The Scoop on Poop

A new parent's guide to the good, the bad, and the smelly.


It's easy to obsess over your baby's bowel movements. With more than 2,000 diaper changes during the first year alone, you've got plenty of opportunities to study the color, texture, odor, and frequency of your child's stools. His poop profile depends a lot on age and diet, and getting to know what's normal for your baby is key to spotting problems such as diarrhea or an allergy.

Your newborn's first few dirty diapers will contain sticky, tar-like, green-black stool called meconium. Once this passes out of his system, his BMs will take on the telltale features of breast-milk- or formula-derived poop.

Breastfed Infants
If you're nursing, your baby will likely have seedy, runny, mustard-yellow stools that don't have much of an odor. In the first weeks, she'll have at least four bowel movements a day; breastfed newborns commonly poop after every feeding-up to a dozen times a day.

Formula-fed Infants
Babies on formula tend to poop less often -- about three or four times a day. Their stools are usually greenish or dark yellow, more solid, and smellier.

Regardless of whether he's on breast milk, formula, or both, your child's bowel movements will become less frequent as he gets older. By 4 months, most infants average about two poops a day, says Houston pediatric gastroenterologist Bryan Vartabedian, M.D., author of First Foods (St. Martin's, 2001). "But the frequency is less important than the consistency and effort it takes your child to pass his stools," he notes. "It's fine if your baby goes just once every three days as long as his stool remains soft, he's gaining weight, and he has no abdominal pain or bloating."

Babies on Solid Foods
Diaper changes get more unpleasant at 4 to 6 months, when your baby starts solid foods. The sugars in fruit and vegetables change the amount and types of bacteria in your child's colon. This usually doesn't affect the frequency of bowel movements, but stools may become browner, firmer, and downright stinky. They can sometimes take on the colors of your baby's last meal, so don't be surprised if you open her diaper and find bright-orange poop (the likely remains of the strained carrots she consumed). Once your child starts eating chunkier foods, it's normal to see undigested bits -- peas or pasta, for instance -- in her stools.

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