By Eirian Hallinan
Chances are that on more than one occasion you’ll find yourself asking “is this normal?” when changing your baby’s diaper. Baby poop, though not as pleasant as some of the other surprises you’ll encounter as you settle into parenthood, is something that can send a new parent into a panic when you see something that doesn’t look quite normal.
This easy guide to baby stool will give you an idea what to expect and what is and isn’t normal when it comes to your baby’s poo.
Baby’s first stool can be quite alarming as it is black and tarry—something that would be considered a red flag if passed by an adult. This first stool is called meconium and because it is sterile and passed from intestines that are not yet full of bacteria, it is actually odorless. If your baby is moving her bowels well, the stool will begin to lighten in color over the next couple of days and become less tarry-looking, as she begins to digest breast milk or formula.
Normal Breastfeeding Stool
Babies that are exclusively breastfed have creamy or soft stool that is yellowish or greenish in color and may have a speckled or seedy appearance. If your baby’s poo is a bright green with a frothy appearance, this can be an indication that you’re not feeding long enough on each breast. Starting a feeding on the breast you finished with during the last feeding can help ensure that your baby is getting more hind-milk, which contains more fat and calories.
Normal Formula-Fed Stool
Babies that are formula-fed will have stool that looks much like peanut butter. It will have a pasty consistency and be a yellowy or tan color. Stool from formula fed babies also tends to have a stronger odor than that of breast-fed babies.
Normal Solid Food Stool
The transition to solid foods also means a transition in the appearance, smell, and frequency/amount of your baby’s poop. Once eating solid foods, your baby’s poo will be darker in color, usually brown, and smellier and thicker than before, though still not solid. You may on occasion also notice pieces of undigested food or that your baby’s poop has taken on a color of something they ate, such as red from beets or green from peas. This is nothing to be alarmed about and can result from food travelling through the intestines quickly, eating a lot of one type of food, or simply not being chewed well. If you consistently find undigested food in your baby’s diaper, then a visit to the doctor can help rule out any issues with absorption of nutrients.
What’s Not Normal
There are some colors and consistencies of stool that may indicate a problem. If you come across any of the following, a visit to the pediatrician right away is recommended:
- Black stools. Aside from a newborn’s first stool (see above) or unless your baby is taking an iron supplement; black stools can result from digested blood.
- Bright red stools. Stools tinged with blood can be a sign of a milk protein allergy, an infection, or tears in the anus from constipation.
- Diarrhea. Runny or watery stools that are brown, yellow, or green is considered diarrhea, which can be a sign of an allergy or infection. Untreated diarrhea can lead to dehydration.
- Mucus in poop. Signs of slimy mucus in your baby’s stool can result from excessive drooling or may be a sign of an allergy or infection.
- Hard, pebble-like stool. Poo that looks like hard little pebbles or balls is an indicator of constipation, which can result from a number of things, including starting solid foods or a sensitivity to something in their formula or breast milk.
- White or gray stool. Pale gray or white baby poo can be an indicator of blocked bile ducts due to liver disease.
Over time, you’ll become familiar with your baby’s bowel habits and know what sights and smells are normal and which aren’t. Speak to the doctor about anything out of the ordinary or concerning.