Why does baby’s poop look the way it does? Learn about the different ways newborn poop can look, which ones are healthy poops, and when to see a doctor about baby’s poop.
Some of the most common questions parents ask shortly after the birth of their baby revolve around their poop – “Why does baby’s poop look like that? And is it normal?” Today, we’ll cover the different types of newborn poop you might encounter, including which ones are healthy poops and which ones you’ll need to see a doctor about.
The first newborn poop: Why is it so tarry?
Baby’s first poop will look thick, black or greenish-black, and tarry. It may be sticky and hard to wipe off, yet it will have no smell. This first poop is called meconium. Meconium may look weird to you because it doesn’t look like the “usual” poop that older babies and children make, but it’s completely normal. Baby will poop out all of the meconium 24-48 hours after they’re born (it may sometimes take more than one poop).
The meconium is made up of the dead skin cells, amniotic fluid, and lanugo (pre-birth hair) that baby swallows while in the womb. They can't rid their body of these substances until birth, so they just sit in baby’s digestive system and build up.
Once baby is born and starts drinking their first breastmilk or formula, their body needs to get rid of all the things that were ingested before birth to make room in the digestive system. Their body finally gets rid of these substances by passing meconium as the first poop. The meconium has little to no smell because gut bacteria are what give poop its odor, and baby only has very small amounts of gut bacteria when they are just born.
After the first poop: How often do babies poop?
After they poop out the meconium, newborn babies will poop extremely often. They’ll poop after every single feeding – this could be up to 5-10 times per day, which means lots of diaper changes.
If baby’s drinking formula, they’ll probably poop less often than a breastfed baby. Formula-fed baby poop is usually darker and thicker than breastfed babies’ poop. Meanwhile, breastfed babies poop more often, and tend to have lighter poop with seedy-looking white flecked spots (these are little curds of breastmilk).
Once baby is about 6 weeks of age, they will usually poop less often because of changes in their digestive tract. Many babies older than 6 weeks will only poop once per day – and possibly every other day or every few days.
If baby isn't pooping as frequently as normal, it might just be because their routine has changed. Try bicycling their legs, making sure they have plenty of fluids, and feeding them foods like peaches, pears, plums, beans, and broccoli if they’ve started solids.
Or, if baby’s old enough, it might just be their new normal pooping pattern – especially if they are breastfed. While breastfed babies younger than 6 weeks of age tend to poop more than their formula-fed peers, some breastfed babies older than 6 weeks of age only poop once every several days to a week.
But if constipation is accompanied by signs of dehydration, baby might not be getting enough fluids. And if baby shows food allergy symptoms or food intolerance symptoms when constipated, an allergy or intolerance could be the cause. Call your doctor if baby is often constipated for any reason.
After the first poop: What baby poop colors are normal?
Baby’s poop could come in many different colors – and several different colors are considered healthy. If baby’s poop changes color, that’s fine too, as long as that color is in the healthy range below.
What baby eats affects what their poop looks like, so the poop color can change when baby moves from breastmilk or formula to solids. It can also change depending on the type of solids baby eats.
Learn more about the colors of baby poop from Seeker Baby:
It’s also perfectly normal if pieces of undigested food appear in baby’s poop, as that just means baby’s digestive system isn’t breaking them down completely.
Healthy poop colors can include:
Tan-brown: Tan to brown poop that’s thick and sticky – like paste or peanut butter – is typical formula-fed baby poop.
Mustard yellow or yellow-green: Breastfed babies usually have runny poop in this range of color if they haven’t started eating solids yet. Sometimes, formula-fed baby poop can also be yellow.
Bright yellow to orange: If baby is breastfed and they have this poop color, something in the mom’s diet (or medications) is probably responsible. Artificial colors in foods that breastfeeding moms eat can dye their babies’ poop, but it’s still normal. Just be sure to check any medicines or drastic dietary changes with your doctor if you’re breastfeeding.
Darker brown: This is the color we usually associate with poop, but baby usually won’t have this color poop until they’ve started solids. Once baby’s consistently eating solids, expect baby’s poop to stay dark brown and get smellier. That color and smell are thanks to a higher concentration of good gut bacteria, which baby needs for a healthy gut and gets from solids.
What about green poop?
Don’t be alarmed if baby has green poop – there are several reasons this can happen, and most aren’t causes for concern.
- If baby’s poop is dark green, they’re probably consuming iron rich formula or eating lots of high-iron foods (like spinach and broccoli).
- If baby’s poop is green to yellow-green and they seem content, that’s healthy poop.
There are a few reasons behind green poop that could be a concern, though.
- Green poop plus gas, bloating, or lots of fussiness could mean baby has an allergy or intolerance to a food or formula ingredient.
- And in breastfed babies, green poop that’s frothy can mean a baby is drinking too much foremilk (the milk that comes out first) and not enough of the high-fat hindmilk (that comes out later in a feed). This may mean that you’ll need to breastfeed for a longer period.
What poop colors should you call a doctor about?
If baby’s poop is any of these colors, call a doctor right away as these are signs of something more serious:
Black (after the expected meconium time): If baby’s poop stays black for several days after birth – several days after the normal time for passing meconium – baby might not be getting enough nutrients during their feedings.
Gray or white: If baby hasn’t started solids yet, call your doctor right away if you see gray or white poop in their diaper. This is often a sign of a gall bladder problem or liver problem.
Red: Red or visibly bloody stools are one sign of an allergy or intolerance to a food. This could be an allergy to a formula ingredient or solid food. Or, if baby’s breastfed, it could be an allergy to something their mother ate.
Note: Small flecks of red in another color of poop aren’t a cause for concern, as long as the overall color of the stool is brown, yellow, or green. This could be a sign of constipation, or a breastfed baby could have swallowed a little bit of blood from a chafing nipple. You can still call a doctor to check this out, but this isn’t nearly as pressing as visibly bloody stools.
When should you be concerned about poop consistency?
If baby’s routine or diet changes, their poop consistency could change just like their poop frequency could change. If poop consistency changes but then goes back to normal after a few poops or a few days, baby is probably fine. But if any of the following happen repeatedly and don’t change after several poops, call your pediatrician:
Mucousy: This could be a sign of an infection or allergy.
Bloody: Baby could have a food allergy or intolerance if stools are visibly bloody.
Diarrhea or very loose: This is a common sign of a food allergy, intolerance, or infection. If baby has any back-to-back diarrhea – even just twice in a row – call your pediatrician as this can also put baby at risk for dehydration.
Firm, small pebbles: Although this could happen when baby is trying a new solid food, repeated pebbly poop could be a sign of constipation – or possibly a food intolerance.
All health-related content on this website is for informational purposes only and does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the advice of your own pediatrician in connection with any questions regarding your baby’s health.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
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