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A parent’s guide to baby poop

April 30, 2020 • read

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A parent’s guide to baby poop

Babies can poop almost every colour of the rainbow. This can make opening your infant’s diaper quite a shock. From broadcasting their diets, to alerting us to illness, our babies’ poop tells us what’s going on in their little bodies when they can’t. But it helps to have a baby poop guide to know how to read the signs. We’ve put together a baby poop primer to help you figure out what your baby’s diaper is saying.

How often should my baby poop?

Newborn poop frequency is a crucial predictor of overall health, especially in the first days after birth. Both breastfed and formula-fed babies should produce about six wet diapers, and one or more poops a day (once your milk comes in if you’re breastfeeding). For breastfed babies, this pattern typically continues until about the six week mark when colostrum disappears from your breastmilk entirely. At this stage, the rate of what’s “normal” begins to vary widely; one poop a week can actually be normal for a breastfed baby at this point. As long as your baby is gaining weight and producing enough wet diapers, infrequent poops aren’t usually something you need to worry about.

After your little one starts solids, you’ll likely see a much higher number of poopy diapers. It’s normal for baby to start pooping a lot after starting solids as much more of what they eat is going undigested. Their bowel movements will also be much smellier, and are likely to change colour and consistency depending on which foods they’ve eaten.

What does healthy baby poop look like?

Healthy baby poop can vary in appearance. Again there’s a wide range of “normal” here. For formula-fed infants, it tends to be about the consistency of toothpaste and tan coloured. But it’s also normal for a formula fed baby to have green poop.

Breastfed babies typically produce mustard-yellow stool, about the same consistency as actual mustard. Breastfed babies often have white curds in their poop as well, making it look seedy. But depending on what else you give your baby, healthy poop can also be orange, red, green, brown, or even black — more on this below.

A colour guide to baby poop

Black poop sounds like it would be cause for an instant trip to the hospital. But actually, this tarry, sticky substance is called “meconium,” and all healthy babies produce it for the first few days after birth. Likewise, dark green baby poop also isn’t as scary as it sounds. Often it just means your little one has been eating a lot of green things. Even if your baby hasn’t been chowing down on chard and spinach recently, there’s no need to panic. Iron supplements can also cause your little one to have green poop. Or, the dark green poop might appear as the in-between phase between meconium and “normal” breast milk or formula poop.

Even red poop isn’t always a cause for concern. It’s likely the result of something baby has eaten (hello beets). Breastfeeding issues might also cause your baby to ingest blood from cracked nipples, which would show up as blood in their poop. There are times, however, when black or red poop can signal something more serious — we’ll cover that in a bit.

Frothy baby poop

Your baby will likely have frothy poop from time to time, but contrary to what the internet says, it usually doesn’t denote an allergy or intolerance. So don’t cut out dairy, or wheat, or caffeine just yet. In a breastfed baby, frothy poop likely means that your letdown — the way the milk comes out of your breast — is quite forceful in one or both of your breasts. The first milk your breasts produce is called foremilk, and it’s usually more watery and higher in lactose than the fattier and thicker hind milk which follows. If you have an oversupply or a strong letdown, your baby often ends up with more of the foremilk and less of the fattier hind milk, especially in the first few weeks of breastfeeding. This can be hard on your little one’s digestion and result in frothy poop. Chances are your body will figure out what your baby needs after the first few weeks of nursing. In the meantime, you can try expressing milk into a towel before nursing. Draining each breast before switching your baby to the other side will also help by limiting future oversupply. If you find that you’re still having issues, speaking to a lactation consultant can help.

Rarely, green, frothy baby poop does signal an allergy — likely to cow’s milk in your diet. It might also mean, however, that your baby is sick. If you’re seeing green, frothy baby poop on a regular basis, it’s a good idea to speak to a pediatrician.

What causes mucus in baby stool?

Finding poop with mucus in your baby’s diaper can be alarming. Luckily this isn’t always a cause for concern. It’s common for infants and newborns to be congested in the winter months when the air is drier, or if they have a cold. Because young babies don’t know how to blow their nose, they often end up swallowing a lot of mucus. Using saline and a mucus aspirator will help unblock their nose and get rid of much of the mucus in their poop. If your baby isn’t congested, however, and mucus in their stool persists, alert your child’s doctor and bring a sample dirty diaper to the appointment. Sometimes mucus is a sign of intestinal issues.

When to worry

While it’s true that a wide range of baby poop colours are normal, there are some notable exceptions. White, grey, or very anemic, pale-looking poops might signal a serious issue with your child’s liver. And while black poop is expected for the first few days of baby’s life, if it comes back, see a pediatrician immediately. In an older child, black poop can mean a serious internal stomach bleed. Similarly, if your baby’s poop contains streaks of blood, you should contact their pediatrician. If their stool is hard and your little one frequently strains while pooping, it’s likely due to constipation. Sometimes, however, it can be the result of an allergy.

Diarrhea in newborns can also be quite serious. If your little one has had diarrhea for more than 24 hours, it’s crucial to take them to a doctor. Newborns with diarrhea are at high risk of dehydration. If your baby has diarrhea and has fewer than six wet diapers a day, a sunken fontanelle (the soft spot on their head), a fever or vomiting, seek emergency care immediately.

Paying attention to your child’s diaper is a great way to monitor their health. Know the signs that can signal trouble, but also keep in mind that food is the most likely culprit of funny coloured baby poop. So always make sure to check and if you don’t know, don’t be afraid to ask.

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