has acted as a plug, and now that your baby is born and hopefully taking food by mouth, the first few poops will be resting in their body as they were growing.
At this point in your child’s life, their poop will have noticeably changed from black to a dark green color. This is a healthy transition, and proof their body is taking in nutrition. If your baby is being fed by your body, this is also the time when it is common for mature breastmilk to come in and replace colostrum.
By this point, your child’s poop will have turned to a yellow color, regardless if they are fed breastmilk or formula. Some formulas will result in a deep mustard color, which is also normal. The consistency can range from a seedy texture to more watery.
When keeping your baby’s diaper diary, it can be confusing if you should “count” a poop as a poop. As in, a minimal amount of poo is present but is visible. A general rule most providers follow is any bowel movement larger than a quarter “counts.” Breastfed babies will generally make 3-4 poopy diapers every day.
Other diaper findings:
In the first day or two, it is normal to find orange or red color in a baby’s urine. Sometimes some crystals work their way through the system, and it irritates the vessels along the way. Orange or red appearances in your baby’s stool are not regular and can indicate illness, injury, or an allergy, and you should call your doctor.
Sometimes, a baby’s stool will turn the color depending on the variance of their diet. This is more common after solid foods are a part of their diet. It is usual for stool consistency and color to change with the introduction of solid food. If there has not been a shift in diet, a change in stool color can be a sign of an allergic reaction.
If your baby is not pooping, it can be a cause for concern. Some ways to help your baby is to gently stretch their legs back and forth, “pedaling” them from a straight position to bent. You can also rub their tummy in a clockwise direction to help stimulate their bowels externally to help waste move through. Sometimes giving your baby a warm bath can help their muscles relax enough to allow a bowel movement. Gripe water can be helpful, or gas drops, such as Mylicon, if the other suggestions produce no results.
If the above options don’t help and your baby is still struggling, consult your doctor and ask about alternatives. It could be as simple as offering some food high in fiber if your baby is at a healthy stage. It could also be something more serious. Long term constipation can result in fecal impaction, which is incredibly uncomfortable and may require help to remove the impacted stool.
Walking through your door after making the drive home from the hospital is a surreal moment. You did it. You had a baby!
First things first, take a breath.
Two people are healing from birth, you and your baby. Your priorities feel like they shift from moment to moment, depending on who is awake and who is unhappy about it.
- While you have a minute to think about it, what do you need today?
- How is your body feeling?
- When was the last time you ate or drank water, or went to the bathroom?
You focus on your baby’s needs, but no one benefits if you neglect your care. Ideally, someone is also focused on you. You may feel overwhelmed and unable to focus, so being able to rely on someone for help, for big or small things, is a part of healing too.
But when you were thinking about what life would be like after you gave birth, you could imagine these sorts of needs and even the stressors. What is harder to imagine is how to heal when COVID-19 impacts everyone and everywhere.
Tasks like going to the grocery store are no longer straightforward, quick errands. Going to the first pediatrician appointment holds new risk. Having the in-person emotional and physical support of friends and family might be impossible.
Here is what some other families in the Chicago-area have done to help new parents during COVID-19:
Be Confined together:
Some Chicago families are choosing to be proactive and go through the stay at home order with other people. If there is space, going through two weeks of quarantine before the birth means that extra support is on hand. And the first weeks you are a small community, instead of alone. The benefits are huge. More hands to make light work of every task, and the ability to take all necessary precautions.
Family and Friends take over Food Transport:
Meal trains are nothing new in the world of caregiving. However, with more people home and looking for activities to keep their own families connected they are taking on new importance. Porch drop-offs and visits through windows and doors allow for connection, and again, increased safety for your family.
And if delivering prepared meals isn’t a good option, families have taken over the shopping and transport of groceries. Removing the risk of being in high contamination locations is a tremendous gift to a new family. Grocery pick-up and drop off, and the odd run to the pharmacy for cravings or supplies is a new way to show your love.
Working with dedicated support professionals, like doulas and newborn specialist:
If you are not able to have the care you planned from family or friends in the first weeks, doulas are still an option for help and support during COVID-19. Doulas work with immunocompromised populations every day and are seasoned at taking necessary precautions and limiting exposure for our client’s well being.
Having help during the day or night is not something you have to do without.
