Guess what's the most discussed topic when new parents meet!! Yeah, it's BABY POOP! As gross as poop may sound, things like poop color, consistency, frequency, etc., are indicators of your baby's health in the initial few months. So let us try to understand poop and how it can help us take care of newborn baby.
Baby's First Poop
The first poop of the baby is known as meconium poop. You can expect a baby poop green colour which is sticky and dark. This is because it consists of all the amniotic fluid, skin cells, and water that your baby ingested while in your womb. The meconium is not passed in just one go. It takes a few poops, sometimes even a few days, for some babies to completely pass the meconium. However, slowly the poop will start getting more watery and lighter in color.
Things You Should Know About Baby Poop
The color, consistency, frequency, and all other poop aspects of your baby will depend on factors such as whether they are breastfed or formula-fed, their age, their diet, and their overall health. However, it would help if you kept a few indicators in mind, and as long as those indicators are regular, there is nothing to worry about. Read on to know what those indicators are.
- ▪ Poop Consistency – Until your baby will not transition to solid food; the poop normally should be mushy and creamy. In the case of exclusively breastfed babies, the poop can even be a little runny. The colour of formula-fed baby poop can be darker and thicker due to iron present in the formula.
- ▪ Baby Poop Odour – The poop starts to smell bad only after the baby starts eating solid food. The poop has no smell for breastfed babies, but it will smell faintly similar to what the mother has consumed.
- ▪ Poop Frequency and time – It is difficult to determine a pattern in your baby's poop frequency and time in the initial few days. But once their digestive system starts to develop, they develop a pattern, and you can roughly predict the next time they will poop. A timely poop is also an indicator of the good gut health of babies.
Poop Types & What They Mean
- ▪ Meconium – For the first few days, one might notice green poop in babies. This is the first poop, known as meconium. In some cases, babies pass meconium before delivery inside the mother's uterus.
- ▪ Breastfeed Poop – The poop of a breastfed baby is mushy, creamy, and slightly yellow. Sometimes it can also be a little greenish. It has white curd and seed-like flecks and is mostly runny and watery. Breastfed babies can pass poop with every feed, and it is completely healthy for babies to poop up to even eight times a day.
- ▪ Formula-fed Poop – The colour and texture of poop in formula-fed babies is different from breastfed babies. The poop is thicker, darker, and formula-fed babies poop less frequently but in more volume. A formula-fed baby might poop 2 – 3 times a day and have a full diaper.
- ▪ Solid Fed Poop – Once your baby starts cereals or solid foods, you will notice a considerable difference in the colour, consistency, and odour of your baby's poop. The poop will be thicker, dark brown, and foul smell that we all identify with grown-up poop.
- ▪ Partially Digested Poop – During the initial few months when your baby will start consuming solid food, the digestive system is still getting the hang of the new food. As a result, your baby might not be able to digest whatever they eat completely. You might notice chunks of food in their poop, which is nothing to worry about. The colour of poop might also change depending on what they had in their previous meal/s. E.g., If they had spinach, the poop might be green; if they had beetroot, the poop might be red.
Poop Colour & What That Means
The colour of your baby's poop might not be the same all the time. Change in your baby's poop colour can be due to many reasons ranging from what they consumed to their gut health. The following are some poop colours and what they mean -
- ▪ Black – The poop of your baby will be a little dark or black if you are giving them iron supplements. The meconium or the first poop of the baby can also be a little blackish. But if your baby is already a few days old, not on iron supplements, and still the poop is black, this might indicate an infection or internal bleeding in the digestive tract. Consult your paediatrician immediately in such a case.
- ▪ Green – Green colour poop is generally not a reason for concern in babies. However, sometimes medication can cause green poop. Also, once kids start consuming solid food, green colour foods like spinach can cause green poop. Sometimes it might be difficult to differentiate between dark green poop and black poop. In this scenario, take a bit of poop and smear it on white tissue paper to see the colour clearly.
- ▪ Red – Like green, red poop is also not a reason for concern, as it is mostly caused due to baby's food. If your baby has consumed beetroot, tomato juice, etc., the poop can be red. Also, if the mother has bleeding nipples and the baby is breastfed, the blood can pass along with the poop, and the poop might be red. However, if you notice baby poop mucus and blood, and your baby is crying excessively or is losing weight, it is advised to consult a healthcare practitioner about it.
- ▪ Mustard Yellow – Mustard yellow colour poop is the most common colour for breastfed babies. Once the meconium is passed, the normal and healthy poop will be mustard yellow.
- ▪ Bright Yellow – Bright yellow is also a standard colour of poop for babies still on breastmilk. The colour of poop is a little lighter than usual if the baby has diarrhoea. If your baby has light colour runny blowouts, consult your baby's paediatrician.
- ▪ Orange – Orange poop can indicate some coloured food your baby might have consumed. For example, pureed carrots can cause orange poop. However, this is not a reason for concern.
- ▪ Greenish Tan – Formula-fed babies have a darker coloured poop, which can have a greenish tan. Consuming iron-rich food while on solids can also cause a greenish tan in poop, and it is nothing to be worried about.
Baby Poop Warning Signs
Certain colours and textures of poop might indicate poor health and need immediate attention from a doctor. Here are some such warning signs -
- ▪ White or greyish poop – Pale grey or chalky white poop indicates improper level functioning. The liver produces bile responsible for the color of the baby's poop. Thus, if your baby's poop is white, chalky, or pale grey coloured, is it better to speak to a doctor.
