Bet you never thought you’d become someone that’s obsessed with poop, did ya?? Well, as a parent, this is just one of those things that we worry about and pay A LOT of attention to!
“Why’s my baby’s poop this colour?”
“My baby hasn’t pooped in days, is that normal?”
“My baby’s poop is really runny, is that diarrhea? How do I tell – it’s always liquid-like?”
These are just some of the questions I know swirl around in your head when you’re doing yet another diaper change. I know because I’ve been there!
And, while it may not be the most fun topic out there, it’s certainly an important one – so let’s go over everything you need to know about your baby’s poop!
What does your baby’s poop tell us about their health?
Since babies aren’t yet able to tell us how they’re feeling, we have to use certain indicators to collect information about their health and wellness – one of these is poop. We can use things such as the colour of your baby’s poop, the frequency, and the texture, to determine many different things. Including…
- Illness – sometimes your baby’s poop can be the first, or only, indicator of an illness, such as a gastrointestinal bug.
- Nutrition – certain colours can indicate issues with nutrient absorption, plus we can use the colours to tell us whether they’re taking in breastmilk/formula, and later on, if solids are being swallowed.
- Hydration – sometimes constipation can be a sign that more fluids are needed.
- Allergies/intolerances – there are certain signs to look out for that could indicate that your baby has an allergy or an intolerance to something they ate, and some of those signs show up in their diaper!
Knowing what is considered normal for your baby, based on what they’re consuming, is important so that you can determine when their poop is out of the ordinary, and then determine whether that change is to be expected, or warrants a call to their pediatrician.
What affects the type of poop my baby has?
There are a lot of different factors that could affect your baby’s poop, namely age, diet, and illness. So it’s normal to expect that your baby’s poop is going to continue to change as they grow. A newborn’s poop is going to look drastically different from a 6 month old baby’s poop, which will look different from your baby’s poop at 1 year old, in large because as their diet changes, their poop changes. And diet typically changes with age. Let’s review some major changes that happen:
Newborns have black, sticky, tar like poops that happen in the first 24 hours following birth. These poops are called meconium, and are basically a build up of ingested mucus, amniotic fluid, and other material from the womb. However, if they last longer than a few days, or go away and come back, you need to take your baby to their pediatrician ASAP. Black poops are not considered normal after the initial days following birth.
1-5 days after birth:
Typically, you’ll notice the meconium will change into what is referred to as “transitional poops”. These are a mixture of meconium and breastfed/formula fed poops that are expected once your baby begins to digest their milk feeds. These will continue to decrease in meconium, and change to what we expect breastfed/formula fed poops to look like, after a few days. We would expect babies to have 2 poops on day 2, and 3 poops on days 3-5. The colour will change from black, to green, to brown, and after a few more days, will change to adjust to whatever poops are characteristic of their main diet.
Breastfed baby’s poop:
If your baby is being exclusively breastfed, after those first meconium poops, they’ll have poops that are clearly identifiable as breastfed baby poop.
- Colour: Yellow – often bright or pale mustard coloured. Sometimes it can be bright green and frothy if babies are nursing for only short periods of time on each breast, and getting more foremilk than hindmilk.
- Texture – Loose. They’ll be on the runnier side, but not like what would be considered diarrhea either. May contain seed-like or lumpy pieces – you’ll most likely notice tiny white spots or clumps within the yellow poop. This is normal.
- Frequency: Babies that are exclusively breastfed can go days without pooping, or they could poop with every single nursing session – both are considered normal.
Formula-fed baby’s poop:
If you’re feeding your baby formula, their poops are going to look different than that of a breastfed baby. This is because formula is digested differently than breastmilk is, and it has different properties. So, if you’re exclusively formula feeding, your baby’s poops will take on the following characteristics listed below. It’s important to note that it may take 1-2 weeks after introducing formula exclusively for your baby’s diapers to change.
- Colour: Yellow-brown, green-tan, or brown. With formula there’s a bit more of a range as far as the colour of poops, but any of these colours are considered normal.
- Texture: Thick and firm – typically it has a consistency similar to toothpaste, which is thicker than the poop of a breastfed baby.
- Frequency: Formula-fed babies don’t typically poop after each feed (as is common for some breastfed babies) because formula takes longer to process through the digestive tract. However, they should be going at least once per day, maybe even every other day. Anything less than that could be a sign of constipation. I’ll explain more about the other signs in a little bit, but this would warrant a call to their pediatrician.
