Objective: To document the 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 the 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 4 weeks to 1.3 times/day (0.6, 2.7) at 42 months. Stool consistency was soft in most babies with nearly half passing liquid or curdy stool at 4 weeks. 14% of babies usually passed a hard stool at 4 weeks, rising to 30% at 42 months. Stool colour was commonly yellow at 4 weeks and had changed to brown by 6 months. Black stools were extremely unusual at all ages.
Conclusions: These data on the changes with age in the stool patterns of young children will be useful for clinicians.
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▸ Additional data are published online only at http://adc.bmj.com/content/vol94/issue3
This publication is the work of the authors. Colin Steer and Bhupinder Sandhu are guarantors for the contents of this paper.
Funding: The UK Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust and the University of Bristol provide core support for ALSPAC. This study was funded by the Medical Research Council (Grant RD1589).
Competing interests: None.
Ethics approval: Ethics approval for the study was obtained from the ALSPAC Law and Ethics Committee and the Local Research Ethics Committees.