Diaper Diaries: Get the Scoop on Baby Poop

Your baby’s output can vary so much – sometimes every diaper change brings a new surprise, it seems! Our Facebook community had lots of questions about baby poop, so we asked experienced moms and a pediatrician (and mom of four) for their insight.

Advertisement

Q: Is it normal for the consistency of a baby's poop to vary a lot? Sometimes it's really soft, and other times it's formed and dry. Should I be worried?

Sarah says:
As a mom to four children I can honestly say I have pretty much seen poop in every form! What's inside their diaper can be an important clue to their health. Young babies poop a LOT and in breastfed babies the consistency tends to be very runny. I recall one of my children shooting poop across the room every time I changed his diaper! Very runny poop in a breastfed baby is completely normal. Formula-fed babies tend to have slightly less runny poop. When babies are on an exclusively liquid diet, their poop should be very runny or soft. Hard poops may indicate a problem and you should consult with your doctor to find the cause. As babies begin eating solids the consistency of their poop will change and become less runny, but should still remain soft and easy to pass.

Dr. Meg says:
Yes! The consistency of your baby’s poops can vary even if you don’t change his diet. The color may vary as well as the form and texture. This is perfectly normal and no you should not be worried.  As Sarah said, breastfeeding usually results in baby having runny or even liquid poops. Formula fed babies can have runny, partly formed, well-formed or occasionally dry poops and this is all normal.

When any food is introduced into baby’s diet, stools typically begin taking more shape. Foods contain fiber, water and carbohydrates and these all affect the color and consistency of poops. When you introduce foods, be prepared to see a lot of normal variation in your baby’s bowel movements.

If baby has experienced an illness with diarrhea, once the infection has passed, stools can be runny for many weeks because it can take a while for the digestive tract to restore its ability to absorb water. Or, he can even begin having drier poops if he experienced a bit of dehydration with the illness. No matter, both will resolve in time and I encourage patients to avoid switching formula too much during this period because the lining of the bowels require consistent nutrition to heal, too.

Q: What are some ways to help with occasional constipation in an infant?

Sarah says:
I remember my son used to occasionally get constipated and I would feel so helpless when he'd cry! I found some tricks that worked really well for him and may help your baby as well. Try some movement. If baby is crawling then encourage your baby to crawl around for a while. If baby is not crawling on his/her own then try laying him on his back and gently moving his legs, bicycle style, up towards his belly and back down in a circular motion. If your baby is old enough (consult with your pediatrician), offer some prune juice to help get things moving. You may also want to try switching to a formula that has prebiotics if your baby is formula fed. Enfamil Reguline is a great formula to try as it has prebiotics that work like fiber to help promote soft, comfortable poops.

Dr. Meg says:
Believe it or not, the frequency of bowel movements varies a lot between babies. It is normal for some babies to poop three times per day while other babies the same age poop once every three days. Many parents become alarmed that something is seriously wrong if the baby doesn’t poop for a couple of days but they shouldn’t be. This may be a perfectly healthy variant.

My recommendation for easing occasional constipation is to always start as simply and naturally as possible. That means avoiding glycerin suppositories which can be uncomfortable and ineffective. For breastfed babies, I recommend a bit of molasses squirted right into the baby’s mouth. You can begin with 1 tablespoon per day and increase as needed. Molasses is safe and most babies tolerate it well.

If baby is taking formula, I recommend that parents first try switching to a formula designed to promote bowel movements that are soft and frequent. Again, I always recommend keeping things as simple and as non-disruptive to baby as possible. Remember, never give baby honey during the first year of life.

Q: What are normal colors [of baby poop]?

Sarah says:
The color of your baby's poop can vary and usually isn't cause for alarm. Green, yellow and brown are the most common colors that occur and are all considered normal. It can even vary throughout the same day! Colors to watch out for are white, red, and black. White poop can indicate a problem with digestion and red and black stools can indicate the presence of blood in the stool. If you see any of those colors you should consult your pediatrician. Otherwise, don't stress what color it is!

Dr. Meg says:
The color of baby’s poops is quite variable. If he takes in primarily breastmilk, his poops will appear yellow with tiny ‘mustard seed’ appearing flecks. If baby takes formula, his poops will be darker brown or green but they should not be jet black.

The first bowel movement a baby has is called meconium and this passes only once. It is black, sticky and looks like tar. It is a sign of a healthy digestive tract. There are other colors of poop that can be a signal that something may be wrong with baby’s health. If his stools are pale, lacking color, are consistently black or have streaks of blood, you should have your pediatrician evaluate your baby. Occasionally, a baby may experience a firm poop and tear a small piece of tissue near his anus. This is called a fissure and will cause a small amount of bright red blood to appear in his poop. This is no cause for concern, unless the blood persists for weeks.

*These answers are not intended to be used in place of speaking with your personal physician. Please consult your physician for any medical issues and/or emergencies.

ABOUT OUR EXPERTS

Meg Meeker

Pediatrician, mother of four, and best-selling author of six books, Dr. Meg Meeker is the country's leading authority on parenting, teens and children's health. Dr. Meg writes with the know-how of a pediatrician and the big heart of a mother because she has spent the last 30 years practicing pediatric and adolescent medicine. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, certified by The American Board of Pediatrics and serves on the Advisory Board of The Medical Institute.

Sarah

Sarah is a Registered Nurse and mom to four children. She blogs at Must Have Mom, where she shares must have recipes, DIY projects, parenting tips and more in an effort to simplify everyday life for busy families.

Nina

Nina Garcia is a mom of three boys and the parenting blogger behind sleepingshouldbeeasy.com. She has been helping parents for over seven years with parenting, family life, early education, being a working mom, and life with twins. She has also written several books and continues to inspire readers to engage in mindful and positive parenting.

Read More >