Parents always look out for any changes in their baby’s stools to make sure their child is eating healthy and their food is digesting properly. But should you be worried if you suddenly start noticing pieces of food your child ate for dinner coming out again whole? Te following is a guide to understanding why a baby’s poop will sometimes have food in it and when you should and shouldn’t be concerned about it.
What causes food to not break down?
The average parent starts their child on solid food around 6 months old, usually with baby food brands like Gerber, Beech-Nut or Earth’s Best which make mushed up versions of food that normal comes to you whole like peas, carrots and beans. If food appears in the feces looking very similar to how it was when you fed it to your baby this means that the food was not digested properly by their body. The food passing through the intestines is supposed to be broken down and absorbed by the acids in your child’s stomach. Believe it or not though a lot of foods cannot be digested by the enzymes in the digestive system. Enzyme’s are protein that help produce a chemical reaction in the body.
Examples of foods that are not digested well
These include corn, peanuts, peas, carrots, cereals, rice and beans. If the bacteria in the body that breaks food down is successful some of the carbohydrates in these foods may be broken down. If not, however, you will notice these foods in your child’s diaper.
Is cooked food better for preventing food in a baby’s stools?
No. Research has shown that the more a food is cooked, the more difficult it is for the body to digest it. If your child is over 1 year and taking regular solid foods like macaroni or spaghetti you may find these partially or completely undigested the same way I found them in my baby’s diaper. The site of undigested spaghetti in a diaper is strange and shocking at first but just realize there isn’t anything wrong with that and more than likely your baby is unfazed by it.
Research has also shown that the higher the temperature that the food is cooked, the longer it will stay in the digestive system and the more difficult it will be for the body to digest. But why does this happen? Foods are made up of chemicals that are arranged in certain patterns. Our digestive system is generally able to break down foods that fit these patterns. But the chemical patterns of all foods can be changed if they are heated past a certain point. So, if you’re giving your child foods that are deep-fried their chemical pattern will change. As a result your body doesn’t know what to do with the food and will pass it out whole.
How long does it take for the food to pass?
The average baby, or even adult, passes what they ate within 24 to 36 hours. If your child is having diarrhea though that is a different issue that can cause food to come out whole again. With diarrhea the body is passing fecal matter out of the intestines so fast it really doesn’t have time to process anything.
If the things I have mentioned above are not causing the food in your baby’s stools to be undigested this could be an indication of a more serious problem in the digestive system. If you start noticing it is taking longer for your baby to poop or you see undigested food coming out for a period longer than 48 hours that might be the time to visit with your child’s pediatrician to run tests to make sure there isn’t a more serious issue going on.
If you are ever in doubt though, or want peace of mind, give the pediatrician a call. It might be nothing, but it is always best to err on the side of caution.