Your stool can serve as a mirror of your overall health and this rule stands even for newborns. Parents can understand the health of their children from the stool. The stool of normal newborns may be golden or slightly green, with a thin or thick texture depending on their diet.
However, sometimes you may notice a strange stool phenomenon known as milk flaps. What does this mean? What is the cause? And is it a warning sign of something even more serious? We’ll answer all this and more in the following article.
What Exactly Is a Milk Flap?
Sometimes a mother may find that there are tiny white particles or pellets in the baby’s stool, which are usually particles of undigested milk. The appearance of milk flaps in the stool is a manifestation of the baby’s protein indigestion.
According to the doctor, it’s okay if the milk particles are relatively small. However, if the milk petals are larger than rice grains, it is best to adjust the diet. Breastfeeding mothers should eat fewer foods that are high in protein. Also, babies who eat milk powder consider changing to milk powder with smaller molecular proteins, so that the protein is easier to digest. If the protein is digested well, the milk flaps in the stool may become less and smaller.
What Are the Characteristics of a Normal Stool and Normal Bowel Movements?
The characteristics of normal stools are related to the feeding method. The stools of infants who feed on breast milk are golden yellow, occasionally slightly green and relatively thin, with a sour smell and no foam, mucus, or blood streaks.
Usually, the number of stools in the neonatal period is more, usually 2-5 bowel movements a day, but some babies will defecate 7-8 times a day. As the child’s age increases, the number of bowel movements will gradually decrease, and the number of bowel movements will be reduced to 1 per day after 2 to 3 months.
Therefore, if a breast-feeding baby has loose stools and more frequent stools, as long as the baby is in good spirits and breastfeeding, and the weight gain is normal, there is no need for parents to worry. If the baby is eating formula milk, then the stool is usually light yellow or khaki, relatively dry and rough, such as plaster, often with an unpleasant fecal odor.
If the amount of sugar in the milk is large, the stool may become soft and have a slightly putrid smell. Moreover, the amount of defecation per time is also large. Sometimes the stool is mixed with off-white “milk particles”.
What Are the Common Stool Patterns In Infants?
1. The main component of the first stool a child passes (called meconium) is water, which accounts for about 72% of its mass. It is also composed of epithelial cells shed from the fetal intestine, bile, concentrated digestive juice, and swallowed amniotic fluid. Meconium is usually discharged within 10 hours after birth. Meconium discharged for the first time is dark green and a little shiny. It also usually has no odor. It will gradually transition to normal baby feces within 2-3 days after eating.
2. The feces of breastfed infants are golden yellow, mostly evenly mushy, occasionally with small milk curds and a sour smell. They typically pass stool 2-3 times daily. Even if the stool reaches 3-5 times a day, but the stool does not contain too much water and the infant appears well-fed and healthy, then it can be regarded as normal.
3. The feces of artificially fed infants differ slightly from that of breastfed infants. The feces of infants fed with non-human milk are light yellow, mostly well-formed, contain more milk clots, alkaline or neutral, larger in quantity, and smelly. They also pass stool less frequently than breastfed infants and may pass stool 1-2 times per day.
4. The feces of mixed-fed infants (which means infants given both breast milk and artificial or non-human milk) are similar to those of breastfed infants in frequency, but are yellow and soft.
After adding grains, eggs, meat, vegetables, and other complementary foods, the fecal properties are closer to adults, and the frequency gradually reduces to just once a day.
What Can Cause Indigestion in a Newborn?
Remember that we said milk flaps are usually caused by protein indigestion. In the infant stage, the digestive organs are not yet fully developed and the ability to adapt to digestion is poor. There are many reasons for indigestion due to improper diet and feeding.
For example, irregular breastfeeding, excessive feeding, unreasonable dietary composition, excessive milk concentration or sudden changes in diet, unsuitability to excessive supplementation of complementary foods, and excessively high nutritional content of food during weaning, etc. All these will make the digestive organs of infants and young children unable to adapt, resulting in indigestion and abnormal stool.
The manifestation is a large amount of foam-like, porridge-textured, egg-colored, watery stool, accompanied by a peculiar sour smell and numerous while milk particles (milk flaps). These symptoms of indigestion can be corrected by adjusting the diet accordingly.
What Other Stool Conditions May Mimic Milk Flaps?
If a newborn’s stool has milk flaps and has a patterned stool which suggests indigestion (the stool is thin and resembles a frangipani pattern), as well as a frequency of 5-6 times a day it is highly suggestive of protein indigestion. However, other conditions can mimic protein indigestion.
At the same time, observing the fecal properties of infants and young children can understand their digestive health. If the smell of baby stool is unusually pungent and foul, it may point towards protein or fat indigestion. At this time, the amount of milk should be appropriately reduced or the milk should be diluted.
Other things to look out for include if the baby usually has only 1-2 stools a day, and suddenly increases to 5-6 stools. Consider whether the child is sick. If the child usually has more bowel movements, but the child is generally in good condition and does not lose weight, it cannot be considered sick.
If there is a lot of foam in the feces, it means that carbohydrates are indigestible, and it is necessary to reduce or even stop eating starchy foods. If the stool looks creamy and is unnaturally malodorous, it shows fat indigestion, so you should reduce the child’s intake of fatty foods.
What to Do If There Are Milk Flaps in Your Baby’s Stool?
The most popular treatment is…proper breastfeeding. When the child is hungry or crying, breastfeeding should be initiated immediately. When the newborn sleeps for more than 3 hours, they should be woken up and breastfed. The more the mother gives the milk, the more the baby eats, the sleep time will be extended gradually, and the regularity will naturally be formed.
Breastfeed on demand, regardless of the number of times. This regular sucking can stimulate the secretion of prolactin in the mother’s body so that the secretion of the milk is faster and more.
Also, on-demand breastfeeding can prevent the mother’s milk ducts from swelling, and make the child’s height and weight increase significantly better than children who were breastfed on a regular schedule only.
What Are Some Popular Theories on the Cause of Newborn Protein Indigestion？
Let’s take a look at some popular theories on protein indigestion and the possible solutions.
The breastfeeding baby may have a certain relationship with the mother’s diet, and it is also related to the immature development of a newborn’s digestive tract.
Suggestion: It is recommended that the mother’s diet should not be too greasy, the protein should not be too much, and the mother should not add too much calcium. Also, pay attention to keeping the baby’s abdomen warm.
If the height and weight gain are normal, the mother should not worry too much. Massage the baby’s abdomen after the milk to train the habit of defecating regularly. If necessary, give the baby some probiotics under the guidance of the doctor. Remember that babies who take milk powder usually have milk flaps.
It is formed when fat combines with excess calcium and is saponified (turned into soap). Part of this mass of saponified unabsorbed fat forms a “milk block”, which lines the intestine and interferes with normal digestion. This is normal because of the child’s weak digestive ability and usually disappears as the infant’s digestive tract matures.
Suggestion: In the meantime, artificial milk powder must be prepared according to the recommended proportion, and the concentration should not be too high. According to the correct method to transfer milk, the baby can be improved by implementing small meals.
It is also recommended that mothers should give the baby a little drinking water between meals. You can massage your abdomen half an hour after breastfeeding.
You should also avoid giving the infant calcium supplementation because calcium cannot be completely digested and absorbed. If necessary, give it under the advice of a pediatrician. The infant can also take some probiotics under the guidance of a pediatrician.
If your baby has abnormal stools, you must actively find the specific reasons and take active measures to deal with them. See your pediatrician if your baby develops other symptoms such as fever, vomiting, abdominal distention or starts to lose or gain weight.