Your Baby's Poop Reveals Even More About Their Health Than Previously Thought, According To New Study

Ad failed to load

A big part of being a new parent is, unfortunately, poop. You change your baby's diaper a million times a day. You scrape their poop into the toilet. You wipe poop off their butt (and their back and their front and sometimes even THEIR FACE? OH MY GOD HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?) Doctors have long advised parents to keep track of baby poop, monitoring things like frequency, consistency, and color. And because baby poop has been studied so much over the past century, scientists were able to make a pretty important observation about the way baby poop has changed over time. In fact, according to a new study, pH levels in baby poop are very revealing.

The study, published in the journal mSphere, studied baby poop's pH levels from 1926 up until the present day. The researchers reviewed 14 clinical studies between then and 2017 that looked at 312 "healthy breastfed infants." Over time, they found, pH levels in baby poop have steadily increased since 1926, picking up even more steam in the years since 1980. In general, pH in baby poop changed from 5.0 to 6.5 since 1926, and researchers believe this increase may cause a microbial imbalance, something that can lead to health problems like "certain types of cancer; autoimmune diseases like thyroid disorders, multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes," according to CBS News.

But let's back up a bit and explain what that all means. Firstly, as TODAY explained, pH measures how acidic or alkaline something is, and these levels can reveal information about a baby's microbiome. That's noteworthy because their microbiome plays a very important role in the processes of digestion and nutrition according to research published on the National Center for Biotechnology Information. Furthermore, the microbes found in microbiomes "contribute metabolic functions, protect against pathogens, educate the immune system, and, through these basic functions, affect directly or indirectly most of our physiologic functions." As TODAY put it, microbiome help "protect us from disease," so its overall health is important.

Ad failed to load

So, what exactly do these increasing pH levels in baby poop mean? The study noted that a lot of evidence exists proving that "the infant gut microbiome has important long-term health implications." For example, a 2013 study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that baby poop could help us understand conditions like asthma, obesity, and diabetes, as CNN reported at the time. For this most recent study, the researchers concluded:

Ad failed to load

Basically, allergies and autoimmune diseases have been on the rise over the past century, and the researchers believe this change in pH could have something to do with that. That being said, what has caused this change? The study detailed three possible reasons: an increase in formula feeding, C-section deliveries, and the use of antibiotics.

The study noted that breast milk has a "bacterial selectivity" that formula does not, explaining:

Ad failed to load

Since the 1980s, more babies have been delivered via C-section, which researchers believe can affect bacteria as well. "Increased caesarean section delivery since the 1980s further limits the natural fecal-oral transfer of Bifidobacterium from mother to infant associated with vaginal delivery," the study explained.

And lastly, the researchers noted that it's become common practice to take antibiotics during childbirth, which can affect an infant's gut bacteria. The researchers wrote, "Antibiotic use has become increasingly common during labor and many infant-associated species of bifidobacteria are sensitive to antibiotics."

Ad failed to load

All that being said, the researchers behind the study do not seem to advise expectant or new mothers to avoid formula feeding, C-sections, and taking antibiotics during labor. Those three things are incredible and important medical advancements. Many parents are perfectly happy with their choice to employ them, and many parents have no choice but to employ them.

Until there is more research on how exactly things like formula feeding, C-sections, and taking antibiotics during labor affect a baby's gut and therefore their overall health, there's nothing to worry about. Of course, if you have any concerns about your little one's poop, always check with your doctor. But this study just provides a further look into how telling your baby's dirty diapers really are.

Ad failed to load

Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

Kids Will Love These TV Shows & Movies Coming To Netflix In April

It's that time of the month again: as March draws to a close, Netflix gets ready for a little bit of spring cleaning. Though some TV shows and movies will have to find homes elsewhere, their departure makes room for all kinds of exciting new media. A…
By Megan Walsh

The Pressure To Worry About The Gap Between Kids Is So Bad For Moms

"Two under two is absolutely crazy," a friend recently told me upon hearing the news that I was expecting a second child. "Why would you do this to yourself? Seriously, why?" However harsh her words, she was only echoing the same feelings I'd been ba…
By Marie Southard Ospina

To Be Honest, I Couldn't Survive Motherhood Without My Job

The decision to work outside the home once you've become a parent can be a complicated one. Some people don't really have a choice, and go back to work because they're either a single parent or can't sustain their family on one income. Some choose to…
By Priscilla Blossom

I Feel Guilty That My Kid’s Dad Is A Better Parent Than Me, & That’s BS

I was scared, and he was sure. I was clueless, and he was well-researched. I was making mistakes, and he was picking up the pieces. From the moment I found out I was pregnant until just last night, when I threw my hands up in the air and left the alw…
By Danielle Campoamor

These Millennial Parents Are Taking Gender-Neutral Parenting To An Entirely New Level