Here are some questions you’ll want to be sure to ask if you are looking for hired help during this time:
- What precautions does the doula take upon entering your home?
- How many families does the doula work with at a time?
- What/if any training has the doula taken?
- What safety measures does the doula use while working with your family?
The final weeks of pregnancy feel like they each have 18 days in them. They last forever. Your mind has a hard time thinking about anything but the fact that you won’t be pregnant soon, and you are curious if THIS moment, oh wait! This moment will be the last one where you feel this way as a PREGNANT PERSON!
There is so much anticipation! You can’t help it. Experts tell you to try to find distractions and to rest as much as possible. (It’s true! Ask me how I know!) But on the other side of those distractions are the same worries and anxious feelings.
“When is labor going to start, and how will I know if it’s labor?!”
Most people don’t know they are in labor – they think they are in labor. Especially if they have never been in labor before, having a contraction can feel to some like a massive cramp that catches their breath, to a slightly uncomfortable poke in the ribs. Every labor is different.
From a professional standpoint, labor is contractions that get longer, stronger, and closer together. If that isn’t happening, then you most likely aren’t in labor.
But just like everything that has to do with children, there are always exceptions!
- There is prodromal labor.
- There is Precipitous labor.
- There is “back labor.”
- There is “false labor.”
- There is early labor, active labor, and transitional labor.
So when you ask how do you know if you are in labor – the answer is complicated!
Prodromal labor is labor that feels real in every way. The contractions are consistent, they require your attention, and over time they zap you of energy and motivation. But prodromal labor is labor that goes on for an extended period with no cervical change. Often, this type of labor also plateaus. This labor often feels discouraging and requires a robust support team to help you work through it.
Precipitous labor is labor 3 hours or less from start to finish – including pushing! This labor is intense. All of the physical changes that happen for others over 12 or 24 hours happen quickly, and those who have experienced claim that it was not something they felt any control over. Instead, it feels like their birth happened to them.
“Back Labor” is a term laypeople use to describe labor pains that occur mostly in the lower back or upper tailbone area. This feeling may be evidence of a baby’s position being slightly unfavorable. Position changes can help, as can direct counter pressure to the spot of pain. Back labor, if at the start of labor, may not be identified as labor right away, as many pregnant people complain of back pain in their third trimester.
“False Labor” are contracts that come and go, with no sort of pattern or consistency. It can also be where contractions ARE consistent, but that they do not persist past a few hours. It is not uncommon for people to have contractions during the night but then have no contractions throughout the day, only to have contractions again the next night! We want you to know that in no way are these contractions false! But they are part of early labor, and they sound like they are, it’s not time to get too excited. It’s early yet.
Early labor is the contractions that are the beginning of your labor. They tend to be up to 30 seconds in length, where you can breathe and talk regularly through them, and they cause little to no discomfort. They can have spread out the frequency from 10-25 minutes apart, or no consistent pattern. As you get closer to active labor, your contractions will still not take your breath away. They can happen every 5-10 minutes and produce cervical change from 0-5 cm dilation. It is easiest to identify early labor AFTER you have delivered when you start to see your actions and feelings in a new light!
Active labor is the phase where your body is working through the cervical change from 6-8 centimeters. Your contractions will be noticeable and more intense. They will come every 3-5 minutes or so, and last about 45-60 seconds. You will focus more intently. Distractions no longer being welcome, jokes no longer seem funny, and you may find rhythmic movements and sounds to be helpful. You may want to find a low lit space and calming energy to be near you. If you enjoy hydrotherapy, this is the time to use the shower or bath to help you release tension with each contraction, and breathe deeply through each contraction.
Transitional labor is the hardest, and typically the fastest phase of labor. Your contractions will come every 2-3 minutes and last 60-90 seconds. Transitional labor is the last centimeters of cervix getting out of the way for your baby. The intensity is again heightened as you have less time to rest between contractions. This is a point of enormous vulnerability for the laboring person and can be when they feel weak and discouraged from continuing. Having support through each contraction with positive reinforcement, affirmations, and help with position changes or pain relief is needed now more than ever.
Even with these descriptions of labor, there is still a wide window where one phase can blend with another. As you get closer to the end of your pregnancy, we encourage you to let go of expectations of what should happen and pay closer attention to what is happening. If what is happening is popcorn and a movie, we want you to enjoy it. Because when you are in labor to the point of meeting your baby, there is no way you won’t know it’s happening.