Combination-fed baby’s poop:
Some babies are given both breastmilk and formula throughout the day, which is referred to as combination feeding. In these cases, your baby’s poop could vary and be seen as anything between the two types described above.
After starting solids:
Once you begin feeding your baby solids, typically around the 6 month mark and once they’ve shown all the signs of readiness, your baby’s poop will change due to their new diet. After all, what goes in, must come out! However, I want to note that this doesn’t mean that your baby’s poop will begin to look like adult poop – their poop will continue to have certain characteristics that make it very clearly baby poop. Here are the main things to look for in normal poop.
- Texture: If your baby was exclusively breastfed, you’re probably familiar with the more loose stools they were used to having (note: not diarrhea, but loose for sure). Once your baby starts solid foods, you’ll see a pretty significant change in stool texture – namely, they’ll get way firmer. This might not be as obvious if your baby was exclusively formula fed before, but generally, we want the texture of their poop to be like the texture of a cooked sweet potato – sort of pasty.
You might also notice bits of undigested food in your baby’s diaper. Is this a concern? No, it’s actually completely normal! See, your baby’s digestive tract is much shorter than an adult’s, and therefore there isn’t always enough time for their body to break down all of the food that they’re eating. This is especially true for foods higher in fibre, such as corn, carrots, blueberries, etc. It also can happen if your baby isn’t chewing their food a lot before swallowing, which is to be expected when they’re first starting out with solids. But hey, it’s a great indicator that they’ve actually ingested some food!
- Smell: Solid food produces smellier poop. Babies on a milk only diet usually have milder smelling poop, especially when it’s breastmilk only.
- Colour: Before starting solids, your baby’s poop colour was likely fairly consistent. A mustard colour if they were exclusively breastfed, a brownish colour if they were formula fed, and somewhere in between if they were…well…somewhere in between those two. Once your baby starts solids, you’ll see that it’s likely your baby’s poop will take on a broader variation in colour, and may even take on the colour of the latest coloured food they ate!Here are some examples of normal colour changes you might notice:
- Brown – this is kind of the standard colour, and happens naturally when they begin eating solids.
- Dark green – common when starting solids that are green in colour, like spinach or peas. This can also happen if your baby is taking iron supplements, or eating a lot of iron rich foods (as is recommended for babies).
- Blue – this sounds concerning but is a result of eating foods of this colour. One main culprit for producing this colour of poop is blueberries!
- Orange – again, this could be from eating foods of this colour. Remember that baby’s digestive tracts are shorter, with less time to digest the food in its entirety, so it is easier to tell what they ate by looking at their poops. In babies that haven’t started solids, this can also happen because the poop absorbs pigments from the digestive tract, which is also considered normal.
- Red – you may notice a deep red colour if they ate something of that colour recently, for example beets (I will say, from experience, it can look like a deep red, almost maroon colour!)
- Frequency: Once you go from an all liquid diet to introducing solids, you’re usually going to see the frequency of bowel movements go down. This is because solids bulk the stool up, there is usually less fluid being taken in, and sometimes it can take a while for a baby’s digestive system to adjust.
What type of poop do we not want to see?
Diarrhea can happen when your baby is sick with a virus, bacteria, or perhaps taking antibiotics.
The key change in stools you’ll see is in the consistency – watery, loose and possibly mucousy – and the frequency – 3 or more of these watery, loose stools in a row.
I know your baby’s poop is naturally liquidy if they’re exclusively breastfed, and so it may seem difficult to distinguish diarrhea from their normal. But that’s why we need to observe their normal, because I’m telling you, you’ll know diarrhea! I’ve changed a diaper that was best described as coloured water, it pooled in their diaper and the diaper couldn’t even soak all of it up fast enough, so when I opened it, there was a literal puddle (not a pleasant image I know!). It may not be that drastic, but a watery poop explosion up your baby’s back, is another good sign. Basically, my point is, that you’ll know, you’ll open the diaper and say: “Uh-oh, that’s not normal!”, and if you find yourself doing this, don’t second guess, your instinct is probably right!
If your baby is experiencing diarrhea, it’s not necessarily an emergency, but your main goal is going to be to keep them hydrated! You need to ensure that they’re drinking enough formula/breastmilk. If they’re older and eating solids, try to serve foods with a high water content, such as watermelon, or cucumbers, along with encouraging them to drink water from an open cup with meals.
If your baby is also experiencing fever, irritability, or appears to be in pain, seek medical attention right away. Babies can dehydrate much faster than adults do, and it’s best to get them seen at the onset of these symptoms.
