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The Essential Guide to Baby Stool Types and Color

The Essential Guide to Baby Stool Types and Color

The color and texture of your baby’s stool can change dramatically over the first year. And what you see in your little one’s diaper can sometimes tell you a bit about their health. Let’s explore baby poop colors and consistencies—and what’s typical and when you may want to talk to your pediatrician.

Baby poop colors and textures

Baby poop can take on many different colors and textures. Some stool hues and consistencies are expected in healthy babies, while others could indicate a potential issue. Stools could be yellow, brown, or green, or even black and tarry. Your baby may experience softer or firmer stools and occasional bouts of diarrhea or constipation. Age, diet, medicines, and illness are a few of the factors that may influence your baby’s poop.

Baby poop colors

Let’s look at the palette of potential baby poop colors, from typical stool shades to those that may warrant a call to your pediatrician.

Yellow

Mustard-yellow stools are expected in breastfed babies, who often poop after every feeding. Formula-fed babies may have darker yellow stools.

Brown

Babies using formula will produce poop in a bounty of brown shades. Light brown, tan, yellow-tan, and greenish-brown are all within the realm of healthy baby poop.

Green

Green-tinted poop is common and can result from an iron supplement or medication. It could also indicate a potential allergy or sensitivity to something in the baby or mom’s diet. In those cases, your little one would most likely be experiencing additional issues, such as gas, fussiness, diarrhea, rash, or wheezing.

Red

Stool can appear red if a baby has consumed something red-colored, but red stool could also indicate blood due to an infection or a cow’s milk protein allergy. In newborns, red could be blood swallowed at delivery. Or if the baby is breastfeeding, the blood could be from mom’s bleeding nipples. See your doctor if you notice any blood in your baby’s diaper.1

White

Pale, chalky white stools are uncommon and could indicate insufficient bile due to a liver issue. Call your pediatrician right away if your baby has white stools.

Dark brown, dark green, or black

Your little peanut may occasionally have dark green, dark brown, or even black stool. In many cases, your baby’s iron supplement or iron-fortified formula may be the culprit, and if so, there’s no medical significance from this change and no need to be concerned.

However, if the dark brown, dark green, or black stool is not meconium—a newborn’s first poop—or your little one isn’t taking iron supplements or iron-fortified formula, call your doctor, as it could signify blood.

Baby stool types and colors for newborns, breastfed, and formula-fed babies

There's a rainbow of possible bowel movement colors and textures in healthy babies. Stools can look different depending on whether your little one is a newborn, breastfeeding, formula-feeding, or starting solid foods.

Newborn baby poop color and consistency

Color: Black-green and brown tar-like

Consistency: Sticky

Poop produced during the first 24 hours of a newborn’s life is called meconium and is made of fluid and cells that were ingested in utero. Whether your baby is consuming breast milk or formula, meconium will be sticky black-green or brown tar-like. While it may look surprising, it’s good that your little one is passing this and getting it out of their system.

Breastfed baby stool color and consistency

Color: Yellow or green

Consistency: Seedy and soft

The stools of breastfed infants look mustard-yellow and sometimes green. In terms of consistency, the poop will have seed-like particles. Breastfed infants typically have very soft, even watery stools, which may smell sweet, believe it or not.

Formula-fed baby stool color and consistency

Color: Yellowish-brown, brown-green, or light brown

Consistency: Soft, peanut-butter-like

If you’re using infant formula, you can expect your baby’s stool consistency to be soft but better formed than a breastfed baby’s. Colors may span anywhere from yellowish-brown and brown-green to light brown. The stools are usually larger and have a more pungent smell than breastfed baby poop.

Stool types and colors for babies starting solid foods

Color: Dark brown or various colors depending on diet

Consistency: Firm

Bowel movements often become firmer, smellier, and dark brown once babies start eating solid food. However, be prepared for some seemingly odd colors to pop up as well. For example, the stool might look red after eating beets or contain dark blue streaks after eating blueberries. You may even spot some green poop from newly-introduced green foods, like spinach and peas. It’s also possible (and typical) to find chunks of undigested food in your baby’s bowel movements.2

When to call your pediatrician

There are some instances where it’s a good idea to double-check with your pediatrician. If you notice the following, reach out to your baby’s doctor, as some stool colors and textures could indicate a potential health issue.

Black stool and tar-like consistency

If the harmless causes listed above have been eliminated (such as meconium or iron supplements), then a black, tar-like stool could indicate that there may be blood in your baby’s upper GI tract.

Red stool

If your little one’s red stool can’t be attributed to red food coloring or red foods such as beets in their diet, red streaks or specks may indicate blood. It’s best to check with your pediatrician to see what’s going on.

White stool

Poop pigment is influenced by diet and bile, a digestive fluid produced by the liver. If your baby's stool is white, bile may not be reaching the stool, either because the liver is not making it or because something is blocking it from getting to the small intestine. Pale poop is not typical and should be evaluated by a doctor immediately.3

Frothy green-colored stools

Many healthy babies have green-tinted stools, but keep an eye out for dark green poop, especially if your little one is past the meconium stage and is not taking iron supplements or iron-fortified formula. This could indicate blood. Also, frothy green diarrhea may be potentially linked to a virus,4 cow’s milk allergy, or food sensitivity.

Watery or liquidy stool consistency

Consistently watery poop might be diarrhea. Diarrhea can quickly lead to dehydration in babies,5 so call your pediatrician if the diarrhea lasts more than 24 hours or if your baby is:

  • Feverish
  • Acting sick
  • Under three months old
  • Showing signs of dehydration such as dry mouth or not passing enough urine

Hard, dark stools

Hard dark stools, which may look like small pellets, could point to constipation. Your little one may cry when having a bowel movement and have fewer bowel movements than expected. There are a few potential causes of constipation, so it’s best to contact your pediatrician to check it out.

Mucus

Notice slimy, shiny strings in your baby’s poop? It could be mucus. While a bit of mucus absent from other health issues is generally nothing to be too concerned about, the following could be red flags of an infection, allergy, or other concern:

  • A lot of mucus
  • Mucus in multiple bowel movements
  • Mucus accompanied by diarrhea

Want to learn more about baby stool?

Whether your little one is breastfeeding, formula-feeding, or has graduated to eating solids, what's inside your baby's diaper can give you insights into what's happening in their little body. Learn more about stooling issues, including constipation and diarrhea, and as always, reach out to your pediatrician with any questions and concerns.

 

References:

1“Is Green Baby Poop Normal?” American Pregnancy Association. https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/first-year-of-life/green-baby-poop/. Accessed October 24, 2022.

2“Stool Color Guide.” John Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/stool-color-guide. Accessed October 24, 2022.

3“The Many Colors of Baby Poop.” Healthychildren.org. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/Pages/The-Many-Colors-of-Poop.aspx. Accessed October 24, 2022.

4”The Color of Baby Poop and What It Means.” Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/the-color-of-baby-poop-and-what-it-means-infographic/. Accessed October 24, 2022.

5“Diarrhea in Babies.” Healthychildren.org. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/diapers-clothing/Pages/Diarrhea-in-Babies.aspx?_ga=2.212541524.118754778.1666640682-1191897265.1658849147&_gl=1*13tegy4*_ga*MTE5MTg5NzI2NS4xNjU4ODQ5MTQ3*_ga_FD9D3XZVQQ*MTY2NjY0MDY4MS45LjEuMTY2NjY0MTE4My4wLjAuMA. Accessed October 24, 2022.