pumping at workPicture this: you are going back to work after a too-short maternity leave. Briefcase? Check. Lunch? Check. Breast pump? Check. Photo of your baby to put on your pump for inspiration? Check.


Many moms ask how to continue breastfeeding when they return to work. Because babies should receive breast milk or formula for at least their first year, here is how you can incorporate breastfeeding into your work routine:


Offer bottles by four weeks of age. Bottles can contain breast milk or formula, but you need to give your baby practice taking milk from a bottle by four weeks old. If you wait much longer, your baby will likely refuse the bottle. Have someone other than yourself give at least one bottle per day or every other day. In this way, your baby learns to accept nutrition from someone else.


Store breast milk using the simple and conservative “rule of twos.”  Leave breast milk in a bottle at room temperature for no more than two hours, store breast milk in the refrigerator for no more than two days, and store in the freezer for no more than two months. If your baby has already sucked out of a breast milk bottle, that milk is only good for up to two hours. Remember to write the date on your milk storage bags and use the oldest ones first.


Now select from the following breast feeding menu, understanding that you might start with option 2 or 3 and then change to option 4. The best option is the one that works best for you and your baby.


Option 1: Continue to breast feed at work. This option works for moms who work from home, moms who have child care in their work setting, and moms close enough to dash home to breast feed during the day or who have caregivers willing to drive babies over to work for feedings.


Advantage: no pumping, no buying formula, no bottle washing. Disadvantage: may require some creative scheduling.


Option 2: Breast feed when home and pump and store breast milk at work. Have child care givers offer stored breast milk in bottles. This method allows moms to provide exclusively breast milk to their babies. Start pumping after the first morning feeding (or any other feeding that you feel you produce a bit more than your baby needs for that particular feeding) beginning when your baby is around four weeks old. Also pump if your baby happens to sleep through a feeding. Store this milk in two or three ounce amounts in your freezer. You can obtain breast milk freezer bags from lactation consultants and baby stores, or you can store milk in zip lock bags.  As you continue to pump after the same feeding each day, your body will produce more milk at that feeding.


Once you have some breast milk stored and you are a few days out from returning to work, try pumping during the feedings you will miss while at work. Have someone else feed your baby breast milk bottles for these feedings. Finally, when you return to work, continue to pump at the same schedule and leave the stored breast milk for your child’s caregivers. Consider leaving some formula in case caregivers run out of breast milk. Remind them never to microwave the milk (this kills the antibodies in breast milk as well as creates a potential burn hazard) but rather to thaw the milk by placing in a hot water bath.


This method becomes easier as babies get older. Once babies start solid foods, they breast feed fewer times per day. Somewhere between six to nine months, your baby eats three solid food meals per day and breastfeeds four or five times per 24 hours. Thus, the number of times you need to pump decreases dramatically.


Advantage to this option: breast milk with its germ-fighting antibodies given through the first year and no expense of formula. Disadvantage: having to pump at work.


Option 3: Breast feed before and after work and give your baby formula while you are at work.  If you do not pump while at work, your body will not produce milk at these times. If you work full time, then on weekends you might find it easiest on your body to continue your “work time” feeding schedule. If you choose this method, wean your baby from daytime breast feeding over that last week or so before returning to work. Suddenly going a long time without draining your breasts can lead to engorgement, subsequent plugged ducts, and mastitis.


Advantage: baby continues to receive breast milk. No need to pump at work. Disadvantage: you still have to wash bottles and have the added cost of formula.


Option 4:  Breast feed until you return to work, then formula feed. Wean over the last week you are home with your baby to avoid engorgement and leaking while at work. Your baby still benefits from even a few weeks of breast milk.


Advantage: No need to incorporate pumping into your work schedule.  Baby still gets adequate nutrition. Disadvantage: babies who are in childcare and exposed to many germs miss out on receiving extra antibodies in breast milk. However, weaning your baby off breast milk will not cause illness. Do what works for your family. Also, more expensive to buy formula and time-consuming to wash bottles.


Pumping should not take longer than 15 minutes if you’re pumping both breasts at the same time and can take as short as 7-10 minutes. Remember to wash your hands before pumping.


What kind of breast pump should you buy/rent? If you are in it for the long haul, we recommend the higher-end electric double pumps with adjustable suction. Ask the hospital nurses, your midwife, or your obstetrician for names of people who rent or sell pumps in your area.


