The Sticky Substance in Your Baby’s Diaper

By Lindsey Johnson
Closeup of baby laying on bed with feet up

Poop is a normal part of life. As you transition to life with a newborn, you’ll realize that it becomes a topic of everyday conversation. When did the baby last poop? What did it look like? How did you deal with the latest blowout diaper? One poop you may not be expecting is your baby’s first poop, also known as meconium. So, what is that sticky substance in your baby’s diaper?

What is meconium?

Meconium is a thick, tarry substance that lines your baby’s intestines prior to birth. It is sticky and often green or black- tinged. Babies must excrete meconium from their system and will eventually have regular bowel movements that will be more consistent in texture.

If a baby still has meconium present in their system at birth, they will excrete it over the first few days of life. Because this substance is sticky, it can be hard to clean off your baby’s bottom. Since their skin is so sensitive, you’ll want to avoid wiping too harshly. Consider coating your baby’s bottom with diaper cream or Vaseline at diaper changes to make cleanup easier by creating a protective barrier with the skin. While meconium can be difficult during diaper changes, Medical News Today states that it is a sterile substance and typically does not have an odor.

What is meconium aspiration syndrome?

Meconium aspiration syndrome (MAS) is when a newborn ingests a combination of meconium and amniotic fluid at or during the birthing process. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, this occurs in approximately 5-10% of births and is a leading cause of severe illness in infants, occasionally resulting in death.

Meconium aspiration syndrome typically occurs when a newborn is stressed, there is a long or difficult delivery, the mother has medical problems or the baby is delivered past their due date. During delivery, there may be a decreased fetal heart rate. After delivery, the baby may express some abnormal sounds while breathing, which the medical team can hear by stethoscope. Meconium may also be visible in the amniotic fluid, cueing staff to check for symptoms. If there is concern, they may also order a chest X-ray or conduct a blood gas analysis.

If a baby is diagnosed with MAS, they may be moved to a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) while they are treated. Johns Hopkins Medicine states that some babies may be treated with antibiotics for infection, tapping on the chest to loosen secretions and/or using a ventilator to help the baby breathe. Nemours Children’s Health adds that some babies with more severe MAS may also need inhaled nitric oxide, surfactant to help open the airways or potentially even extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), which pumps blood through an artificial lung to oxygenate the blood before returning it to the body.

It will pass

While meconium aspiration syndrome can be severe, Nemours Children’s Health reports that most babies experience a full recovery with little to no long-term side effects. More severe cases may experience longer term breathing issues but this is not the most likely outcome.

Meconium is a normal part of your baby’s development. While that sticky substance in your baby’s diaper is not the most pleasant, your baby will only pass it for the first couple of days until they settle into a more regular stool pattern.

Is Your Baby Eating Enough?

First-Time Dad Tips

How to Baby Proof Your Home