The Baby Poop Guide: Colors Explained

By Jess Pacchione

April 7, 2020

Jess is a Pediatric Nurse, supporting families as The Mama Coach in Portland, OR. She is a Mama herself to the funniest baby boy (admittedly she's a little biased) and a handsome Vizsla pup. Also, her husband can tell you who won any NCAA Final Four game since 1985.

My husband and I talked about poop more in the first week of our son’s life than we had in the first four years of our marriage.

When did he last poop?
What did it look like?
How much poop was in that diaper?
What did it smell like?
How many poops did she have in the past 24 hours?
Do we have enough stain remover to soak these five onesies that are covered in poop?

No one prepares you for this stuff. Thankfully, at the Mama Coach, we do!

Let’s talk about COLORS. There are many shades of normal poop and a few shades that should prompt a call to your pediatrician.

Greenish-black and very sticky (and in the first days of baby’s life)
This is meconium! The first stools after baby is born. The color is so dark because it contains broken down red blood cells (bilirubin), amniotic fluid, bile, lanugo…basically everything baby ingested while in the womb. It should only last for about the first 1-3 days. If your baby is still pooping black stools after 4 days, please call your pediatrician.

Greenish Brown and loose (usually days 3-4 of baby’s life)
These are called “transitional stools” and are a mix of meconium and milk stools. As the mother’s milk is increasing over those first 5 days, babies should pass at least one stool per day. Transitional stools are also seen in formula-fed babies as they also transition from meconium to milk stools.

Yellow and seedy
This is normal, happy, breastfed baby poop! It is bright yellow/orange with little “seeds” or “curdles” throughout and it is mostly liquid. This color of stool usually shows up around day 4 or 5 and will continue to look like this until another food besides breast milk is added to his diet (such as formula or solids). Green stools in breastfed babies are also normal and usually caused by bile. During the first 4 weeks, babies may pass from 3 stools per day to 1 stool per feeding.

Somewhere between 4-8 weeks, exclusively breastfed babies may change to infrequent stooling, going down to just several stools a day up to 4-7 days between large soft stools. These stools will still look the same as when they were pooping with every feed and should be passed easily without excessive straining or crying. If your baby starts to cry with stooling or starts passing hard stools, especially stools that look like little balls, please call your pediatrician.

Yellow-Tan and thick (kind of hummus-like or peanut buttery)
This is a normal, happy, formula-fed baby poop! This might also happen when supplementing a breastfed baby with some formula or exclusively formula feeding. These stools are usually present from day 6 onward. Formula-fed babies will usually pass 1-8 stools per day during their first week of life and then move to 1-4 stools per day until around 2 months old when they will usually pass 1-2 stools per day (or every other day) and gain a more solid consistency. Green stools in formula-fed babies can also be normal and are a result of bile.

Greenish Brown (like leftover guacamole)
As you start to introduce solids to baby, his poop will get thicker in texture and take on a more greenish-brown color. Green stools will continue to be a normal stool color throughout your baby’s life. Most often they are caused by bile and are very common with diarrhea but can also be seen with formed stools.

Watery, Brown/Yellow/Green, with or without chunks
This is what diarrhea looks like. It might persist for just one stooling (no big deal), but if it continues for more than 24 hours, please call your pediatrician. Diarrhea can lead to dehydration in babies and we want to address it with a healthcare professional.

Dry, Brown, Hard (sometimes like pellets)
This is a constipated stool. Occasional constipation is normal, especially in formula-fed babies. Iron is known to be a constipating supplement, and most formulas have iron added to them (which is an essential nutrient!). If constipation persists for more than 2 days or if your baby is exhibiting pain while stooling, please contact your pediatrician for advice.

Red or Pinkish
Most often, red stool is the result of a baby or child eating something red (think beets, red peppers, tomatoes, etc) or from red or pink medications. 90% of red stools are not caused by blood! If you see a red stool, evaluate what your child ate over the past 24 hours. If you suspect that it might be blood, please call your pediatrician for further assessment.

Black (and not meconium)
True black stool after 4 days of life should result in a call to your pediatrician. Sometimes dark green bile stools can look black under normal lighting, but your pediatrician’s office can help you investigate that. Bleeding in the stomach, some foods or even some medicines can cause black “tarry” stools. Please contact your pediatrician for a full evaluation.

White or Light Grey
These “colorless” or very pale stools should be evaluated by your pediatrician. Some foods and medications can result in this coloring, but it can also be an indicator of a more severe medical condition.

To Summarize: Most stool colors are normal (any shade of green, yellow, brown, tan) and a few should be checked out by your pediatrician (black, red, or white). Babies poop the most frequently during their first four weeks of life – we changed 136 poopy diapers – and then can range anywhere from multiple times a day to a week apart! You will learn your baby and what is normal for her.

Baby’s digestive system is also growing and changing a lot during the first year of life, so naturally the poops will grow and change too! If you are EVER worried about poop color, consistency, or frequency, please contact your pediatrician.

And, if you’d like some hands-on help with newborn care, contact your local Mama Coach!

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