Finally, remember that the calorie count and nutritional content of breast milk and formula are the same. So do NOT feel guilty if pumping does not pan out and you and end up giving some formula. Your baby is almost always going to be more efficient than a breast pump and some breasts just don’t produce milk well during pumping sessions. In contrast, some of my patients never got the hang of breast feeding and their moms pumped breast milk and bottle fed them for the entire first year. Dr. Lai and I have each had patients who refused to take a bottle at childcare but just waited patiently for their moms to arrive. These babies got what they needed by nursing throughout the night. The babies didn’t mind what time of day they ate. Just like many aspects of parenting, sometimes with breast feeding, you just have to “go with the flow.”


Julie Kardos, MD with Naline Lai, MD
2010 Two Peds in a Pod®




A concerned parent wrote to us:

Can you please read this and comment?www.thinktwice. com.
I’m terrified to vaccinate due to sites like these. There seems to be many horrifying stories out there to what happens to kids after getting vaccines. If the chance of them getting these diseases is small, is it worth taking the risk of them suffering these near death or death experiences?

Here is our response:


Dear Concerned,

We looked at the web site you sent to us. When evaluating the merit of information that you read on the internet, it is important to know the source of the information. The thinktwice site has an easy to read disclaimer. To highlight: the founders of the site explain that they are NOT medical professionals and that they do NOT give medical advice. They refer their readers to “licensed medical professionals” for medical advice. In addition, they acknowledge that their site is NOT endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), or the US Center for Disease Control (CDC). In fact, they refer their readers to these organizations for vaccine information and advice. They post “information” that will certainly cause a stir on the internet but actually defer to well established medical experts at the AAP, the CDC, and the FDA for definitive advice about vaccines. If you investigate those sites,  you would find that all  of the organizations actually endorse the use of vaccines.  

It makes sense to consult experts in the field for any problem that you have. When researching a health care issue, actresses, political figures, and web site sponsors, while experts in knowing their own children, are not medical professionals. If, for example, we had a car problem, we would consult a mechanic. We would not read testimonials of car owners on the internet to figure out how to fix a car. If we did not trust our mechanic’s recommendation, we would get a second opinion from another car expert.

Doctors are trained to evaluate evidence. We are medical professionals who read all the medical textbooks for you. Pediatricians go to school and train for nearly a quarter of a century before they even begin practicing on their own. We base our medical advice on the pediatric standards set forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics. These standards represent consensus of thousands of pediatricians who dedicate their lives to improving the well being of children. We would never support a practice that causes more harm than good.

If you are moved by testimonials, then you should also read testimonials of parents whose children were not vaccinated and then died or suffered disability from vaccine preventable diseases:, In addition, we encourage you to read our own vaccine posts: How Vaccines Work and Do Vaccines Cause Autism? Please visit the websites we provide in these articles for more information about vaccines.

Experts in pediatrics have evaluated data based on millions of vaccine doses given to millions of children. The evidence shows that the benefits of vaccines outweigh risk of harm.  Think of seat belts. You may imagine that your child’s neck may get caught in a seat belt, but you would never let your child go without a seatbelt.  The reason is that rather than trust a “feeling” that theoretically the seat belt could cause harm, we know from evidence, data, and experience that seatbelts save lives.

Vaccines are a gift of protection against childhood disease. As moms, both of us vaccinated our own children on time according to the standard schedule. Tragically, the more parents don’t vaccinate, the easier it will be for all of our children to contract these preventable and often deadly disease. Proof of this is California’s current whooping cough epidemic which has killed six infants so far. Most of the illness is breaking out in areas where parents stopped vaccinating their children.

If you are wondering about the merits of a web site, try to cross reference the information with organizations which set medical standards such as The American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control, and your local Children’s Hospital.  And of course, you can always ask your pediatrician.

By asking questions you are being a responsible parent. 

Keep on asking.

Julie Kardos, MD with Naline Lai, MD
© 2010 Two Peds in a Pod℠


crybabyonesieWhy do babies cry? This may seem like a silly question, but sometimes you really want to know why your infant is crying.

Remember, newborns cannot talk. They can’t even smile back at you until around six weeks of age.  Why do babies cry? In short, newborns cry to communicate.

Ah, but what is it, exactly, that they try to communicate? Babies cry when they…

      – Are tired.

      – Are hungry.

      – Feel too cold.

      – Feel too hot.

