Many of you have probably seen the ad for Pretty Litter. Martha Stewart comes on screen and explains that the kitty litter changes color depending on the cat’s health. It’s a great idea to clue pet owners in to when their cat may not be feeling well or even need medical attention. Babies have a similar feature built right in and it’s called their poop! You can tell a lot about your baby’s health by paying attention to what’s showing up in their diaper. So what is your baby’s poop telling you?
The type of poop a baby has can vary depending on age, what they are fed (breastfed, formula, or first introduction to food), and health. The changes in texture, consistency, and color of what you might find in their diaper can be quite alarming to first time parents. To keep you from worrying and let you know when to worry— here is the down and dirty guide to their stool.
Newborn poop will look quite different for the first few days than later on. It even has its own name: meconium. It has the consistency of tar and is normally greenish-black. Did you ever see Fern Gully growing up? It looks like the pollution monster that tries to kill the forest. But no worries, this stuff coming out of your baby is perfectly normal!
While inside your womb, your baby consumed amniotic fluid, bile, and even skin cells–the meconium is their body processing and expelling all of that. And while it can be a little scary, there’s no need to worry.
Formula-Fed Baby Poop
The poop of a healthy, formula-fed baby is normally a pasty consistency (think peanut butter) and is yellowish brown. Formula-fed babies’ stool also usually has a stronger smell than breastfed babies’, but don’t make them feel bad about it.
Breastfed Baby Poop
Breastfed babies’ poop is normally yellowish, more runny/watery than formula-fed babies’, and is sometimes seedy. It has a sweeter, less odorous smell than a formula-fed baby—you should for sure be bragging about this to the other moms.
Poop After Introduction to Solid Food
Once your baby starts eating solid food, their poop will start to change and have a lot more variety (how exciting!). So each diaper change can have a new smelly surprise waiting for you. Their poop can have partially digested food, is usually thicker than it used to be and can often be a surprising color.
Orange, Yellow, and Brown Poop
What does it mean when your baby’s stool is orange, yellow, or brown? Rest assured, these colors are totally normal. Bile is what gives poop its characteristic brown color, so hues of brown indicate that the process is running right on schedule. The hues of these colors vary based on what it carries through the digestive process, but they are very common and point to normal digestive health.
Green poop often happens if your baby has an iron-rich formula or if you are taking an iron supplement. It can also happen when they are introduced to green vegetables, in which case, it’s not a cause for alarm.
Another cause of green poop may be if your breastfed baby isn’t getting enough hindmilk–the more high-fat, high-calorie milk that comes after the initial watery foremilk your body produces each feeding session. Your feeding sessions may not be long enough, or you may not be spending enough time on each breast if you baby’s poop looks green and frothy. Make sure your baby is getting enough milk in each feeding.
There’s also a chance that your baby is experiencing a food intolerance if they have green poop. This could be in their formula, or more commonly, in your breast milk. Pay attention to whether your baby also acts extra fussy after eating, as this could be a good indication something isn’t sitting right with their digestion.
Dark Red/Black Poop
Babies should expel the tar-like meconium after a few days of being born. So if your baby is still having black stools after that, they may be struggling to eat or digest their food properly. They may also have a food allergy, often to cow’s milk. If you see flecks of blood in the stool, consult your pediatrician to explore whether your baby has an allergy.
Sometimes red poop can indicate digested blood. If a baby is breastfed, it could be blood from their mother’s cracked and bleeding nipples. While it is not threatening to the baby, cracked nipples can lead to an infection in the mother and, because it is so painful, can disrupt breastfeeding. Consult your OB/GYN or a lactation specialist if you’re struggling with bleeding nipples.
Another source of blood in the stool could be from anal fissures–if your baby like to take their time to have a bowel movement, they could get constipated, and once it’s finally time to let it out, the pressure of the movement can make tiny tears in the anal canal that bleed. While they usually heal on their own, it could be worth talking to your pediatrician about how to ease constipation.
If your child is not breastfed or taking an iron supplement, dark/red poop could be a sign of a GI bleed and immediate medical attention should be sought.
Read more here on treatments for blood in your baby’s stool.
If a baby is not breastfed and is having very runny diarrhea, it could be an indication of an infection. If not treated right away it could lead to dehydration. Talk to your pediatrician if your baby’s poop is excessively runny.
Hard, Pebble-Like Poop
This could be a sign that your baby is constipated or their body reacting to solid foods, sensitivity to soy or milk, or intolerance to something in breastmilk. It can become painful for your baby to pass stool that is too hard and cause anal fissures. So if their poop is consistently hard, talk to your pediatrician about what may be causing it and how to treat it.
Mucus in Poop
Stringy green mucus in poop could be a sign of an infection. While a small amount occasionally is probably no cause for concern, if you’re seeing a lot of mucus in multiple diaper changes, you should talk to your pediatrician immediately. Look for other signs of discomfort in your baby–extra fussiness, fever, or diarrhea–as this can point to something more serious going on.
Chalky white or grey poop is warning you that your baby is struggling to digest their food, or possibly a lack of bile from the liver, which can be potentially life threatening. Contact your pediatrician right away if you see chalky white stool in your baby’s diaper.
Your baby’s poop color can be an alarming sight. The slightest change or twitch can send a new parent off the rails with worry. Hopefully this list will bring you help you understand what is going on inside that little body and provide you with some peace of mind and direction in doing what’s best for your little one!
For more advice on babies go to babycubby.com.