A global pandemic does not erase the need for support in pregnancy and labor. And with your safety and the safety of our community as a priority, we are still here for you in new ways.
We are committed to families birthing in the Chicago Area and western suburbs. With new hospital policies limiting the number of support allowed in the labor and delivery rooms across the area, we want to be a part of a solution for families looking for information and encouragement. If you are curious about if your birthing location has changed its policy of support people, there is an updated list at Birthguide Chicago.
What does virtual doula support look like?
Prenatally, it looks a lot like your computer or phone – because that is where we’ll be! While we want to be with you in person, we are moving those prenatal meetings to video meetings, and additional phone conversations.
For families who have hired Holistic Family Doulas in the past, we have always been available throughout a person’s pregnancy for texts and phone calls. Adding video support allows us to see your expressions, read your body language, and connect with eye contact. All small but important parts of being present and attuned to your needs.
We are also happy to have options available for families looking for support outside of virtual labor support packages. We want as many people to have care and information as possible, so we have expanded our care to offer single video meetings or smaller packages.
Some topics that can be covered:
- How to prepare for birthing a time when you are a well-person giving birth in a facility that may be caring for very sick individuals.
- How to know you are in labor
- What to do when you lose your mucus plug
- How to make the choice to go to the hospital
- Procedures and interventions that could be suggested
- Knowing how you can interact with the medical equipment
- What will happen in the first hours after birth…and more
COVID-19 will impact your birth experience, and we want you to have prepared questions and tools to feel safe and advocate for your needs.
This is a very emotional time, with many uncertainties. We want to help you find ways to focus your energy, and practice grounding methods to help keep the overwhelming stress and anxiety at bay.
You can visit our new Virtual Service page to see all of the care we are adding to our virtual support.
Many people don’t give the pelvic floor much thought until there’s a problem. And, unfortunately, the risk for pelvic floor issues increases with pregnancy. Nobody wants to deal with pelvic floor issues, especially during pregnancy or when you’re caring for a new baby. So, here are some tips to help maintain pelvic health and prevent issues that can occur during pregnancy and postpartum.
What is the pelvic floor exactly?
The pelvic floor is made up of muscles that attach from the pubic bone to the tailbone and from side to side within the pelvis. The pelvic floor helps support pelvic and abdominal organs, control bladder and bowel function, stabilize the spine and pelvis, aide in sexual function, and help circulate blood and lymph. Those are some very important jobs which are why maintaining pelvic health is essential!
Symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction
- Urinary incontinence, urgency, or frequency (even a few drops is considered incontinence)
- Stool or gas incontinence
- Painful intercourse
- Pelvic organ prolapse (some people feel a heaviness in the pelvis or have a “falling out feeling”)
- Pelvic pain
- Painful urination
- Inability to empty the bladder completely
These symptoms can occur at any time. Both muscle weakness and tightness can contribute. It’s beneficial to consult a pelvic physical therapist prior to pregnancy if experiencing any of these symptoms as they may worsen during pregnancy.
Pelvic floor changes during pregnancy
- Hormonal changes can result in increased laxity of ligaments which can contribute to issues such as pelvic pain and low back pain.
- There is often more pressure on the bladder due to the growing uterus which can cause more frequent urination
- Increasing pressure in the pelvic floor can also contribute to constipation
- Bones and ligaments shift and stretch to provide space for the baby to travel through the pelvis
- Tearing can occur if the tissues of the perineum are unable to stretch anymore
Preventing pelvic floor issues during pregnancy and postpartum
Being able to not only contract but to relax and lengthen the pelvic floor muscles is essential in preventing pelvic floor dysfunction. Strengthening provides support and stability which can be even more important during pregnancy when there is more pressure on the structures of the pelvis. This also helps in postpartum to regain the strength of these muscles. Lengthening the pelvic floor muscles is helpful to allow these muscles to stretch during labor and childbirth and prevent tearing. It can be difficult to perform these exercises at times and many women do them incorrectly so a visit with a pelvic physical therapist is beneficial to ensure they’re done correctly.
Here are some tips to get started:
Pelvic floor muscle contractions (also known as Kegels) help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.
