Women's Healthcare Topics

Newborn Baby Bowel Movements

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

Color of Breastfed Poop

This article will teach you about the newborn baby's bowel movements.

If you've never had to change diapers before, you may be surprised at the frequency and different consistencies of your newborn baby's stools. Baby poop comes in many shades of color and varying consistencies – some are normal, and others aren't.

Do you remember reading about meconium in our pregnancy week by week guide? Meconium is your baby's first poop, and it has been stored in your baby's intestines since you were 12 weeks pregnant – when this substance was first produced in your unborn baby's intestines. (Babies urinate in the womb, but healthy babies do not pass meconium.) Nine out of ten newborn babies will pass meconium in the first 24 hours after birth.

When you first see meconium, it is a thick, black or dark-green substance. Though this dark color may be alarming, it's absolutely normal. Meconium doesn't smell, and it goes away within a day or two. Between 2 to 4 days old, your baby's poop will become lighter in color – similar to olive green – and it will become less sticky. This olive green baby poop is considered the transitional stool, and it's a sign that your infant has started to digest formula or early breast milk.

If you are exclusively breastfeeding, your baby's bowel movements will be yellow or pale green with seed-like particles. Breastfed baby poop is often mushy or creamy. It may look like Dijon mustard mixed with cottage cheese. Unlike formula-fed babies, the poop of breastfed infants is not that pungent.

Normal breastfed baby poop comes in many shades. A greener shade may indicate that you ate something differently then normal. If you notice an electric green poop that is foamy in consistency, this may a sign your nursing baby is getting too much foremilk (the low-calorie and watery milk that comes first) and not enough hindmilk (the creamy, higher-fat milk that comes after the foremilk, and it helps baby feel satisfied). You can resolve this problem by starting each nursing session on the breast you ended on last time.

Keep in mind that, as long as your baby is content and not experiencing any symptoms, you shouldn't be too concerned about a greener shade of breastfed baby poop.

Color of Formula-Fed Baby Poop

If you are formula-feeding your baby, his or her bowel movements are usually tan or yellow in color. It's normal for your formula-fed baby poop to range from tan-brown to green-brown to yellow-brown. The consistency is firmer than the stool of a breastfed infant, but it shouldn't be firmer than the consistency of peanut butter. The smell is more pungent than that of breastfed babies, but not as stinky as babies eating solid foods.

Color of Solid Food Poop

Once you start to introduce solid foods to your baby, the smell of your baby's poop will intensify. In many cases, you will see a change in his or her bowel movements right away. Solid food baby poop is brown or dark brown in color, and it's thicker than peanut butter but still soft.

Sometimes, you may see chunks of food in your baby's food, and your baby's poop may be tinged with different colors – such as dark blue, red, and orange. All of these colors are representative of foods your baby has been eating. Try not to freak out – these chunks of food are just foods that were only partially digested in your baby's system or they passed through the digestive system so fast that they didn't have time to completely break down. In some cases, the rainbow of colors in your baby's poop occurs when your baby eats too much of one type of food, or he or she doesn't chew completely before swallowing.

Make a phone call to the pediatrician if you consistently notice partially digested food in his or her poop. It may be a sign that your baby's digestive system isn't function as properly as it should.

Frequency of Baby Poops

Normal bowel movement behavior differs from baby to baby. Some infants have a bowel movement after each meal, while others only poop twice a week. If you are breastfeeding your baby, you should expect your newborn to pass a stool after each feeding. Breastfed newborns may poop six to ten times a day. After three to six weeks, your baby's pooping schedule will slow down and he will pass fewer bowel movements.

A slowdown in your baby's poop pattern is normal, and you shouldn't worry too much as long as the pattern is fairly consistent and your baby is acting like he or she normally does. You should give your pediatrician a call if you notice a change in your baby's behavior or there are signs that your infant is uncomfortable when passing a stool.

If your baby is unhappy when having a bowel movement, check the consistency of your baby's poop. A healthy bowel movement should be fairly soft – never hard. A baby stool that is hard and dry may mean your baby isn't getting enough fluids, or he or she is losing too much fluid due to an illness or fever. A hard stool may also be a sign of constipation.

Once your baby starts eating solid foods, hard bowel movements may mean your infant is eating too many constipating-causing foods, such as cow's milk or cereal, before his or her digestive system can handle them. (Pediatricians warn parents against feeding whole cow's milk to a baby under age one.)

Video: Frequency of Baby Poop

Diarrhea – How to Recognize the Signs

A baby's poop is usually soft and somewhat runny. This can make it hard to distinguish regular baby poop from mild diarrhea. One of the signs of diarrhea in babies is an increase in frequency of output – such as more than one bowel movement per feeding, and a very high liquid content in the baby poop. Diarrhea is very runny, and it contains more water than solids. It can be yellow, green, or brown in color. Sometimes it will seep out of the diaper.

Diarrhea in babies can be a sign of an allergy or intestinal infection. It can be caused by a change in the baby's diet, or the mother's diet if the baby is breastfed. The biggest worry when it comes to diarrhea is the possibility of dehydration.

If a fever accompanies the diarrhea and your baby is under two months of age, contact your pediatrician right away. For babies who are older than two months and the fever lasts longer than a day, check your baby's rectal temperature and record his or her urination frequency. Report these findings to your baby's doctor.

Continue to feed your baby frequently and follow your pediatrician's orders.

Constipation in Babies

Your baby is probably constipated if his or her stool is hard and dry. Your baby may look uncomfortable when passing a bowel movement. Sometimes, the poop is tinged with blood.

Frequency of bowel movements isn't always a reliable measure of constipation. From three to six weeks of age, some breastfed infants will only have one bowel movement a week and this is considered normal. Breast milk doesn't leave a lot of solid waste that needs to be eliminated. As long as the baby poop is soft and not harder than the consistency of peanut butter and your baby is acting normally, gaining weight steadily, and nursing normally, you shouldn't worry. (Plus, breastfed babies are rarely constipated since your breast milk is the perfect balance of nutrition for your child.)

On the other hand, if you are feeding your infant formula, he or she will pass at least one bowel movement a day. If your baby doesn't poop at least once and he or she is straining, this may be a sign of constipation.

Sometimes, there's an ingredient in the formula that is causing the constipation. You may consider talking to your baby's doctor about switching brands of formula. Introducing solid foods can also sometimes cause constipation. In very rare cases, constipation is due to an underlying medical condition.

If you think your baby is constipated, you should contact your pediatrician for advice. The doctor may recommend feeding baby water or prune juice to help get everything moving along.


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