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The defecation pattern of healthy term infants up to the age of 3 months

Abstract

Background Defecation problems occur frequently in infants. A clearer insight into the normal defecation pattern is required to gain a better understanding of abnormal defecation.

Aim To describe the defecation pattern of healthy infants in The Netherlands.

Methods From a research population of 1175 healthy Dutch infants, 600 infants without any complaints were selected. The parents recorded details of feeding and defecation at the age of 1, 2 and 3 months using a standardised questionnaire and bowel diary.

Results In breastfed infants, average daily defecation frequency decreased significantly during the first 3 months (from 3.65 to 1.88 times per day), whereas no significant changes were observed in infants fed standard formula or mixed feeding. At every age both the average and the range of defecation frequency of breastfed infants were higher than those of infants receiving formula feeding. Breastfed infants had softer faeces than formula-fed infants and the colour more often was yellow. At the age of 3 months, 50% of stools of formula-fed infants were green coloured. There was no significant difference in quantity between the three types of feeding, but there existed a negative correlation between defecation frequency and quantity.

Conclusion This study gives insight into the defecation patterns of the largest cohort of healthy infants published so far. In the first 3 months of life, breastfed infants have more frequent, softer and more yellow-coloured stools than standard formula-fed infants. Green-coloured stools in standard formula-fed infants should be considered normal.

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