- Sit in an upright position with feet flat on the floor
- As you gently exhale, slowly tighten the pelvic floor muscles. Some cues that may help you are to imagine you are
- Holding back gas (without clinching the buttocks)
- Pulling the tailbone toward the pubic bone
- Pulling the two sit bones together
- Closing off the vaginal opening, while “lifting and squeezing”
- Repeat this 10 times
- Progress to 3 sets each day
- Repeat with brief contractions-holding for 1 second or less
- Repeat this 10 times
- Progress to 2 sets each day
Pelvic floor muscle relaxation and lengthening
The pelvic floor muscles relax during inhalation.
- As you inhale, try to gently expand the rib cage in all directions like an umbrella opening. Note the subtle relaxation of the pelvic floor muscles.
- To lengthen the pelvic floor muscles, gently bulge the abdomen as if passing gas. Do not hold your breath. Perform 5 repetitions, once daily during the last 6 weeks of pregnancy for improved awareness and control.
As mentioned above, it’s important to be able to do both exercises for ideal pelvic floor muscle function. Emphasizing lengthening over strengthening is more beneficial towards the end of pregnancy to prepare for childbirth. A pelvic physical therapist can also assess the alignment and mobility of the hips, pelvis, and spine to allow for the necessary movements to occur during labor and childbirth.
In postpartum, a pelvic physical therapist can perform an evaluation to ensure proper healing of the pelvic floor and abdominal muscles. They also assess for spine and tailbone issues and ensure coordination of muscles necessary for increasing core strength.
Pelvic Balance Physical Therapy
We’ve all unintentionally put our foot in our mouths when talking about delicate subjects. Fertility is one of those topics!
While it is still common to ask couples about their plans to have or not have kids, when there are known fertility issues (- or not), we hope the following topics to avoid will help keep you on the right side of your friendships.
Don’t tell them to relax.
Never in the history of history has the phrase “relax” ever helped a person relax. Usually comes out as a judgment or evidence that you are unable to show genuine empathy.
What to say instead:
A genuinely caring reflection of what they shared with you. “Thank you for sharing that with me. It all sounds incredibly difficult, and I’m so sorry you are dealing with all of this.”
Don’t say there are worse things that could happen.
This is minimizing, and it is another example of your lack of empathy or sheer discomfort with their struggle. You may be trying to offer some optimism, but unless your friend is asking for that sort of help, pivoting a vulnerable conversation using this phrase shows you are not a person who can sit with your friend in a moment of pain or discomfort.
What to say instead:
Any reply that shows you were listening and are willing to continue to listen as they share. “I hear you. That is incredible. How does that make you feel?” or “I hear the pain in story. You are so strong for going through this, even though it may not feel that way right now.” “Thank you for trusting me with this. I am here to listen anytime.”
Don’t ask why they are not trying IVF.
The plans and strategies a couple chooses to use or not use are none of your business. Not everyone is a good candidate for all therapies, and personal choice, cost, risk, and a variety of other individual choices mean you could be unintentionally adding pain to their experience. Most insurance plans do not cover IVF – infertility stress is physical, emotional, and financial.
What to say instead:
Nothing. Asking questions about a couple’s fertility journey is not something you get to do. If your friend is open to discussing more, a great first question is, “I am so curious about your journey. Do you mind if I ask some questions?”
Don’t say, “You’re young, you have plenty of time to get pregnant.“
This is one area where the facts of infertility are not well known. It is recommended that people who have been unsuccessful for a year to get pregnant see a fertility specialist. Being young increases your chances of treatments being successful; however, there is never a guarantee of success. Fertility begins to drop in women widely in a person’s late 20s to early 30s and begins to fall rapidly over age 35.
What to say instead:
“I am so glad you are aware of what you want and your situation so you can take advantage of the most options available to you. It is courageous to explore needing help.”
Don’t gossip about your friend’s condition.
This is a poor reflection of your trustworthiness, and you mark your self as an unsafe friend. Fertility is very personal. If you feel comfortable sharing information with your friend, you are telling your friend you may do the same thing to them with someone else.
What to say instead:
Nothing. Gossip is never productive. If you think you are revealing your knowledge of possible treatments, that is possible without bringing another person into the conversation.
