Diapers, Bowel Movements and Gas

Parenting in the Early Years

Diapers, Bowel Movements and Gas

Cloth versus disposable diapers is a common debate among new parents. On average, babies will go through eight to twelve diapers a day, though that number will increase as they get older.


You can use cloth diapers that you wash at home, cloth diapers from a diaper service or disposable diapers.

Cloth diapers should be washed in a gentle detergent, such as Dreft® or Ivory Snow®. Heavy-duty detergents or enzyme products may irritate the baby's skin.

Perfumed fabric softener sheets added to the dryer are discouraged because they can cause skin irritation. Presoaks such as Borax® generally pose no problems. Bleach is okay if the diapers are double rinsed.

Disposable diapers are convenient alternatives. These diapers may cause rashes in some infants. Changing to a different diaper brand may help. Superabsorbent diapers may make it difficult to determine how often your baby has urinated.

Bowel Movements

Breast-fed babies may have from six to eight stools a day or may go five to six days between movements. Stools are yellow to greenish in color and may be loose or seedy, pasty or formed.

Straining to produce a bowel movement is normal. Excessive and persistent straining may indicate a problem that requires a doctor's assessment. Usually the problem is that the stool is too hard or sticky but other reasons can be present such as baby's anal opening is too small.

A baby is constipated if the stools are hard and pebbly. To help soften hard stools, start by adding one teaspoon of Karo® syrup to each bottle and increase to three teaspoons per bottle as needed. If this is not effective, contact your doctor's office.


To the surprise of many parents, babies pass a lot of gas, but this is no need for concern. This decreases as the intestinal tract matures. If, in addition, your infant is drawing up her legs, cramping and crying for extended periods of time, contact your doctor for advice.

Burping is a self-defense against gas pains. Time spent burping your baby after the feeding is worthwhile and should reduce the amount of cramping. Excessive crying is another mechanism that results in swallowed air, and babies need to be burped after crying episodes. If it takes longer than a few minutes to get up the burp, simply put the baby down and usually she will burp herself. You may also try holding her upright for five or ten minutes and then try for a burp.

Hiccups are normal. They usually disappear with time. Sometimes you can give a little extra liquid and extract a burp. This often stops them, but if not, they will stop by themselves.