- ▪ Foamy poop – You would notice a foamy poop in breastfed babies if they consume more foremilk than hindmilk. Hind milk is fattier, and if your baby is not nursing on one breast for at least 10 – 15 minutes, they may have less fat and thus end up with a foamy poop. This is very easy to correct. If your baby has been nursed for less than 15 minutes from one breast, continue feeding on the same breast next time. If still the foamy poop continues, talk to your lactation consultant or a paediatrician.
- ▪ Stringy poop – Stringy, slimy streaks in the poop are an indicator of mucus in poop. This usually happens when the baby drools a lot during the teething phase. However, if this continues for more than a few days, it can also indicate an infection. If accompanied by other signs of illness, consult your doctor.
- ▪ Hard pebbles – One of the most common baby poop problems is constipation in babies. The hard pebble-like stool is typically an indicator of constipation.
- ▪ Red bloody poop – The red coloured poop might not be a reason for concern. However, if the poop has blood, it indicates an allergy or an infection. You should immediately consult a doctor if you notice blood in your baby's poop.
- ▪ Runny poop – It is normal for breastfed babies to have runny poop. But if you notice a change in colour of the poop and the runny poop is coming out in the form of blowouts, it can be diarrhoea. Diarrhoea can be dangerous for younger babies as they can lose weight or water from the body. If the runny poop continues for more than a day, consult your baby's paediatrician.
How Often Should Newborn Poop?
- ▪ Breastfed babies have a less predictable bowel movement. The poop surprise will land up in your newborn cloth diapers at any frequency ranging from once a week to even seven times a day. Breastfed babies can poop after or during every feed. If they do not poop for a few days at a go, it does not mean they are constipated unless the poop is hard and pebble-like. It would be a matter of concern only if your baby has not pooped for more than a week for exclusively breastfed babies.
- ▪ However, the frequency of poop in the case of formula-fed babies is different. As poop of formula-fed babies is firmer and pastier, they do not poop more than 2 – 3 times a day. But just like breastfed babies, even in the case of formula-fed babies, they might not poop for several days.
Instead of looking at the frequency as the main indicator of your baby's gut health and a sign of constipation, it is better to monitor the consistency of the poop, as that is a better indicator of constipation.
What if Your Baby Isn't Pooping?
As mentioned in the earlier section, even if your baby has not pooped for a week, it is nothing to worry about and not necessarily an indicator of constipation. However, if they go without pooping for more than seven days, have difficulty passing the poop, are in pain, or pass hard pebble-like poop. It is a classic symptom of constipation.
Types of Baby Poop Smells
- ▪ Newborn poop – The first few days, the poop of your newborn baby will be completely free of any smell. The bacteria add the odour of poop that helps digest the food. Thus, until the baby doesn't have any milk in the stomach and starts passing, the poop is odourless.
- ▪ Breastfed poop smell – Once the bacteria is introduced to the baby's gut via breastmilk, the poop starts to smell. The poop smell of exclusively breastfed babies is not foul and pungent. Instead, it is mildly sour and sometimes even sweet-smelling poop. If the baby had a stomach infection, the poop might foul smell.
- ▪ Formula-fed poop smell – The poop of formula-fed babies smells a bit unpleasant. As formula milk is human-made, it is not as easy to digest as breast milk and thus has a different enzyme structure needed to digest the milk. That leads to a strong unpleasant smell.
- ▪ Solid Foods and poop smell – Once the baby is introduced to solid foods, the smell and consistency will start changing, and it will slowly resemble the texture and odour of a grown-up poop.
Poop Faces That Babies Make
It might be funny to watch a baby's face while they are pooping. But for preparing for potty training, it is important to identify those cues and signals and know when they are pooping or about to poop. In most cases, these are the faces you will notice –
- ▪ Scrunched-up face – Your baby will make a scrunched-up face if they pass gas along with poop. This might also be accompanied by a face they make when they are in discomfort or even cry.
- ▪ Pouty lips and grumpy face – A pouty lips or grumpy face means that your baby is tired of pushing to pass the poop and is agitated. You can help them by giving a colic massage on their tummy and moving their legs in a cycling motion to help them pass the gas and poop.
- ▪ Happy and Relieved – When your little one is making this face, it means the deed is already done, and they are done pooping!
- ▪ Gazing – Babies might not be great multitaskers. So, while they poop, they might leave everything they are doing and stick their gaze at one thing. This might be your cue to remove the cloth diapers or take them to the loo in advance.
When To Consult a Doctor
The thumb rule is, whenever you see anything unusual with your baby’s poop – the colour, the consistency, odour, or frequency, bring it to the notice of your doctor. In the following scenarios, consider taking your little one to see the paediatrician –
- ▪ If your baby is crying and is uncomfortable while pooping
- ▪ If your baby is less than three months of age and has two diarrhoea blowouts back-to-back.
- ▪ Your baby has hard pebble-like poop.
- ▪ The colour of poop is white, pale grey, and has a chalky consistency.
- ▪ There is blood in your baby’s poop.
- ▪ There is mucus in your baby’s poop for more than one day.
The bottom line is that looking at poop might not be what you would want to do, but soon it will become second nature for you. The poop tells a lot about your baby’s health, and thus keeping an eye on it will help you identify any health concerns at the right time.