Don’t push adoption or another solution.
The decision to adopt is entirely separate from the decisions that are made with fertility treatments. Couples exploring ways to grow their family are already aware of adoption. You are not sharing new information. Choosing to end treatments to explore other family growing options is a choice riddled with grief that you minimize by pushing your preferences.
What to say instead:
Nothing. When a friend is at the point of choosing to end treatment or to explore other options, they will bring those options to you. Your ability to validate their feelings and affirm their choices shows you can be with them through all of the choices they make along the way.
Don’t complain about your pregnancy.
For couples struggling with fertility, they would love the opportunity to have the experiences you are struggling with. And it can be hard to be around people who are pregnant, with growing bodies a constant reminder of their inability to conceive. Not complaining is one small thing you can do for your friend.
What to do instead:
Your feelings are just as valid as your friends, so finding trusted people and space to share your feelings is a kinder option.
Don’t ask whose “fault” it is.
Fertility challenges are statistically 1/3 male, 1/3 female, and 1/3 unknown. Applying blame to a situation as complicated as conception is crass, uneducated, and none of your business. The details of a couple’s struggle with fertility could be something they choose to discuss or not. But you asking only threatens to weaken your relationship.
What to say instead:
Nothing. You don’t get to ask.
One of the things that may surprise you after having been a parent for some time is the amount of energy and thought parents put into their child’s poop. A conversation about the frequency and consistency of your child’s bowel movements sometimes starts before birth. It continues until you are confident that wiping, flushing, and washing are all happening consistently.
Meconium, or your baby’s first stool, is a thick black substance that acts as a sort of plug to your baby’s digestive system, and if dispelled while in utero, is a sign your baby may be in distress. Next are counting and tracking. How many bowel movements is your baby having a day, becomes a question that indicates your baby’s system is working well, or is off, or, can be a part of troubleshooting slow weight gain.
The next way parents occupy their time with baby poop is with encouragement! Seeing how hard your baby has to work, or not, sometimes elicits a, “Wow! Great job!” or a sympathetic, “I know it’s hard; you can do it.” Meanwhile, your baby is displaying a spectacular grimace and grunts through his or her process.
Besides tracking the consistency and color in their first weeks of life, another popular poop conversation is the sheer force and explosions that can happen. Poop-splosions and exploding diapers that cannot contain the mess mean parents are sometimes elbow-deep in their kid’s poop.
But what about the diaper? Your baby is so precious that choosing what to put on their sensitive buns makes sense. If you are at the point of considering or re-considering your baby’s diaper, here are some practical pros and cons to consider.
- Produces less landfill waste
- Modern cloth diapers come in a wide variety and often work exactly like disposable diapers with tabs and snaps
- Great for sensitive skin
- Can be a cost-effective way to diaper your child, costing a few hundred dollars for the span of your child’s use instead of thousands.
- They can be charming, with patterns and colors!
- Depending on where you live, hiring a diaper service may be an option if you are not interested in washing the diapers yourself.
- Can be helpful for potty training, as the baby can feel when he or she is wet
- Time requirements: You’ll need a system and schedule for making sure you don’t run out of diapers! Washing and Drying often take multiple hours, or more, to process
- Unless washing often, the diaper pail can create a severe funk
- You usually can’t wash your diapers in public wash facilities or communal wash spaces, like apartment buildings or Laundromats.
- Traveling can still happen, but there is some extra planning necessary.
- A family member may not understand your choice, and there may be conversations about parenting choices and style being none of their business.
- Daycare centers often don’t allow cloth diaper use.
- readily available. If you run out of diapers, you have options at almost every drug store, grocery store, and big box store, not to mention same-day delivery from Amazon
- You can manage the diaper funk smell by taking out the trash
- You can add them to your registry, and have a stockpile to offset the cost
- They are easy. On, off, change, done.
- Cost. On average, your baby will use 8-12 diapers a day for 2.5-3 years, or roughly $70-$80 per month.
- Cost on the environment: Disposable diapers take roughly200-300 years to decompose in landfills, and introduce pathogens into the environment during that time.
- Skin sensitivity. Disposable diapers have many chemicals that could make your baby’s skin irritable.
- Can delay potty training, as the materials in diapers surround the wetness, and babies don’t often feel when they are wet.