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The defecation pattern of healthy term infants up to the age of 3 months
  1. Jolanda den Hertog1,
  2. Ellen van Leengoed1,
  3. Feyona Kolk2,
  4. Leonard van den Broek3,
  5. Esther Kramer1,
  6. Evert-Jan Bakker4,
  7. Esther Bakker-van Gijssel5,
  8. Anneke Bulk6,
  9. Frank Kneepkens7,
  10. Marc A Benninga8
  1. 1Jeugdgezondheidszorg, Stichting Thuiszorg Midden Gelderland, Arnhem, The Netherlands
  2. 2Jeugdgezondheidszorg, GGD Fryslan, Leeuwarden, The Netherlands
  3. 3Jeugdgezondheidszorg, GGD Kennemerland, Hoofddorp, The Netherlands
  4. 4Biometris, Isg Toegepaste Statistiek, University of Wageningen, Wageningen, The Netherlands
  5. 5Siza Dorp Group, Arnhem, The Netherlands
  6. 6Department of Youth Health Care VU University Medical Center, EMGO Institute, Amsterdam,The Netherlands
  7. 7Department of Paediatrics, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam,The Netherlands
  8. 8Pediatric Gastroenterology, Academic Medical Centre, Amsterdam,The Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to Jolanda den Hertog, Stichting Thuiszorg Midden Gelderland, Jeugdgezondheidszorg, Arnhem, Netherlands; famcdhertog{at}


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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  • Funding Friso Kindervoeding (Friesland Campina), The Netherlands.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.