Baby poop color: Causes and when to see a doctor
An infant’s poop changes color and consistency during their first few days, weeks, and months of life, and a wide range of colors is normal. Below, learn to recognize unhealthy baby poop and what changes to expect as a baby grows.
In infants, age, diet, and health are the main reasons for changes in stool color. The poop of newborns is almost black, while older infants tend to have yellow or brown poop.
Breastfeeding and formula-feeding can also influence the color of a baby’s stools.
Red or white poop can indicate a health problem. Otherwise, a wide range of colors is to be expected. Anyone who suspects that a baby has diarrhea or constipation should seek medical advice.
Various factors can cause changes in the color of a baby’s stools. Common colors and their causes include:
In newborns younger than 1 week, black is a healthy color for stool. After this time, however, it could indicate a health problem.
During the first 24 hours of life, a newborn will pass meconium. This is thick, black stool. It is made up of cells, amniotic fluid, bile, and mucus ingested while in the womb. Meconium is sterile, so it usually does not smell.
Over the first few days of life, a newborn will continue to pass meconium. The color should gradually change from black to dark green, then yellow.
After 1 week of life, stool should no longer be black. If a black color persists, seek medical advice. It could mean that there is some bleeding in the digestive system.
This is a normal color of poop from a breastfed baby. Their poop tends to be dark yellow
and may have small flecks in it.
These flecks come from breastmilk and are harmless. Poop from breastfed babies is often described as “seedy.” The so-called seeds may resemble curds in cottage cheese but are yellow.
Brown or orange
This is a normal color of poop from a formula-fed baby.
When a baby drinks formula, their poop tends to light brown or orange. It may be slightly darker and firmer than stool from a breastfed baby.
Many babies occasionally have green poop. Some possible causes include:
- slow digestion, usually because the baby has eaten more than usual
- green foods in the diet of the breastfeeding mother
- a cold or stomach bug
- a food allergy or intolerance
- antibiotics, either in the baby or the breastfeeding mother
- treatment for jaundice
Some infants’ poop is naturally slightly green. If the baby is putting on weight and seems content, green poop is not necessarily a cause for concern.
Learn more about green poop in children here.
This is not a healthy poop color.
Poop is usually red because there is blood in it. Seek medical advice.
The baby may have a health problem, or they may have swallowed a small amount of blood. This could happen if a breastfeeding mother has cracked or bleeding nipples. Another cause of red poop is bleeding from the baby’s bottom.
This is not a healthy color for stool.
White poop is uncommon and could indicate a liver problem.
Jaundice, for example, is highly common in newborns, affecting as many as 80% of these babies in their first few days of life. It usually goes away within the first 2 weeks.
Anyone who suspects that their baby still has jaundice after 14 days should check the color of their poop. Pale or white poop may suggest liver disease. Another sign to look for is yellow pee.
If the baby has white or pale stool, the doctor may test their bilirubin levels. Bilirubin is a compound that helps the body get rid of waste. There are two types of bilirubin, and if levels of one type are too high, it can cause health problems.
Baby poop can also have a variety of textures and other features. Before an infant starts eating solid food, their poop is usually very soft.
Breastfed babies may have quite runny or stringy poop, while formula-fed babies tend to have firmer, but not solid, poop.
Mucus in a baby’s stool is also common and rarely a sign of any health issue. If the baby shows other signs of unusual behavior or illness, however, speak to a doctor. Learn more about mucus in baby poop here.
Dry or hard poop can mean that a baby is not drinking enough fluids, or they may be ill.
After an infant starts to eat solid foods, hard poop can also be a sign of constipation. Babies commonly become constipated when they eat foods that their bodies cannot yet digest properly. Here, find out more about constipation in babies.
Very watery stool can result from diarrhea. A baby with diarrhea may also poop more often than usual or have a high temperature. Diarrhea can cause dehydration, which is potentially serious for infants.
Every baby is different, and some poop more often than others. Many newborns poop after each feeding, though they tend to pass stool less frequently once they reach 6 weeks old. Breastfed babies may only poop once a week. A healthy frequency for formula-fed babies is once per day.
As a baby grows, their poop often changes color. For example, as an infant starts to eat solid foods, what they eat may affect the color of their poop. Undigested food in stool can also cause a change in color.
Unusual colors, such as green, may not signal a health issue. Stool color may vary for a short time, then return to its regular shade.
White, red, or black are the exceptions — these colors can each indicate a health problem.
Also, if a lot of mucus is present or it appears in stool on an ongoing basis, this could signal an illness.
See a doctor about any concerns regarding an infant’s health.
Expect newborns to poop frequently, sometimes after every feed. Infants older than 3 weeks may poop anywhere between two or three times a day to once a week.
Healthy poop can be shades of yellow, orange, brown, or green, and the texture may be runny to fairly firm. It should not be hard or watery.
Babies often strain a little as they pass stool and may make noises or scrunch up their faces. This is normal. However, too much straining or discomfort when pooping could be a sign of constipation.
Poop color can be one way to keep track of a baby’s health.
Stool that is quite soft and earthy in color is generally healthy. However, red or white poop often signals a health issue that requires attention — as does black stool from babies older than 1 week.
Overall, as long as an infant is gaining weight and feeding as often as they need, a broad range of poop colors is healthy.