A woman on the subway looks at my bulbous shape and asks, “What are you having?” I take a deep breath and throw a glance to my 5-year-old. “I’m having a baby,” I say to the woman. “No, no” the woman says laughing as she pushes further. “Are you havin…
By Madison Young

I’m Registered At Babies “R” Us, & I'm Freaking The Hell Out

Hi. My name is Abi, and I’m registered at Babies “R” Us — and I’m freaking out. This may sound silly, but after being a die-hard Toys “R” Us kid, I was so excited to register at their baby store once my husband and I finally got our big fat positive …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

My Daughter Is Obsessed With Being "Pretty" & I'm Way Past Terrified

Last week, when I picked up my daughter after school, she immediately wanted to know if I liked her hair. "Is it pretty?" she asked. Her hair was pulled up into two ponytails that were intertwined into thick, long braids. A shimmering pink and purple…
By Dina Leygerman

7 Things No One Tells You About Having A Baby In Your 20s, But I Will

I was 24 when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. The pregnancy was a surprise, since I was on birth control (side note: antibiotics and birth control don't mix), but my partner and I decided to continue with the pregnancy and committed to m…
By Candace Ganger

Women Who Miscarry Early Deserve To Grieve — Here's How Hospitals Should Be Helping

When I lost my baby back in 2013, it was because of a very early miscarriage. Because of the little amount of time I spent being pregnant, it was though my child had never really existed, which made the next few years hard — I felt like they had been…
By Risa Kerslake

7 Things I Wish My Partner Had Said To Me In The First Hour After Giving Birth

I don't know if it was the buzz of the surrounding machines, the non-existent cry of our son as the doctors tried to resuscitate him, or the fact that I'd already been through labor and delivery once before, but I knew something was missing after I h…
By Candace Ganger

Moms’ Groups Weren’t For Me, Sorry

I go to my moms’ club everyday of the week, but not usually on weekends. My moms' group is a place I can always count on finding fellow mothers who understand the daily struggles and triumphs of parenthood and of juggling life’s responsibilities. Dep…
By Samantha Taylor

Millennial Women Are Getting Married Later Than Gen X, & The Reasons Why Are Pretty Badass

The battle of the generations seems to come up when it comes to every lifestyle or career choice people make. Women, especially, are an important demographic when it comes to analysts looking at the lifestyle choices we make or the expected milestone…
By Josie Rhodes Cook

I've Had 3 Miscarriages But *Please* Keep Telling Me About Your Pregnancy

I can feel the tension the moment my friend announces her pregnancy. I can hear the forced nonchalant attitude she's willing herself to exude as she fishes for the ultrasound. I know why I was the last to learn that she was expecting; why she keeps l…
By Danielle Campoamor

7 Early Signs You're Going To Need An Epidural, According To Experts

Even if you've constructed an elaborate birth plan, it's impossible to control every aspect of labor and delivery. Complications can occur, proactive measures might be necessary, and your mind is subject to change when those damn contractions really …
By Candace Ganger

I'm Pregnant & I Refuse To Read Any Parenting Books

I didn't read any parenting books when I was expecting my daughter, and I refuse to read any parenting books as I await my second child now. I'm the first to admit that I don't really know what I'm doing when it comes to raising my daughter. A good d…
By Marie Southard Ospina

7 Reasons Why March Babies Are Total Badasses

From the moment you become pregnant, you begin to wonder what your little one will be like. Will they look like you, your partner, or your Great Aunt Edna? Will they be the quiet, thoughtful type or arrive on this planet raring to go? It's fun to ima…
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

12 Overnight Face Masks To Use To Wake Up Feeling Pampered AF

Spring is right around the corner, and as far as I'm concerned, the sunshine and warm breezes can't come soon enough. But now that we're about to say goodbye to winter, it's a good time to take stock of your facial skincare routine. You know, in the …
By Katie Malczyk

11 Essential Products To Pack In Your Hospital Bag, According To OB-GYNs

The minute you go into labor (or think you're going into labor), chaos ensues. You and your partner are likely to get a little frantic, just like in the movies, so you most definitely want to have a hospital bag packed before the day comes. This prec…
By Abi Berwager Schreier

7 Photos You *Must* Take In The First 6 Months Of Motherhood

In my experience, becoming a mom is like becoming an amateur photographer. There's just something about the need to capture every single coo and sorta-smile that leaves you obsessed with all things photography. I know I couldn't stop taking selfies w…
By Candace Ganger

Here's How Early An Ultrasound Can Actually Determine Your Baby's Sex

From the moment you see those two lines on a pregnancy test, there are a few markers along the way that stand out as especially exciting. Amongst them are hearing your baby's heartbeat and feeling that first, sweet little kick. And if you are finding…
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik