Decoding diaper contents is often one of the most perplexing challenges to new parents. Is it supposed to be that color? Is there supposed to be that much? And, how do I know if my baby is eating enough? These are all questions you may be asking yourself in those early days with your new little one. Color, consistency and frequency are all factors to consider when assessing if your baby is having normal bowel movements. Let’s take a closer look at some of the variables that will help you decode your baby’s diaper.
Black: During the first days of life, your baby’s poop may appear black, tar like and sticky. This is perfectly normal. These initial bowel movements are called meconium and consist of amniotic fluid, skin cells, mucus and other material that baby has ingested in the uterus. This color and consistency may last for several days following birth until baby begins to receive milk and the meconium is cleared out of his system.
Yellow: Yellow is a normal color for stool of a baby who is breastfed or formula fed. The color yellow indicates that that the milk is moving through the digestive process quickly which is typical for newborns.
Green: The color green is another common appearance for infant poop, particularly for breastfed babies. Green indicates that the milk is moving more slowly through the digestive process. A green bowel movement may necessitate a call to the doctor if it is particularly watery or is accompanied by mucus or a fever. This may suggest that baby has a virus or other illness.
Once baby has started eating solid foods, vegetables are most likely the culprit for poop that appears green.
Brown: Brown feces are another indication that the milk is moving more slowly through the digestive tract. This color is more common with formula fed babies and for babies who have started eating solids.
Although the color of your baby’s poop is most often just a reflection of the transit time of the food and bile formation, there are a few colors that may be cause for concern.
White: A white bowel movement can be a sign of infection or a problem with the production of bile by the liver.
Black: Black poop beyond the first week can be a sign of digested blood. While this may be a consequence of nursing when mom has cracked nipples, it’s best to call the doctor to be sure.
Red: Red blood in your baby’s diaper may indicate fresh blood from the rectum or colon.
Call your pediatrician right away if you see any of the above concerns.
Before the age of six months and the start of solids, your baby’s stool should be loose, soft and liquid. Breastfed babies tend to have more liquid than formula fed babies but both will typically appear mustard like with seeds or curds. Formula fed babies may have stools that are more paste like and odorous than breastfed babies.
Once your baby starts eating solids, both the color and the consistency of his bowel movements will change. They will likely appear firmer and can often change in appearance based on what he has eaten. You may even see undigested chunks of food in the diaper. This is all normal.
Diarrhea: It can be difficult to know how to identify diarrhea when loose stools are the norm. Diarrhea will appear more watery than normal fecal matter and will be green, yellow or brown in color. It may also be accompanied by other symptoms such as fever or irritability. Contact your pediatrician if diarrhea persists as it may be a sign of infection or an allergy.
Hard Stools: Stools that are firm or pebble like may be indicative of dehydration. Other signs of dehydration to look for include a sunken look in baby’s eyes or soft spot, lack of saliva and a reduction in tears. Another reason your baby may have hard stools is a sensitivity to milk, soy or other foods during the introduction to solids or via breastfeeding. If you think your baby is dehydrated or may be experiencing a food sensitivity, contact your pediatrician to be seen.
Often parents wonder if their baby is constipated because they looked strained or in pain while passing a bowel movement. Usually however, this is not the case and baby’s expression is just reflecting that he is learning to contract his abdominal muscles and to push.
The amount of times a baby poops in a day can vary greatly. In the early days, your newborn may go every time you feed him or as many as 6 to 10 times per day. Between 2 to 5 bowel movements per day during this time is average. This number will likely decrease several weeks after birth in breastfed babies when mom’s colostrum, which contains laxative like properties, is eliminated. Some babies will continue to poop multiple times per day while others may only go once per week. If your baby is a less frequent pooper, the content of the diaper should be more abundant for each bowel movement than that of those who poop multiple times per day.
The start of solids as with color and consistency, can impact how frequently your baby soils his diaper. Some babies will begin to go more frequently with the introduction of fibrous vegetables and other foods while others may decrease in frequency. This is an important time to be aware of signs of constipation or diarrhea as this may indicate a sensitivity or allergy to a new food that was introduced.
Overall, as long as your baby is gaining weight and does not seem uncomfortable, there is no need to be concerned about how frequently he poops. You probably didn’t think it was possible to have so many variables affecting what you find in baby’s diaper. But as with all aspects of being a new parent, you will learn what is normal and what is not with time and practice. It is important to remember that there is a wide spectrum representing ‘the norm’ for bowel movements and no two babies will be exactly the same. As long as your little one does not seem uncomfortable and you are not seeing any of the concerning colors, chances are, everything is normal.