Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Did you know that the average parent will change between 2500 and 3000 diapers in the first year of their baby’s life?! And even after that many dirty diapers, sometimes you open one up and wonder, “Is this normal?”. Understanding baby poop, what’s normal, and what’s not in your baby’s diapers can give you great insights into their health and well-being. So, let’s take a (figurative!) deep dive into what to expect in your baby’s diaper.
Table of contents
- The Stages of Baby Poop
- Is The Color Of My Baby’s Poop Normal?
- Is My Baby Pooping Often Enough?
- Warning Signs
It is natural for the color, consistency, and frequency of your baby’s poop to change from day to day. These changes depend largely on how much and what kinds of food your baby is eating, whether he or she is bottle or breast fed, and his or her age. But in some cases, your baby’s poop can be an indicator that something else is going on. This guide will help you determine what is normal and when you should be concerned.
The Stages of Baby Poop
The First Few Days: Meconium
- The First Poop: Your newborn’s first bowel movements will be meconium, a thick, sticky, tar-like substance. It’s typically black or dark green and is made up of materials ingested in the womb.
- Transitioning: Over the first few days, as your baby starts feeding, their poop will transition from meconium to a more regular infant stool.
Breastfed Baby Poop
- Color and Texture: Breastfed baby poop is usually a mustard yellow, green, or brown color, and can be runny and seedy.
- Frequency: Some breastfed babies poop after every feeding in the early weeks, while others might only go once a day or even once every few days. Both can be normal.
- Odor: Generally, breastfed baby poop has a less pungent and slightly sweet smell compared to formula-fed baby poop.
Formula-Fed Baby Poop
- Color and Texture: Formula-fed baby poop is often a bit firmer than breastfed poop, similar to the consistency of peanut butter. It can be yellow, brown or green, but it’s usually some variation of yellow and tan.
- Frequency: Formula-fed babies typically have bowel movements less frequently than breastfed babies, but it’s common to have at least one a day.
- Odor: Tends to have a stronger odor than breastfed baby poop.
Is The Color Of My Baby’s Poop Normal?
There are a few factors that cause changes in the color of your baby’s stool. When your baby eats, the food must be broken down and digested in order for his or her body to absorb the nutrients. This breakdown is aided in part by bile, a liquid made in the liver and stored in the gallbladder. The bile, along with gut bacteria and digestive juices, contribute to the many shades of yellow, tan, and orange that you may find in your baby’s diaper.
Green poop can be a result of your baby’s digestive process slowing down and is usually caused by eating something that requires more effort to digest, such as a lot of cereal.
You can also expect your baby’s poop to turn green when they begin to eat solid foods such as spinach, broccoli, peas and green beans.
Green poop, especially if it also very watery, can be a sign of a milk allergy. In breast-fed babies, green poop can indicate a lack of normal intestinal bacteria.
Most baby poop will begin to change from a yellow or tan color to brown when solid foods are introduced. Brown poop is also common in babies that are given an iron supplement.
Sometimes a baby may have black specks of blood in their poop. Always check with a doctor if you see this, as it means the baby has ingested blood. It could be as harmless as a baby breast-feeding from a cracked and bleeding nipple, but it could also be indicative of bleeding in baby’s digestive tract.
White, Pale, Grey or Clay Colored Poop
Baby poop that is lacking in color may be a sign that your baby is nor producing enough bile to properly digest his or her food. This may happen if the liver is not functioning like it should. If you see this, contact your pediatrician immediately.
Orange and Yellow Poop
As we discussed earlier, orange and yellow are typical colors for breastfed and formula-fed babies.
Partially Digested Food in Poop
Once your baby starts eating solids, you may see chunks of food appear in your baby’s poop. Some foods are not able to completely break down in the intestines or travel so quickly through the system that they don’t have the chance to digest completely. This is completely normal.
Is My Baby Pooping Often Enough?
The frequency of bowel movements varies greatly from child to child. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, one bowel movement a week or more is considered normal for a breastfed baby. This holds true as long as the stool is soft and your baby is otherwise healthy–gaining weight, eating regularly, and doesn’t appear to be in any discomfort. Formula-fed babies should have at least one bowel movement per day. If your baby is not pooping this often, watch for other signs of constipation.
Runny Poop and Diarrhea
Because baby poop can be naturally runny, it may be hard to tell if your baby has diarrhea. If you notice a significant increase in the amount of poopy diapers you are changing (more than one per feeding) and the stool in them is runnier than usual, it is likely that your baby has diarrhea.
Diarrhea can be a sign of an intestinal infection or a reaction to a change in baby’s diet, or mom’s diet if breastfeeding. Diarrhea also poses the risk of dehydration, especially if accompanied by a fever.
Call your pediatrician if your baby’s diarrhea does not go away or if the diarrhea is accompanied by a fever and your baby is under two months old.
Hard, Dry, Pebble-like Poop and Constipation
If your baby has hard, dry, or pebble-like poop, he or she may be constipated. A good rule of thumb is that baby poop should be no firmer than peanut butter. Constipation can be a sign that your baby is dehydrated and isn’t getting enough fluid or losing too much fluid (fever, heat, or illness). It can also be caused by constipating foods and/or foods he or she cannot digest well.
Blood in your baby’s diaper can be alarming, but before you freak out, there are several things to consider. Red streaks of blood on the outside of your baby’s stool can simply indicate an irritation in the anus. If you see this, no need to panic. Just keep an eye out for any other symptoms and continue to check each bowel movement carefully. A lot of blood or blood inside the stool can be indicative of bleeding in the intestine. In this case, call your pediatrician immediately.
Mucus in your baby’s poop can be caused by something as harmless as extra drooling or a cold, but may also be a sign of infection or allergy. If your baby’s stool has a large amount of mucus in it, call your doctor.
While the world of baby poop might be new to you, it’s an important part of understanding your baby’s health. Most variations in baby poop are normal, but if you ever have concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to your pediatrician.
Remember, every baby is different, and what’s normal for one might not be for another. Trust your instincts, keep an eye on the diaper contents, and know that you’re doing an incredible job. Here’s to happy, healthy babies and all the diaper changes that come with them!
(1) Marder, J. (2014, March 12). Why is my baby’s poop this color?. PBS News Hour. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/science/babys-poop-color
(2) American Academy of Pediatrics. (2009, August 1). Baby’s First Days: Bowel Movements & Urination. Healthychildren.org https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/Pages/Babys-First-Days-Bowel-Movements-and-Urination.aspx