– Need to be changed –I never really believed this reason before I had my twins. My firstborn couldn’t have cared less if he was wet and could nap right through a really poopy diaper. Then I had my twins.  I was amazed that their crying stopped if I changed the tiniest bit of poop or a wet diaper. Go figure.

– Are bored. Perhaps she is tired of the Mozart you play and prefers some good hard rock music instead. Maybe she wants a car ride or a change of scenery. Try moving her to another room in the house.

– Feel pain. Search for a piece of hair wrapped around a finger or toe and make sure he isn’t out-growing the elastic wrist or ankle band on his clothing.

– Need to be swaddled. Remember a fetus spends the last trimester squished inside of her mom. Discovering her own randomly flailing arms and legs can be disconcerting to a newborn.

– Need to be UN-swaddled. Hey, some like the freedom to flail.

– Need to be rocked/moved. Dr. Lai’s firstborn spent hours tightly wrapped and held by her dad in a nearly upside down position nicknamed “upside-down-hotdog” while he paced all around the living room.

– Check to see if there is a burp stuck inside her belly. Lay her down for a minute and bring her up again to see if you can elicit a burp. 

– Does your baby seem gassy? Bicycle his legs while he is on his back. Position him over your shoulder so that his belly presses against you. You’d be gassy too if you couldn’t move very well. The gassy baby is a topic for an entire post- talk to your doctor for other ideas.

– Are sick. Watch for fever, inability to feed normally, labored breathing, diarrhea or vomiting. Check and see if anything is swollen or not moving. Listen to his cry. Is it thin, whimper-like (sick) or is it loud and strong (not sick)? Do not hesitate to check with your pediatrician. Fever in a baby younger than eight weeks old is considered 100.4 degrees F or higher measured rectally. A feverish newborn needs immediate medical attention.

What if you’re certain that the temperature in the room is moderate, you recently changed his diaper, and he ate less than an hour ago?

– Walk outside with your baby- this can be a magic “crying be gone” trick. Fresh air seems to improve a newborn’s mood.

– Offer a pacifier. Try many different shapes of pacifiers. Marinade a pacifier in breast milk or formula to increase the chance your baby will accept it.

– Pick her up, dance with her, or walk around the house with her. You can’t spoil a newborn.

– Try vacuuming. Weird, but it can work like a charm. Place her in a baby frontal backpack or in a sling while cleaning.

– Try another feeding, maybe she’s having a growth spurt.

-When all else fails, try putting her down in her crib in a darkened room. Crying can result from overstimulation. Wait a minute or two. She may self-settle and go to sleep. If not, go get her. The act of rescuing her may stop the wailing.

-If mommy or daddy is crying at this point, call your own mom or dad or call a close friend. Your baby knows your voice and maybe hearing you speak calmly to another adult will lull her into contentment.

– Call your child’s health care provider and review signs of illness.

– If you feel anger and resentment toward your crying baby, just put her down, walk outside and count to ten. It is impossible to think rationally when you are angry and you may hurt your child in order to stop your frustration. Seek counseling if these feelings continue.

Now for the light at the end of the newborn parenting tunnel: the peak age when babies cry is six weeks old. At that point, infants can cry for up to three hours per day. Babies with colic cry MORE than three hours per day. (Can you believe people actually studied this? I am amused that Dr. Lai won a prize in medical school for a paper on the history of colic). By three months of age crying time drops dramatically.

While most crying babies are healthy babies and just need to find the perfect upside-down-hot-dog position, an inability to soothe your baby can be a sign that she is sick. Never hesitate to call your baby’s health care provider if your baby is inconsolable, and don’t listen to the people who say, “Why do babies cry?…They just do.”


Thanks to our Facebook friends for other ideas for what the cartoon baby is saying:

“Stop looking at me like that and please loosen this blanket and don’t hold me up here like this and where is my hat my diaper is giving me a wedgie! JUST MAKE IT ALL STOP!”




Julie Kardos, MD with Naline Lai, MD

©2010 Two Peds in a Pod℠



Ok, so now you are in charge of caring for a newly circumcised penis. As a mom who’s never had a penis or as a dad who has no memory of his pre-circumcised days, you may have questions after you leave the hospital about how to care for this “wound.”

Unlike most infants in the world, in the United States, most boys are circumcised. Parents choose to circumcise their sons for various reasons including medical and cultural beliefs.  In this blog post I will not address any debates about circumcision. I will only address care of the recently circumcised penis.

