Your premature baby's nappies

How often your baby has wet and soiled nappies can help you monitor their health and wellbeing. Speak to your healthcare professional if you have any concerns.

How often should my baby have a wet nappy?

Your baby should have at least 6 heavy, wet nappies every 24 hours. It can be hard to tell if disposable nappies are wet. To get an idea, take an unused nappy and add 2 to 4 tablespoons of water. This will give you an idea of what to look and feel for. 

Your baby’s wee should be a clear, pale yellow colour and should not smell. 

Is my baby dehydrated?

Dehydration occurs when your body loses more fluid than you take in.

A baby may be dehydrated if they have:

  • a sunken soft spot (fontanelle) on their head
  • a dry mouth/lips
  • fewer wet nappies
  • dark yellow urine or brownish spots in their nappy
  • drowsiness or not waking for their feeds
  • fast breathing
  • Jaundice
  • cold and blotchy-looking hands and feet.

Give your baby plenty of breast milk or formula milk. It can often be better to give them smaller amounts of fluid more frequently.

Never dilute your baby's formula (if you use it). Babies who are formula-fed may be given extra water, but ask your health visitor, GP or community midwife first. 

If your baby is dehydrated, take them to see your GP as soon as possible. You should also contact your GP if your baby has had 6 or more episodes of diarrhoea in the past 24 hours, or if they have been sick 3 times or more in the past 24 hours. 

What does baby poo look like?

By the time you take your baby home from hospital, their poo will have settled into a yellow or mustard colour, and it may be smooth or seedy. Breastfed babies' poo is runny and doesn't usually smell. Formula-fed babies' poo is firmer and smellier.

Some infant formulas can also make your baby's poo dark green. If you change from breast to formula feeding, you'll find your baby's poos become darker and more paste-like. 

If your baby’s poo is pale or chalk-like, you should take them to your GP to be checked.     

How often should my baby do a poo?

There's no 'normal' when it comes to how often babies poo.

Talk to your health visitor or midwife if you have any questions about your premature baby’s poos.

How often should I change my baby’s nappy?

You’ll need to change your baby’s nappy regularly. 

Some babies can wait to be changed until before or after every feed. But other babies may have very delicate skin and will need changing as soon as they wet themselves.

All babies will need a nappy change as soon as possible after doing a poo. 

Young babies need changing as many as 10 or 12 times a day, while older babies need to be changed at least 6 to 8 times. 

What is nappy rash?

Nappy rash is red patches on your baby’s bottom or genitals. It can happen when the skin is in contact with a wet or soiled nappy for a long time. Try to:

  • change your baby’s nappy frequently
  • clean the whole nappy area gently but thoroughly, wiping from front to back
  • use water or fragrance-free and alcohol-free baby wipes 
  • dry your baby gently after washing them 
  • lie your baby on a towel and leave their nappy off for as long and as often as you can to let fresh air get to their skin
  • do not use soap, bubble bath or lotions
  • do not use talcum powder as this can irritate your baby's skin.

If the rash is causing your baby discomfort, your health visitor or pharmacist can recommend a nappy rash cream to treat it.
Speak to your GP or health visitor if you have any worries or: 

  • if the rash is severe
  • if the rash doesn't go away after a few days 
  • your baby develops a persistent bright red, moist rash with white or red pimples that spreads into the folds of their skin – this may be a sign of infection. 

Is my baby constipated? 

It's normal for babies to strain or even cry when doing a poo. Your baby isn't constipated as long as their poos are soft, even if they haven't done one for a few days. 

The symptoms of constipation in your baby can include:

  • pooing fewer than 3 times in a week
  • finding it difficult to poo, and poos that are larger than usual
  • dry, hard, lumpy or pellet-like poos
  • your baby may be less hungry than usual
  • their tummy might feel firm.

Other signs of constipation can include your baby lacking energy and being a bit grizzly.

Constipation can be caused by:

  • starting breastfed babies on formula (this is harder for them to digest than breast milk)
  • changing from pre-mixed formula to powder or vice versa
  • starting babies on solid foods
  • lack of fluids (dehydration) – this could be from teething or an illness. 

Treating constipation

If you are breastfeeding, keep offering your baby feeds. If your baby is formula-fed, talk to your health visitor, GP or community midwife about giving them extra water between some feeds.

You can also try lying your baby down and gently move their legs like they're riding a bicycle to help get things moving. If your baby is happy lying down, give them a gentle tummy massage.

If you have any concerns about your baby’s health, speak to your GP, health visitor or community neonatal nurse.

Find out more about support for you and your premature baby at home

NHS. Breastfeeding: is my baby getting enough milk? (Page last reviewed: 3 December 2018. Next review due: 3 December 2021)

NHS Inform. Dehydration. (Page last reviewed 14 February 2020)

NHS. How to change your baby’s nappy. (Page last reviewed: 8 August 2018. Next review due: 8 August 2021)
NHS. Getting to know your newborn. (Page last reviewed: 2 August 2018. Next review due: 2 August 2021)

Review dates
Reviewed: 23 August 2021
Next review: 23 August 2024