Baby poop colors: What’s normal during the first year

No parent is fully prepared for what comes out of their baby’s bottom. Baby poop has a different color, texture and smell that you might be used to. It also changes over time.

In the first few months, a baby’s diet is limited to formula or breast milk as their digestive system is still developing. You’ll likely watch them wiggle, scrunch and use their whole body in the pooping process, too. But once they start to drink more milk and eventually eat solids, the color, texture and frequency of their dirty diapers will change. And all this can make it difficult for you to know what’s normal and when you should be concerned about your baby’s poop.

Here’s our advice for new moms, dads and caregivers about what can be healthy baby poop, how to know if baby is pooping enough and when to get advice from your baby’s doctor or a nurse.

Your baby’s first poops: What to expect for the first week

Your newborn baby’s poop can be a major surprise if you’re not prepared for it.

Meconium: Blackish, tarry stools that last for up to three days

Your baby’s first poops are meconium and probably don’t look like anything you’ve seen before. Meconium is a sticky, greenish-black, tar-like substance that lines your baby’s intestines before birth. Meconium is a combination of amniotic fluid, skin cells, water, bile and secretions from the intestinal glands.

Most babies have their first bowel movement within a few hours of being born, but some babies may poop just before birth. For the first three days of their life, your baby should have one dirty diaper for each day of their life. If your baby is making fewer dirty diapers than that, or their poop is still black three days after birth, it may be a sign they’re not getting enough to eat.

If you have questions about your baby’s poop or aren’t sure if you should see a doctor just yet, call your clinic’s nurse line. Or you can go ahead and make an appointment with your baby’s doctor.

Transitional stool: Your baby’s poop will go through changes for a few days

It will take a few days for your baby to completely clear the meconium from their body, and for breast milk or formula to make its way through your baby’s digestive system. So, there will be a transition period before your baby’s poop becomes a more consistent color and texture. During this time, you may see dark brown poop, followed by soft greenish poop and then thinner yellowish poop.

By the time your baby is about a week old, they should be making “normal baby poop” – which is usually mustard yellow for breastfed or chest fed babies, and a yellow brown for formula-fed babies.

Your baby’s poop as they grow: Normal colors and textures

Healthy baby poop colors and textures can be very different than healthy poop for adults. While you’d be surprised if lemon-yellow or greenish-tan stool came out of you, these are some of the healthiest types of baby poop.

Healthy poop colors and textures are different for infants primarily fed breast milk and those mostly fed formula. Once your baby starts to snack on solids (sometime between 4-6 months old) you can expect to find more changes in their diapers.

Normal poop for breast milk-fed babies

Before starting any solid foods, babies who primarily drink breast milk usually have mustard yellow poop that’s loose and seedy. You may also see bright yellow or orange poop – these colors can be caused by the medications and diet of the breastfeeding or lactating parent.

Before they’re 6 weeks old, your baby may poop after every feeding. After that, one to three times a day is typical. But it can also be common for some breast milk-fed babies to poop more than three times a day or for them to go a few days, or even a week, between bowel movements.

Normal poop for formula-fed babies

Before formula-fed babies begin eating solids, their poop is typically yellow-brown or greenish-tan once their digestive system is up and running, and the poop is a bit firmer in consistency. It’s also possible for the iron in baby formula to cause dark green poop, which is no reason for concern.

Newborns drinking formula will often poop after nearly every feeding. Once a formula-fed baby is 6 weeks old, you can expect one or two poopy diapers each day.

Since babies’ digestive systems are so young and sensitive, some babies can be intolerant of certain types of formula. Gas, bloating, constipation or diarrhea can be signs of a formula intolerance, so talk with your baby’s doctor if you have any concerns.

Normal poop for babies once they start eating solid foods

Once your baby starts to eat solids, healthy bacteria will begin to populate their intestines, resulting in poop that starts to look (and smell) a little more like yours. Their poop will become thicker and darker – and most of the time will be brown.

But since baby’s digestive system is still developing, a baby’s poop is more likely to take on the color of the foods they ate, causing poop that can look somewhat green, orange, yellow or red. You may also see chunks of food in their poop.

Babies who eat solids usually poop one or two times a day. But it’s common for babies to get bouts of constipation as they are transitioning to a solid diet.

Even if you see something unusual in your baby’s diaper, chances are that it’s nothing to worry about. But if changes in the color, texture or frequency of your baby’s poops are accompanied by other symptoms such as fever, fussiness or not eating well, it could be a sign of illness or an underlying condition.

Very runny or watery baby poop

Poop that’s a little runny is pretty normal for babies before they start eating solids – and in the case of breast milk-fed babies, healthy poop is a bit watery to begin with. But a sudden increase in the number of poops or looseness of the poop can be a sign of diarrhea.

If your baby doesn’t have a fever and is otherwise acting normal, but you suspect diarrhea, a good first step can be to call your clinic’s nurse line. But if you’re noticing other symptoms like fever, give your baby’s doctor a call or make an appointment.

Dry, pebbly poop

If you’re finding small, dark brown pellets in your baby’s diaper, they may be constipated. You may also notice a longer period of time between their last poop, see them straining as they push or notice that poop pebbles have some red on or in it.

Constipation can be extremely common in babies, especially as they begin to eat different solid foods or start transitioning to cow’s milk from formula or breast milk. In some cases, it can be one sign of dehydration, but constipation usually isn’t serious and doesn’t require a doctor’s visit. However, if your baby hasn’t had a bowel movement in more than three days, it’s a good idea to call your baby’s doctor or make an appointment.

Black baby poop

While baby’s very first poops are black and tarry, black poop is not common in older babies. However, iron in formula or iron supplements given to certain babies, as well as foods like blueberries and grape juice, can make poop look blackish.

But accompanied with other symptoms like fever or fussiness, black poop can also be a sign of bleeding in baby’s digestive tract and it’s a good time to get in touch with your doctor.

Red baby poop

Like black stools, red baby poop can also be caused by certain foods, as well as from constipation or diaper rash. However, red or bloody baby stools alongside other symptoms may signal an infection, allergies or another condition. So, it’s a good idea to give your baby’s doctor a call. If you notice a significant amount of blood in your baby’s diaper, head to your nearest emergency room.

Gray or white baby poop

Chalky white or gray baby poop is often a sign of an underlying condition. So it’s recommended that you seek immediate medical attention just to be safe.

When to talk to a doctor about your baby’s poop

Since a rainbow of colors and a range of textures can be okay, how do you know when your baby’s poop is cause for concern? Generally, if changes in your baby’s poops are also accompanied by other symptoms or changes in behavior, it’s a good idea to see a doctor.

Make an appointment if your baby has any symptom like fever, increased fussiness, difficulty eating or fatigue, as well as:

  • Your newborn’s poop is black several days after birth.
  • Your baby’s poop looks bright red or bloody.
  • Your baby’s stool is a chalky white or pale gray.
  • Your baby is pooping more frequently, and their stool is unusually watery.
  • Your baby is struggling to poop or making stools that are dry, hard or pebbly.
  • Your baby is pooping less frequently than normal or hasn’t had a bowel movement in more than three days.

Get the scoop on your baby’s poop

Questions about your baby’s poop are always great to bring up at any of the well-baby visits you’ll have in the first several months of their life. And you can always call your clinic’s nurse line with questions. But if you’re noticing concerning symptoms, make an appointment with your baby’s doctor.

We know it can be challenging to describe poop changes, so feel free to bag up the dirty diaper to bring it along to your appointment.

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