It takes about one week for a circumcised penis to fully heal. This is not long in the scheme of things. While there are no absolute standards of circumcision care, most providers recommend putting a walnut size amount of either petroleum ointment or antibiotic ointment directly onto the head of the penis at every diaper change for the first 3 or 4 days.  Some find it easier to dollop the ointment onto a gauze pad and then tuck the ointment covered pad into the diaper.

Be sure to clean any stool on the penis using mild soap and water. Some white, gray, or yellow material will accumulate on the head of the penis around the third or fourth day. This material, called granulation tissue, is a normal part of the healing process. (You may remember a similar healing process occured when you skinned your knee as a child). Go ahead and wash the goo with warm water, the secretions will disappear over the next few days.  

Infection is rare, but does occur. Watch for an increase in swelling, an increase in redness, redness extending down the shaft of the penis, an increase in pain, pus discharge from the wound site, and fever of 100.4 F or higher. With any of these symptoms, take your child to be evaluated by your child’s health care provider.

Sometimes extra, or redundant, foreskin remains around the head of the penis. Over time, this extra tissue does retract back. Scar tissue rarely forms permanently because with each erection (yes, infants have erections) the head of the penis pulls away from the shaft. As the baby gets older, parents can gently pull back redundant skin with their hands when they give the baby a bath. If you are concerned about the appearance of your child’s penis, ask his health care provider to take a look.

One last tip:  remember to point the penis DOWN when putting a new diaper on your son; otherwise he will urinate “up” through the diaper and all over his shirt. Trust me on this one.

Julie Kardos, MD with Naline Lai, MD
©2010 Two Peds in a Pod℠


Earlier in the month I attended a developmental pediatrics conference in Philadelphia. The keynote speaker, Barry Zuckerman MD, professor and chairman of pediatrics at Boston University, raised a set of thoughtful questions. Parents can use the answers as a starting point for understanding how they were raised. Here are some of the questions with modifications:


        -What was it like growing up? Who was in your family? Who raised you?


        -Do you plan to raise your child like your parents raised you?


        -How did your relationship with your family evolve throughout your youth?

How did your relationship with your caregivers (mother/father/aunt/grandparent/etc) differ from each other? What did you like or not like about each relationship?

Did you ever feel rejected or threatened by your parents? What sort of influence do they now have on your life?

Did anyone significant die during your youth? What was your earliest separation from your parents like? Were there any prolonged separations?

If there were difficult times during your childhood, were there positive role models in or outside your home that you could depend on?


Some of these questions may be tougher than others to answer. Ultimately you are not your parents (although you may feel otherwise when you hear a familiar phrase escape your own lips), and likewise your children are not you. Parenting techniques that worked, or did not work, for your parents will not necessarily work, or not work, for you. However, stopping to reflect on your own youth will help you understand why you parent the way that you do.


Naline Lai, MD with Julie Kardos, MD

© 2010 Two Peds in a Pod℠




One parental job you probably did not anticipate is the upkeep of rapidly growing finger and toe nails.  Questions first time parents often ask me include:  Should I use clippers or scissors? How do I avoid accidently nicking the skin? How often should I trim?  The only question I haven’t heard so far is: Should the tips be rounded or squared?

When your newborn fingers her face, even her soft finger nails can cause scratches. Yes, newborns need their first “manicure” within days of birth. Although the nails are long enough to scratch, most of the nail is adherent to the underlying skin. I recommend using an emery board or nail file for the first weeks of nail trimming. This method is unlikely to go awry and is effective. File from the bottom up, not just across the nail, in order to shorten and dull the nail.

Babies gain weight rapidly in the first 3 months at a rate of about one ounce per day and they grow in length at a rate of about an inch per month. Their finger nails grow as rapidly as the rest of the body and therefore need trims as often as twice a week. Toe nails grow quickly as well but because they do not cause self-injury, infants tend to be okay with less frequent trimming.

Once the nails are easy to “grab,” advance to using scissors or clippers. I honestly don’t believe either method is superior to the other. The method I used was to hold my baby on my lap facing out and then gently press the skin down from his nails and clip or cut carefully.