Also watch for other signs of dehydration, particularly if the diarrhea is ongoing and lasts for several days. The other signs you need to look for are:
- Decreased tears or crying without tears
- Lack of saliva
- Sunken eyes
- Sunken fontanel (soft spot on your baby’s head)
- Excessive fatigue
- Less playful than usual
Finally, if diarrhea is recurring, it can also be a sign of a food allergy (most likely cow’s milk allergy or lactose intolerance), so be sure to speak with your doctor if you suspect that.
Constipation is not simply a reduction in the amount of dirty diapers. The more important factors to look at to see if your baby is constipated is if they have…
- Extremely hard and difficult to pass poop
- Poop that appears pebble-like and is in small pellets or marbles
- Poop that is a thicker consistency than toothpaste (specifically for younger infants)
- Pain when pooping
Note: a red face while pooping is not a sign of constipation in young infants. They simply haven’t learned how to activate the correct muscles to push their poop out, and as they get closer to 1 year old, you’ll notice this won’t happen as often, if at all.
Constipation can happen when your baby is dehydrated and isn’t taking in enough fluids, or isn’t getting in enough of the right types of fiber, or has an imbalance in gut bacteria. You can learn more about my strategies for managing constipation here. And if you’re unsure about what types of food to serve your baby, and how to safely introduce solids and finger foods – my Baby Led Feeding course is for you!
When to seek help
Here’s the thing, poop is going to vary with each baby, and you are going to notice changes in consistency, frequency, and colour fairly frequently, especially as their diet changes with introducing solids. The key to remember is that their poop should be soft, your baby should be gaining weight and eating well, but frequency will vary with each child.
However, there are certain times when I want you to seek help from your pediatrician right away. If you notice…
Generally, we don’t want to see red in your baby’s diaper as this indicates bleeding of some sort, somewhere along the digestive tract. Bright red blood in the diaper typically indicates some bleeding somewhere closer to the end of the tract. It could be an infection, an anal fissure from excessive pushing due to constipation, a milk allergy, or sometimes flecks of red appear in a breastfed baby’s diaper if their mom has cracked, bleeding nipples. And once a baby begins solids, it may happen from ingesting certain red-coloured foods. However, we really want to err on the side of caution with red poop. So if you cannot say with 100% certainty that your baby’s poop has a red tinge due to eating a lot of beets, it’s best to call their doctor and discuss it. They may have you wait to see if the next poop is the same colour, or they may want to check it out right away. Dark red and black poops indicate a very serious problem – specifically internal bleeding, as this is digested blood. So, if the poop is at all borderline, as in you’re having a difficult time deciding if it’s the colour of beets or a dark red/black colour, it’s absolutely best to get your baby checked out, just in case.
White or gray poop
These colours can happen, and they may have a chalky texture as well. White indicates that there is an issue with your baby’s liver, and basically there isn’t enough bile being produced to properly digest food. It needs to be addressed immediately. Gray could also indicate an issue with the liver in that food isn’t being digested properly, or it could also mean that your baby’s body isn’t absorbing the nutrients in their food. Again, it needs to be addressed right away.
Although some mucus can be normal, consistently having mucusy poop can also be a sign of an allergy or an infection, so again, if you’re unsure of the cause, it’s best to speak with your baby’s doctor.
Dramatic changes after introducing solids
If you notice any drastic changes after introducing solids to your baby, either with regards to consistency, frequency, pain, etc. speak with your baby’s pediatrician. This can indicate a possible food allergy and should be addressed before offering that food again.
Runny/liquid poops at 1 year old
If your baby’s poops continue to be runny and liquid-like leading up to their first birthday (not diarrhea), be sure to discuss this with your baby’s pediatrician. By this age, their diet should consist of mainly solid foods, and therefore, their poops will reflect that and should have a thicker consistency than when they were on a liquid diet of breastmilk or formula.
I know that was a lot of info about poop, so I hope you were able to stick with me, because this is really an important topic. Taking notice of your baby’s normal, when it comes to so many things, is crucial in being able to recognize and react when something happens that’s outside of their normal. Poop is no exception.
If you’re feeling stressed about all the information you need to process and retain regarding starting solids with your baby, I have a solution! My Baby Led Feeding course is the most comprehensive online course on feeding out there, and provides you with step-by-step guidance into this new world of serving solids and finger foods to your baby. Plus, you have access to it for a lifetime! Check back in whenever you need a question answered or a refresher on a specific topic, and never feel like you need to search the depths of the internet to find a trusted answer. Enroll today!