The mysteries of a baby's diaper can be endlessly confusing and fascinating, especially in the early months of life. "Babies produce weird poop sometimes, just like adults can," says Adam Hart, Ph.D., professor of science communication at the University of Gloucestershire in the U.K. and author of The Life of Poo.
If you're a newborn novice, the colors, textures, and frequency of baby poop can really throw you for a loop. But spoiler alert: You're going to spend many waking hours looking at it and cleaning it up, so it's important to know what's normal and what isn't. Consider this your crash course.
Do Babies Poop in the Womb?
Your Baby's First Poop
When you peel off those first newborn-sized diapers, you'll be confronted with something that looks like sticky, greenish-black tar. This is your baby's first bowel movement, known as meconium, which is a mixture of amniotic fluid, bile, and secretions from the intestinal glands. Most babies wait until after they're born to pass meconium (though it can happen before). It will usually stick around for hours, and a few days later, the real stuff will arrive.
Baby Poop Color
"Don't expect infant poop to look anything like yours," explains Ari Brown, M.D., a pediatrician practicing in Austin and co-author of Baby 411: Clear Answers & Smart Advice for Your Baby's First Year. "If you breastfeed, it will probably look seedy and mustard-like, and if you [forumla feed], expect something more greenish with the consistency of toothpaste," she explains.
Any variation of yellow, green, or brown is normal when it comes to baby poop. "The only colors that warrant a call to the doctor are red and black, which could indicate gastrointestinal bleeding, and white, which could represent liver disease and/or nutrient malabsorption," says Nanci Pittman, M.D., a pediatric gastroenterologist and assistant professor of pediatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.
The Ultimate Baby Poop Color Chart
Baby Poop Consistencies
Since your infant is on an all-liquid diet, soft, squishy poops will be the norm for a while. Baby poop can be as thick as peanut butter or mushier, like cottage cheese or yogurt. Breastfed baby poop usually looks like fancy mustard: yellow, seedy, or curdy. Formula poop tends to resemble beat-up flan or pudding. Excessively hard poop can indicate constipation, while overly soft or watery poop could point to diarrhea.
Baby Poop Odor
The scent of your baby's poop is most often a reflection of how long the poop was in the intestines. In general, the longer the stool sits in the microbiome (read: bacteria-filled environment) of the intestines, the more it will smell.
Your baby's diet will also affect the smell of their poop. Breastfed baby poop tends to have a less strong smell, while that from babies who drink formula is typically more odorous. That said, those early poopy diapers really shouldn't clear the room. Once you introduce solid foods to their diet, however, it's another story.
Less commonly, very sour- or foul-smelling baby poop can be a sign of an intolerance or allergy. If you think your baby's bowel movements are exceptionally smelly, talk with your pediatrician.
What Causes Green Baby Poop?
How Often Should My Baby Poop?
Babies usually make up to 10 dirty diapers per day for the first couple of months, and then go two to four times per day until around 4 months of age—though this can vary a lot between babies, and pooping outside of this frequency is not necessarily cause for concern.
The timing is thanks to the gastrocolic reflex, which occurs as the stomach stretches with food and the colon is automatically signaled to empty and make room for more. In babies, the gastrocolic reflex is immature, so each time they feed, it's common for them to pass a little poop.
Over time, some babies' intestines absorb so much milk that they create extremely small amounts of waste and their colon doesn't empty more than once daily, or even once weekly in some cases. According to Dr. Pittman, it can be normal for a breastfed baby to have one bowel movement each week—but it's also normal for them to poop after every feeding. (In other words, as long as a breastfed baby is pooping at least once a week, you're probably good.)
Formula-fed baby poop is usually different than breastfed baby poop. That's because stool moves through the intestines more slowly with formula, causing babies to go about once or twice per day every one or two days after the first couple of months. Note, however, that some formula-fed infants will poop up to three or four times daily at first.
Meanwhile, babies who are fed a combination of formula and breast milk go somewhere between multiple times per day and once per week.
Breastfed Baby Poop: How It's Different and What's Normal
How Baby Poop Changes After Starting Solids
Once your baby starts eating solid food (usually between 4 and 6 months), their poop schedule will start to change. They'll go less frequently, and the stools themselves will become thicker in consistency. "Certain foods will pass through undigested. This is normal, as babies don't chew their food well and tend to process food quickly through the digestive tract," Dr. Pittman explains.
It's often recommended that your baby's first foods be naturally high in iron or fortified with iron. As a result, many parents offer rice cereal fortified with iron, which can cause some constipation. Both rice and iron are notorious for backing things up, so to speak.
If that's the case for your baby, you can switch to iron-fortified baby oatmeal or limit rice cereal intake to once a day and mix in some pureed prunes. You can also opt for other sources of iron such as meat, eggs, or beans.
Baby's First Foods: How to Introduce Solids
By your baby's first birthday when they're eating a wider range of solid foods, poop starts to change again. You might notice that the smell, color, and texture of the stool varies throughout the day, depending on what your child has eaten, says Dr. Brown. In general, it will start getting browner and thicker and will look more like grown-up poop.
Is My Baby Constipated?
If your baby seems uncomfortable and is filling their diaper with something that is thicker than toothpaste or that looks like logs or marbles, then they're probably constipated. This problem occurs for several reasons. In babies under 4 months of age, it's usually because your child isn't getting enough fluids, so remedy the situation by encouraging them to drink more breast milk or formula. Ask your doctor for specific advice and treatment options.
Does My Baby Have Diarrhea?
If your baby's poop becomes thin, watery, or streaked with mucus—and they're pooping a lot more often than usual—they probably have diarrhea. Diarrhea can be caused by antibiotics; too much fruit juice (which isn't recommended for babies under 1); milk allergies (which are somewhat rare); or gastroenteritis, a viral illness that results in vomiting and diarrhea.
Baby Diarrhea: A Parent's Guide to Causes and Treatments
If your baby has loose stools or mucus in their poop, "it's important to keep them hydrated with breast milk, formula, or pediatric electrolyte solutions," Dr. Pittman explains. But if you notice any signs of dehydration—such as dry lips, sunken eyes, or sunken fontanels (the soft spots on a baby's head)—call your doctor immediately.
Your Baby's Digestive Health
Why Is My Baby Pooping So Much?
You may be wondering why your baby is pooping so much, particularly if your child is one of the "lucky" ones who goes after every feeding. But rest assured: In most cases, it is normal. Passing stool frequently is a sign baby is well-fed. Plus, things will (eventually) slow down. The frequency of baby’s poop changes as they grow and their digestive system develops. Newborns, for example, may poop several times a day while 4-month-olds may only go once a day—or week. Rather than focusing on frequency, you should check baby's poop's consistency for signs something is amiss.
When to Call the Doctor
When it comes to baby poop, parents should call the doctor for the following reasons:
- Their poop is white (a sign your baby isn't producing enough bile), black (which signals blood digested from the stomach or small intestine), or contains streaks of red (it could mean blood from the colon or rectum)
- Your child screams in pain or bleeds while pooping
- You see mucus in baby poop, which can be a sign of an infection or intolerance
- Your child's stool changes dramatically after you introduce a new food (which may signal a food allergy)
- Your child's poop is still a very runny consistency by age 1 (if your child has diarrhea—watery stools more than five times a day—mention this to your doctor, too)
- Your child has had diarrhea and has symptoms of dehydration