Unfortunately, no matter how careful you are, it is possible to hurt your child while cutting his nails. I remember injuring one of my twins when he was a few months old. Picture a benign tiny paper cut that seems to cause a disproportionate amount of bleeding. He wasn’t even all that upset, but…oh, the guilt I felt!  If you accidentally nick your child, wash the cut with soap and running water and apply pressure for a few minutes with a clean washcloth to stop the bleeding. Once the bleeding stops, band aids are not necessary and can actually be a choking hazard in babies who spend most of their waking moments with their fingers in their mouths. Thankfully, rapidly growing kids heal wounds rapidly.

I think it is a good idea to trim nails while babies are awake so that they get used to the feeling of a “home manicure.” This practice can prevent the later toddler meltdowns over nail trimming. However, some kids are just adverse to nail trimming, or have sensitive, ticklish feet and balk at trims. Yet trim we must! Try clipping an uncooperative toddler’s nails while she is sleeping. If your toddler sleeps lightly, then you may have to time your manicure/pedicure for when another adult caregiver is home with you. One adult holds the hand/foot or distracts the toddler with singing, book reading, or watching a soothing video together (Elmo to the rescue once again!). The other trims the nails.

So, now with the birth of your child you have added a new title – “Master Manicurist” of your home.  This job does become more glamorous when your child is old enough to ask for nail polish. Until then, happy nail trimming!

Julie Kardos, MD
©2010 Two Peds in a Pod


A thrilling moment in the office is when a mom of a patient shares with me that she is pregnant again. I say, “Wonderful!” What better gift to give your firstborn than a sibling! And I love being a part of good news! As an older sister myself, as a mother of three children, and as a pediatrician, I know the net result of adding another child to the family is positively fabulous.

Although the news is good, sometimes parents are anxious about how to prepare their firstborns for the birth of their younger sibling. Here is what I usually suggest:

For most kids under the age of three to four years, time literally has no meaning.  At best, everything in the past occurred yesterday, and everything in the future will occur tomorrow. So in general, there is no magic moment to announce a forthcoming new baby. A few weeks ahead of time, simply start talking about “when a baby comes to live with us.”  Don’t expect your child to really believe you until you walk into the house with the baby. And don’t be surprised if your firstborn asks, “When is it leaving?” Kids this age do not understand the idea of “forever” or “permanent.”

Parents often feel guilty about bringing a second baby into the home. They worry they will not have as much time for their firstborn.  Well, here’s one secret. Newborns aren’t all that demanding. Unlike with your first born, you will never  have the time or urge to stare endlessly at your second born while she sleeps.  But, the second time around you will realize that feeding, changing, and washing a newborn take up relatively little time. Your firstborn will likely continue to be the center of attention. She is, after all, much more interesting now that she can pretend and play simple games. Believe me when I tell you that you CAN play Candyland and breastfeed an infant at the same time. You CAN burp an infant while reading aloud to a toddler. You CAN change a diaper WHILE pretending you and your toddler are wild jungle animals. You CAN make a bottle while telling a terrifically exciting story to your toddler.

A word about visitors and gifts: the best part of a gift, to a toddler, is opening it, NOT what’s in it. So don’t worry about trying to make sure your older child gets a gift for every gift the new baby gets.  Just allow your toddler to open all the baby’s gifts (if she wants to) because “babies don’t know how to open presents, but big kids do!” Also, newborns don’t care who holds them so visitors are a perfect chance to hand off the baby and get on the floor and play with your toddler. To a toddler, parents are the most important and interesting people in the world.  Even if ten people walk in to visit the baby, your toddler will not be jealous if YOU are the one playing with her.

By three years old, kids understand taking turns. In addition to the above tips, if your eldest asks why you need to hold/feed/care for the baby “so much,” just explain that it’s the baby’s turn. Then reinforce how glad you are that your eldest is able to talk, feed herself, play with toys, and maybe use the potty.  Remind her that her ability to be independent make her more similar to Mommy and Daddy than to a baby.

Finally, realize whether your firstborn embraces her younger sibling with open arms or pretends that the new baby does not exist, you will have plenty of love to go around . Your  heart is big enough for everyone.  Dr. Lai tucks each of her three children in at night with the words, “I love you more than anyone in the universe.”

Truth be told, no one will make your younger child laugh as loud and long as her older sibling. Also, older babies are much more interesting than newborns. Even “luke warm” older siblings will warm up as time progresses and the baby becomes more interactive.

In the meantime, tell lots of “when you were a baby” stories to your older child. Toddlers are egocentric (they all think the world revolves around them) and they will LOVE being the main character in your stories. Bring out baby pictures and videos of your firstborn to share. Be sure to point out how far she has come and all the great things she can do now as a big kid.

