Stools vary a great deal from baby to baby. They may vary in number, size, colour and texture. What is normal for your baby may not be normal for your sister's baby or the baby in the house across the street.
At the same time, guidelines for what to expect can be helpful, as long as you continue to check with your baby's doctor or nurse for help with any questions you have. We list the common types of baby stools and what these mean.
Meconium, which looks like liquorice or tar and is greenish-black and sticky, is the first stool after birth1. It’s perfectly normal, healthy and temporary. This type of stool is caused by bilirubin, a yellowish-green breakdown of red blood cells.
Check with your doctor if it lasts more than 3 days. If your baby has black poop that is not meconium, call your healthcare professional immediately.
Breastfed baby poop is bright yellow, mild-smelling and may come with loud, even explosive side effects. These stools are also frequent, soft and loose with very tiny seed-like pieces2.
This totally normal poop is the gold standard for babies, as breastmilk is easy to digest and contains all the nutrients needed for the baby to grow.
Some breastfed babies may have bright green stools, when they nurse for short periods on each breast and receive more foremilk (which is sweeter and thinner) than hindmilk (richer and fatter).
To avoid this, try not to switch your baby to your other breast until you’ve nursed at least 20 minutes per side. If your baby is fussy or seems uncomfortable, contact your healthcare provider.
Babies who are fed formula often have firmer and less frequent stools than breastfed babies, for at least the first 2 months of their lives. Stool colour varies; yellow, green and brown are all common.
The only time to be concerned is if the poop frequently becomes hard (a sign of constipation) or watery (a sign of diarrhoea).
Solid food stool
One thing that affects your baby's stools is what you feed your baby. Once your baby has started on solids, you’ll see bowel movements that vary in colour and texture after every meal3.
Some foods can give a baby’s stool unusual colours. Foods known for turning baby poop shocking colours are carrots (orange) and spinach (green).
Watch what your baby eats to ensure there is a link between stool colour and the food he eats. If your baby’s stool is red for no apparent reason, call your healthcare professional.
The occasional loose or watery stool is not a cause for alarm. But loud and loose stools that last two days or more could be a sign of diarrhoea. Infant diarrhoea can be caused by many things including viruses or antibiotics taken for infections.
Diarrhoea can cause dehydration, and also might be a sign of infection. You should give your baby plenty of fluids, or breastfeed often. Do not give your baby medication for diarrhoea unless advised by your doctor. He may recommend an electrolyte solution for rehydration.
Constipation may lead to stools that are small and hard, as well as stools that are painful or uncomfortable to pass.
While occasional constipation is normal for formula-fed babies, hard stools may also be a sign that your baby isn’t getting enough fluid, or that that your baby may be losing fluid from heat, illness or fever. For newborn babies, you should consult your healthcare professional.
The transition period to solid food can also cause hard stools for older babies, so do give your child lots to drink and offer higher-fibre foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. You can consider adding 1-2 ounces of prune or pear juice to your child’s diet too.
The stools of constipated babies are also often streaked with blood or mucus from small tears in the anus caused by pushing. This occasional bleeding isn’t a cause for concern. Usually, it will stop once the constipation has resolved. If the bleeding continues after softening of stools or if there is more than a few drops of blood, do contact your healthcare professional.
Lack of bile
Chalky white stool could be a sign of a lack of bile, a digestive fluid made in the liver and stored in the gallbladder4. Bile normally turns a stool brown.
If your baby’s liver doesn’t produce bile or if the bile is obstructed, his stool will be white. A white stool is very rare and could indicate liver or gallbladder problems. Call your healthcare professional right away.
1WebMD. Retrieved on September 3, 2015 from: http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/diapering-a-baby-13/baby-bowel-movements.
2WebMD. Retrieved on September 3, 2015 from: http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/the-scoop-on-baby-poop.
3Mayo Clinic. Retrieved on September 3, 2015 from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/expert-answers/baby-poop/faq-20057971.
4WebMD. Retrieved on September 3, 2015 from: http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/features/truth-about-baby-poop.