Getting to know your new baby is one of life’s great joys. There are snuggles and coos and that first smile that melts your heart. It’s about as rewarding as anything can be.
But there are some less-than-glamorous aspects to parenthood that are important, too. Specifically, we’re talking about your baby’s poop.
Yes, you will likely feel like you are up to your elbows in diapers. Babies poop. It’s an unavoidable fact. But that poop is more than just a smelly nuisance – it can alert you if anything is going wrong inside your bundle of joy’s digestive tract.
So, when it comes to baby poop, how often is healthy? What should it look like? What are worrying signs to look for?
Lynessa Alonso, DO, a pediatrician at OSF Medical Group – Pediatrics, has fielded questions about baby poop from more than a few new parents, and she has some simple guidance.
The first few days
For the first few days, your baby will be ridding their body of the poop made while inside the womb. This tarry poop is called meconium.
“Newborns have meconium in their stool for the first three days, so you’ll see at least small amounts of dark black, greenish black sticky stuff in almost every diaper,” Dr. Alonso said. “And every time they eat they usually poop.”
As the meconium wears out, your newborn’s poop should turn brighter green, then greenish yellow before settling into a mustardy yellow with “little seedy things in it,” according to Dr. Alonso.
As a general rule, formula-fed babies usually poop once or twice a day, and breastfed babies do it every time they eat. Breastfed babies tend to have a more watery stool, while formula-fed babies tend to have a more firm poop.
However, with babies, it’s important to keep in mind that a wide range of behaviors and consistencies can be considered normal. No two babies are exactly alike.
“As long as the stool is soft and mushy, and baby’s not uncomfortable, we say that’s okay,” Dr. Alonso said. “We usually don’t intervene unless your baby is pooping hard pellets.”
If your baby’s having pain when they poop, or they need a little help getting it out, Dr. Alonso suggests you try giving baby an ounce of prune juice. This is safe so long as you don’t give your baby more than an ounce or two of non-formula or breastmilk every day.
Children over 1 should poop once a day, and it should be soft. The frequency and consistency of their poop is usually reflective of their diet, though.
“If their diet is mostly fruits and veggies and water, they will poop more,” Dr. Alonso said. “If they have more carbs and dairy, they won’t poop as much.”
Signs of trouble
Concerned about your baby’s poop?
Poop colors are pretty much all okay unless the poop is whitish or very pale. This can be a sign of liver disease, so contact your child’s pediatrician.
Bloody poop is not okay, either. If blood is mixed in with the stool it can be a sign of inflammatory bowel disease, and you need to contact the pediatrician. If there is bright red blood on the outside of the stool, it could just be from an anal fissure. This often happens after a bout of constipation and is not harmful, but you should get your baby checked out by the pediatrician just to make sure.
If baby’s poop looks like coffee grounds, that is a sign of a bleed in your baby’s stomach and you need to get to the emergency room. This sign of danger most often shows up in vomit, but it can show up in poop, too.