Your baby's bowel movements will have a wide range of colors that hint at overall well-being. Use our visual guide to understand the difference between green poop, black poop, yellow poop, and everything in between.

By Nicole Harris
Updated October 19, 2020
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Yeji Kim
| Credit: Yeji Kim

Newborn babies go through an average of 10 diapers per day—and you’re probably spending a significant amount of time looking at their bowel movements. "For moms who can't measure what their baby is eating, poop is one of the only clues. What goes in is what comes out," says Ari Brown, M.D., a pediatrician and coauthor of Baby 411: Clear Answers & Smart Advice for Your Baby's First Year.

The color of your little one’s poop will probably change quite a bit day-by-day. And although there’s a wide range of normal shades, some stool colors might indicate a health problem. Thankfully, our baby poop color wheel guide is here to help! Keep reading to learn what the color of your baby’s bowel movement means, and whether they need to visit the pediatrician

Dark Greenish-Black Baby Poop

The first time your baby poops, you’ll be confronted with something that looks like sticky, greenish-black tar. Called meconium, it’s a mixture of amniotic fluid, bile, and secretions from the intestinal glands. Meconium doesn’t smell bad, but it’s much harder to clean up than regular poop (you can apply a layer of petroleum jelly to your baby’s skin to act as a barrier). 

Within 2 to 4 days of birth, your baby will start having transitional poops—a mixture of meconium and breastfeeding (or formula) stools. They’re dark green or brown in color, and they have a sticky consistency (although they’re softer than meconium).  Transitional poops stick around until your baby is eating well. 

Yellow Baby Poop

By the end of the first week, healthy babies digest food in the usual way. Baby poop is then made up of bile from the liver, which is added to food when it leaves the stomach, along with bacteria and undigested components of milk. If you’re breastfeeding, your baby’s poop will be bright yellow, watery, sometimes seedy, and lightly yeasty-smelling. It may remind parents of mustard, cottage cheese, or scrambled eggs.

Yellow-Brown Baby Poop

If your baby drinks formula, their poop will become yellow-brown, green-tan, or brown in their first or second week. This poop is thick and firm, similar to peanut butter or toothpaste. It might have a yeasty aroma from the fermentation of sugars in milk, similar to the process that makes bread rise, explains infant-nutrition specialist Linda Palmer, author of Baby Poop: What Your Pediatrician May Not Tell You. Newborns who get a combination of breast milk and formula also produce brown or dark yellow baby poop. 

Brown Baby Poop

When your baby starts eating solid food, a range of healthy bacteria populates their intestines, producing browner and smellier poop. Depending on what your baby ate, it can also be red, orange, green, yellow, or blue. These bowel movements may reveal undigested food chunks, and they tend to be very smelly. 

Watery Green-Brown Baby Poop

Diarrhea can manifest as yellow, brown, or green baby poop with a loose, watery consistency. It’s caused by viral infections, food intolerances, antibiotics, or parasites. Babies with diarrhea are at risk of dehydration, so make sure to monitor them closely. 

Also note that mucus in baby poop might resemble diarrhea, and it can also have a yellow, green, or brown color. Mucus occurs in bowel movements from a milk allergy, infection, or excessive swallowing of saliva from teething.

Harder Dark Brown Baby Poop

Backed-up infants tend to make dark brown or black baby poop. Constipation is thick and hard, and it resembles small pellets, marbles, or logs. It can happen when fluids and fiber aren’t absorbed properly—often from a milk-protein allergy or food intolerance.

Bright Green Baby Poop

Bright green poop is usually a sign that food has moved rapidly through your baby’s system, perhaps because of a mild tummy bug, as bright green bile has not had time to be broken down. If your baby has smelly gas along with greenish poop, it could be the result of them drinking too quickly either from the breast or a bottle. Discuss strategies for slowing it down with your pediatrician; once that’s taken care of, the poop should return to normal. 

Dark Green Baby Poop

Undigested vegetables, as well as iron-rich foods or supplements, can also make your baby’s poop appear dark green.

Red Baby Poop

Does your baby have yellow-brown poop tinged with bright red? It’s probably specks or streaks of undigested blood from a milk allergy, intestinal infection, or rectal fissure resulting from constipation. Red flecks can also appear when your baby swallows nipple blood during breastfeeding, or from dark-red foods and drinks. It’s smart to call the pediatrician for red baby poop, just in case.

Dark Red or Black Baby Poop

Call the doctor for dark red or black baby poop, since it might indicate gastrointestinal bleeding, says Nanci Pittman, M.D., a pediatric gastroenterologist and assistant professor of pediatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. Blood in baby poop should always be checked by a pediatrician.

Gray or White Baby Poop

Chalky white or gray baby poop indicates a liver problem, low bile, or lack of nutrient malabsorption, says Dr. Pittman. Contact your pediatrician right away.

The Bottom Line

Any variation on the colors yellow, green, or brown is normal for baby poop. If you see other colors in your baby’s poop—like red, white, black (after the meconium stage), or pale yellow—make an appointment with your doctor to rule out health problems. Silver, wine-red or maroon, or raspberry gel-like poop need urgent medical attention.

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