Is your baby’s poop not what you expected? Learn all about it here.
Parents are often surprised by the contents of their baby’s diaper. It’s not uncommon for them to have questions about the colour, texture, and frequency of their litte one’s bowel movements. This is normal, as the characteristics of a baby’s poop change over time. A newborn’s digestive system is still immature and continues to develop over the course of the first year. Their stool is influenced by both this early stage of development and their diet.
During the first few days, a newborn’s poop is a very dark green or black. This is because they’re eliminating a substance known as meconium, the waste that accumulated in their intestines while they were in the womb. Meconium can include amniotic fluid, dead cells, and intestinal secretions.
The first form of breast milk produced immediately after birth (colostrum) acts as a laxative for the newborn, facilitating the cleaning of their digestive system. Thus, during the first week of life, the colour of a baby’s poop will be different shades of green as they expel all of the meconium, and then gradually become a mustard yellow.
If your baby is healthy and developing normally, you shouldn’t worry about the colour of their stool unless it is blood red, black, white, grey, or light beige.
If a newborn is breastfed, their stool will range from mustard yellow to yellow-green. The stool of a baby who is bottle-fed with formula will be more greenish or brownish rather than yellow (e.g., forest green, khaki green, lime green).
When a baby starts eating solid foods, the colour of their poop will change depending on what they eat. For example, it might be orange if they eat a lot of carrots or purplish red if they eat beets. However, it will most often be brown.
Texture and smell
The meconium a baby eliminates during the first few days has a very sticky texture similar to tar or molasses. While it’s not always easy to clean up, it indicates that your newborn’s intestines are functioning as they should. The good news is that it doesn’t have much of an odour!
What are the differences between a breastfed and a bottle-fed baby’s poop?
After passing the meconium, breastfed babies will have semi-liquid bowel movements that may contain lumps. Their stool smells like sour milk and is not particularly irritating to their skin. This is another advantage of breastfeeding.
Formula-fed babies’ stools are thicker and have a stronger odour. Baby formula is less digestible than breast milk. It also produces more waste (denser stools) because of ingredients that a baby’s digestive system can’t absorb.
If your infant’s poop suddenly becomes very watery, they may have a temporary intestinal upset. Contact Info-Santé (811) if it persists for more than 24 to 48 hours.
When a child begins to eat solid foods, their stool will become thicker and have more of an odour. The consistency will vary according to their diet. Introducing a new food, for example, can make it softer for a few days.
There’s also no need to worry if there is food debris (e.g., vegetables or fruit) in your baby’s poop. This is a sign that some foods have not had time to be absorbed by their digestive system. As they start eating solids, you can help your baby’s digestion by giving them mashed or finely chopped food.
Frequency of bowel movements
A newborn generally produces 1 to 3 large stools per day. However, it’s also normal for this number to be higher. In fact, some babies may have as many as 10 bowel movements per day in their first 4 to 6 weeks of life. Breastfed babies tend to have a bowel movement after each feeding.
After 6 weeks, this frequency may decrease and stabilize around 2 to 5 large stools per day. Some babies may even have only one bowel movement a week if they are breastfed, or one every 2 or 3 days if they’re formula-fed. From this point on, there’s no need to be concerned if bowel movements are rare, as long as the stools remain soft. Before the age of 6 months, babies rarely experience constipation. It’s normal for your baby to strain and turn red when they relieve themself.
When should you call a doctor?
Consult a doctor if your baby’s stools are red or black (tinged with blood) or if they’re hard and dry. You should also consult a doctor immediately if your baby’s stools are white, grey, or light beige, as discoloured stools can be a sign of liver problems.
Things to keep in mind
A newborn’s first bowel movements are dark (green or black) and very sticky.
A breastfed baby’s poop is usually yellow, semi-liquid, and not very smelly.
Starting from 6 weeks, babies usually have 2 to 5 bowel movements per day, but sometimes only 1 per week if they are breastfed.
Scientific review: Dr. Anne-Claude Bernard-Bonnin, pediatrician
Research and writing: The Naître et grandir Team
Sources and references
Note: The links to other websites are not updated regularly, and some URLs may have changed since publication. If a link is no longer valid, please use search engines to find the relevant information.
Doré, Nicole, and Danielle Le Hénaff. From Tiny Tot to Toddler: A practical guide for parents from pregnancy to age two. Quebec City, Institut national de santé publique du Québec. www.inspq.qc.ca
Healthy Child Manitoba. “The Scoop on Poop.” 2016. gov.mb.ca
Caring for Kids. “How many diapers will my baby go through?” childcare.cps.ca