I end with a personal story:

When I was pregnant with twins, many of our friends commented to us about our firstborn son, “Boy, you are really going to rock his world.”

HIS world, I would think to myself. How about OUR world?

In order to prepare him for his transition from “only child”to “big brother” we emphasized to our son (who was three at the time) that most older brothers get only ONE baby. Our son would be getting TWO babies! He was excited about having two instead of one. For years afterwards, whenever he heard about a pregnant aunt, friend, or neighbor, his first question was always, “Oh, how many babies is she having?”

Out of the mouths of babes….

Julie Kardos, MD
©2009 Two Peds in a Pod


Stumbled onto a novel use for a diaper, courtesy of the nursery nurses at Doylestown Hospital. 

Diapersmake a perfect ice pack.  At the end of the diaper which has adhesivetabs, make a hole in  the inner lining.  Push your hand into the diaperto separate the the lining from the back of the diaper.  This will makea pouch.  Put crushed ice into the pouch and roll the end of the diaperwith the hole a couple times.  Secure with adhesive tabs. Now you havea soft, waterproof icepack which will remain cool as the ice melts andis absorbed by the gellatinous diaper innards.

Perfect for all sorts of boo-boos.

WhenI told one of my patients’ mom about this hint today, she told me thatshe used a number 5 diaper when her water broke.  I suppose Plato wasright , necessity is the mother of invention.

Naline Lai, MD


Well it finally happened.  The day all mothers with daughters regard with mixed feelings.  No, I’m not talking about my daughter’s first period.  Today I discovered that my oldest daughter’s foot size is the same as mine.

I took it as a sign.  Time to blog a little about shoes and feet.

First shoes:  Shoes are to prevent injury to feet. While indoors, let your infant stand and walk without shoes.  Bare feet are best.  Your baby will learn to balance better when he or she can feel the floor directly under her feet.  However, for protection, shoes are needed.  Start with a sturdy sneaker.  No need for the clunky white leather shoes of the past.  Also, avoid sandals, toddlers are more liable to trip and there is not much protection against stinging insects.

For school: The average length of recess per day is about 30 minutes(  Therefore, pick comfy shoes which allow your children to utilize this time for physical activity.

Athlete’s foot: Caused by a fungus, athlete’s foot appears as wet, moist, itchy areas usually between the toes.  The fungus loves moist areas and can be treated with over the counter antifungal creams or powders such as clotrimazole (Lotrimin AF), and tolnaftate (Tinactin). While common in teens, athlete’s foot is much less common in general than foot eczema. Vinegar soaks are helpful- put half a cup of vinegar into a small basin of warm water and have your child soak for 10 minutes daily. 

If your child has eczema on other areas of his or her body, be more suspicious of eczema than athlete’s foot. Both can look alike, but be careful, the steroid creams used for eczema may worsen athlete’s foot.

Flat feet: Most children with flat feet have flexible flat feet which do not require any intervention. Nearly all toddlers have flexible flat feet. A child with flexible flat feet will not have an arch upon standing.  However, the arch should reappear when the child’s feet are relaxed in a sitting position off the floor. Any pain in the arch or suspicion of an inflexible flat foot should be brought to a physician’s attention.

Ingrown toe nails: Ingrown toe nails occur when the sides of the nails grown into the skin.  After enough irritation, bacteria can settle in and pus pockets form.  To prevent ingrown toe nails from becoming infected, at the first sign of redness, soak feet in warm water with Epsom salts.  Gently pull the skin back from the area of the nail which is in grown.  Attempt to cut off any area of the nail which is pushing into the skin.

Clipping newborn toe (and finger) nails: A newborn’s nails have not separated enough from the nail bed to easily get a nail clipper under a nail. For the first few weeks, stick to filing the nails down.  Parental guilt warning: at some point almost every parent mistakenly cuts their child’s skin instead of their nail.

Naline Lai, MD


Okay, admit it.

Before you became a parent, you never really gave much thought to poop.

Now you are captivated and can even discuss it over meal time: your child’s poop with its changing colors and consistency. Your vocabulary for poop has likely also changed as you are now parents. Before your baby’s birth, you probably used some grown-up word like “bowel movement” or “stool” or perhaps some “R” rated term not appropriate to this pediatric site. But now, all that has changed.

