Since what goes in must come out, it’s just as important to understand your baby’s bowel movements as it is to know about the nutritional value of what you’re feeding them, and yourself .
In fact, poop can be a sign of something going on with baby’s health, as the digestive system is a good indicator as to whether all is right in their world.
However, not all poops are created equal, so you need to know the ins and outs of when your baby’s stools are normal and when they are not.
How often do babies poop?
This varies by age and stage, as well as what they’re eating. A poop after eating isn’t uncommon, which can make for a lot of dirty diapers in those first few months. Some babies won’t poop more than once or twice a day, and that doesn’t necessarily mean anything is wrong.
Babies who are breastfeeding will poop more often than formula fed babies, due largely to the makeup of breastmilk. For some babies, formula can be constipating, but 5-10 poops a day isn’t uncommon, after the first few days. After a month or two, you will see that number go down, as their digestive system matures a little more.
What is meconium?
The first few bowel movements that baby ever has are going to be different and less frequent than later on—maybe one or two a day—and that’s normal! Baby is passing what is called ‘meconium’. It is usually dark, almost greenish-black in color, and extremely sticky, making it hard to clean up. Basically, meconium is the residue of what baby ingested through mom, while still in the womb, as well as amniotic fluid and other materials.
Baby will pass this tarry looking stool for at least a couple of days, before transitioning to more normal bowel movements.
What does normal baby poop look like?
This varies according to what baby is eating, but as newborns are either having breastmilk or formula, there is more value in evaluating the texture. If baby’s poops are soft and somewhat formed in shape, they’re fine.
At first, you might see some grainy texture, and babies that breastfeed tend to have looser stools than formula fed babies, but overall, you’re looking to avoid hard, dry stools. A consistency like peanut butter isn’t unusual at all.
As to color, once all the meconium has passed, and transitioned from black / green to green, they can be anything from a yellowish or orange tone to a light or medium brown.
What happens to baby poop when you add solid foods?
Solid foods add a whole new dimension to baby stools. Typically, they will be larger and more formed—more like an older child / adult. They will also be affected by what baby eats. For example, if your baby had strained food that had corn niblets in it, you might see some undigested corn skins in the stool.
So while green poop in an exclusively breast / formula feeding baby might raise some alarm bells, a baby that is now eating strained peas might produce some interesting colors that are nothing to worry about!
TIP: If your baby is going to be eating birthday cake for their first birthday, with icing that has food coloring, don’t be alarmed when they have very oddly colored stools later that day or the next!
What to watch for that might be signs of something amiss in your baby’s poops
- Rabbit pellet style poops: if your baby’s stools look like small, hard nuggets, this could be a sign of constipation. It’s more likely with formula fed babies, but if you see it for a day or two, you should check in with your pediatrician as there could also be an allergy causing this. Constipation is very uncomfortable and a baby who is afflicted with it will cry and strain a lot when passing a bowel movement.
- Blood on stools: this can be another sign of constipation, as well as infection or allergies, but generally, if you spot blood in their stools, give your pediatrician a call.
- Mucousy stools: this can occur because of infection, so keep on eye on it if you are seeing stringy, slimy streaks with the stools.
- Diarrhea: very runny stools can be a sign of illness and even teething, but it can also lead to dehydration if it is excessive, so one explosive poop doesn’t mean you need to reach for the phone yet, but a day’s worth, particularly with a newborn, should prompt a call to the doctor.
- Green poop: this can be a sign of infection so watch for other symptoms and, if it is happening for more than a day or two, check in with your doctor.
- Black poop: after the meconium has passed, your baby’s stools should not be black in color. This can be a sign of bleeding in the digestive tract, which needs to be investigated immediately.
- White poop: this can be a sign that your baby isn’t digesting the breast milk / formula properly, due to a lack of bile from the liver. This warrants a call to the doctor!
Poop isn’t usually a reason to panic, but it can be a good indicator of a health concern. What will amaze and surprise you, as a new parent, is how much time in a day you spend talking about, thinking about and worrying about poop. If you’re worried, don’t hesitate to reach out to the resources around you—whether that’s your postpartum doula or your family doctor. They’ve heard it all before!