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The variation in stool patterns from 1 to 42 months: a population-based observational study
  1. C D Steer,
  2. A M Emond,
  3. J Golding,
  4. B Sandhu
  1. Department of Community Based Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
  1. C D Steer, CCAH, University of Bristol, Barley House, Oakfield Grove, Bristol BS8 2BN, UK; Colin.Steer{at}


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

  • 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.