As a pediatrician I have many conversations with new parents, and some not-so-new parents, about poop. Mostly this topic is of real interest to parents with newborns, but poop issues come out at other milestones in a child’s life, namely starting solid foods and potty training. So I present to you the scoop on poop.

Poop comes in three basic colors that are all equal signs of normal health: brown, yellow, and green. Newborn poop, while typically yellow and mustard like, can occasionally come out in the two other colors, even if what goes in, namely breast milk or formula, stays the same. The color change is more a reflection of how long the milk takes to pass through the intestines and how much bile acid gets mixed in with the developing poop.

Bad colors of poop are: red (blood), white (complete absence of color), and tarry black. Only the first poop that babies pass on the first day of life, called meconium, is always tarry black and is normal. At any other time of life, black tarry stools are abnormal and are a sign of potential internal bleeding and should always be discussed with your child’s health care provider, as should blood in poop (also not normal) and white poop (which could indicate a liver problem).

Normal pooping behavior for a newborn can be grunting, turning red, crying, and generally appearing as if an explosion is about to occur. As long as what comes out after all this effort is a soft poop (and normal poop should always be soft), then this behavior is normal. Other babies poop effortlessly and this, too, is normal.

Besides its color, another topic of intense fascination to many parents is the frequency and consistency of poop. This aspect is often tied in with questions about diarrhea and constipation. Here is the scoop:

It is normal for newborns to poop during or after every feeding, although not all babies poop this often. This means that if your baby feeds 8-12 times a day, then she can have 8-12 poops a day. One reason that newborns are seen every few weeks in the pediatric office is to check that they are gaining weight normally: that calories taken in are enough for growth and are not just being pooped out. While normal poop can be very soft and mushy, diarrhea is watery and prevents normal weight gain.

After the first few weeks of life, a change in pooping frequency can occur. Some formula fed babies will continue their frequent pooping while others decrease to once a day or even once every 2-3 days. Some breastfed babies actually decrease their poop frequency to once a week! It turns out that breast milk can be very efficiently digested with little waste product. Again, as long as these babies are feeding well, not vomiting, acting well, have soft bellies rather than hard, distended bellies, and are growing normally, then you as parents can enjoy the less frequent diaper changes. Urine frequency should remain the same (at least 6 wet diapers every 24 hours, on average) and is a sign that your baby is adequately hydrated. Again, as long as what comes out in the end is soft, then your baby is not “constipated” but rather has “decreased poop frequency.”

True constipation is poop that is hard and comes out as either small hard pellets or a large hard poop mass. These poops are often painful to pass and can even cause small tears in the anus. You should discuss true constipation with your child’s health care provider. A typical remedy, assuming that everything else about your baby is normal, is adding a bit of prune or apple juice, generally ½ to 1 ounce, to the formula bottle once or twice daily. True constipation in general is more common in formula fed babies than breastfed babies.

Adding solid foods generally causes poop to become more firm or formed, but not always. It DOES always cause more odor and can also add color to poop. I still remember my husband’s and my surprise over our eldest’s first “sweet potato poop” as we asked each other, “Will you look at that? Isn’t this exactly how it looked when it went IN?” If constipation, again meaning hard poop that is painful to pass, occurs during solid food introductions, you can usually help by giving more prunes and oatmeal and less rice and bananas to help poop become softer and easier to pass.

Potty training can trigger constipation resulting from poop withholding. This poop withholding can result in backup of poop in the intestines which leads to pain and poor eating. Children withhold poop for one of three main reasons:

1.       They are afraid of the toilet or potty seat.

2.       They had one painful poop and they resolve never to repeat the experience by trying to never poop again.

3.       They are locked into a control issue with their parents. Recall the truism “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” This applies to potty training as well.

Treatment for this stool withholding is to QUIT potty training for at least a few weeks and to ADD as much stool softening foods and drinks as possible. Good-for-poop drinks and foods include prune juice, apple juice, pear juice, water, fiber-rich breads and cereals, beans, fresh fruits and vegetables. Sometimes, under the guidance of your child’s health care provider, medical stool softeners are needed until your child overcomes his fear of pooping and resolves his control issue. For more information about potty training I refer you to our podcast on this subject.

My goal with this blog post was to highlight some frequently asked-about poop topics and to reassure that most things come out okay in the end. And that’s the real scoop.

Julie Kardos, MD with Naline Lai, MD

©2009 Two Peds in a Pod®