Objective: To document normal stool patterns of young children.
Design: Prospective population based longitudinal study.
Setting: Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC).
Subjects: 12,984 children, whose parents completed questionnaires at 4 weeks, 6, 18, 30 and 42 months on their frequency of bowel movements and consistency and colour of their stools.
Results: Stool frequency declined from a mean of 3.0 times/day [3rd centile 0.6, 97th centile 5.9] at 4w to 1.3 times/day [0.6, 2.7] at 42m.
Stool consistency was soft in most babies with nearly half passing liquid or curdy stool at 4w. 14% of babies usually passed a hard stool at 4w, rising to 30% at 42m.
Stool colour was commonly yellow at 4w, and changed to brown by 6m. Black stools were extremely unusual at all ages.
Conclusions: These data on the changes with age in stool patterns of young children will be useful for clinicians.