Story by: Kim Huston on February 25, 2021
Baby poop can be a source of concern for new and veteran parents. If you’ve spent time searching for information about specific colors or textures to understand if it’s normal or abnormal, this is for you. We’ll walk through what’s normal, what’s not, and when to call your pediatrician.
Newborn feces that is passed during the first few days of life is unique — it can look like motor oil or tar. Doctors refer to this as meconium. It is composed of cells, amniotic fluid and other materials ingested in the womb, as well as mucus a baby’s bowels produce. It also contains bile produced by the liver. The meconium is black, thick and contains mucus. Babies usually start excreting the meconium in the first day of life; it can be passed even during delivery. Babies can pass the meconium for days, and it often transitions to more of a black-green color before taking on the colors and textures of traditional baby feces.
Stool can vary quite a bit from the time a baby begins feeding from breast or bottle until beginning solid foods. It’s important to note that there is no one definitive way a child’s stool should look. In most cases, even if you think it looks weird, it’s likely normal.
“Stool that children produce, from a newborn to toddler age, is nothing like the stool adults produce,” said Marian E. Morris, M.D., pediatrician with Norton Children’s Medical Group – Novak Center. “It garners a lot of questions from parents. It’s important to remember that even if it looks odd, the reality is that more often than not, it’s usually OK.”
Dr. Morris suggests that parents pay attention to four attributes of a baby’s stool:
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Children usually begin to eat solid foods around 4 to 6 months old. At this time, parents may begin to notice changes in a child’s stool. At this point, a child’s stool color often can vary by what a child eats. Green vegetables can give a green tint; sweet potatoes or blueberries can cause stool to appear orange, or a tint between blue and purple. However, as when a child is breastfed and bottle-fed, you always should call your pediatrician should you notice red, black or white stool.
The introduction of solid food will change consistency, frequency and volume of stool as well. Stool likely will become denser and have more shape, but still should be soft. Stool should not be hard or like pebbles. Seeing small chunks of food such as corn is also normal. It’s also likely that parents will notice that kids may start pooping less frequently but have more regular number of stools from day to day. However, call your child’s provider should you notice frequent diarrhea or if a child hasn’t passed stool in a week.
Should your child’s stool have more than a scant amount of blood, you may want to take them straight to the emergency department.
Other signs that should warrant urgent care in addition to diarrhea and constipation can include: