Thanks to never-ending diaper changes, parents get an up-close look at their newborn baby’s poop. The color, consistency, and frequency of stool can cue you into baby’s health and well-being. Plus, if you’re breastfeeding, the appearance of the poop lets you know if baby is consuming enough milk. Here’s everything you need to know about breastfed baby poop.
If you don’t know what to expect, baby’s first poop can look pretty scary. “During the first few days, baby has dark green stools, which is the meconium coming out,” says Linda Folden Palmer, D.C., author of Baby Poop: What Your Pediatrician May Not Tell You. Meconium contains everything your infant ingested in the womb, including amniotic fluid, water, mucus, bile, and skin cells. It often looks like greenish-black tar or motor oil.
As Baby digests breast milk, her poop will become looser and lighter, turning from green-black to army green. Within three or four or five days, it will take on the normal breastfed baby poop appearance. “It’s going to be mustardy color and seedy in texture – usually on the liquidy side,” says Dr. Palmer. It may resemble yellow diarrhea, and it will also take on a sweet scent.
But don’t panic if your breastfed baby’s poop looks slightly different – it can take on a variety of colors and textures. “Some exclusively breastfed babies have a more peanut buttery color to their stool, but it's still considered healthy,” says Dr. Palmer.
Breastfed babies can sometimes have green poop from iron supplements, food that Mom ate, stomach illness, or an intolerance to something in the mother’s diet – usually dairy, says Dr. Palmer. Insufficient milk intake may also trigger green poop; other symptoms include fussiness, infrequent stools, and excess hunger. Consult a lactation consultant or your Ob-Gyn if you think Baby isn’t getting enough breast milk.
Another cause of green poop is a foremilk hindmilk imbalance (lactose overload). “Sometimes a baby nurses a little at a time, and he ends up getting mostly foremilk, which is high in sugar lactose and won’t get digested quickly enough. This can cause gassiness and green stool that can be frothy,” says Dr. Palmer. Ensuring Baby drinks hindmilk (the fatty milk that comes at the end of a nursing session) can solve the issue.
As Baby starts eating solid foods, his poop will become brown and smelly, resembling adult stool. Look out for breastfed baby poop that is red or black in color. Sometimes stool can take on a red tinge if the baby ingests blood from a mother’s cracked nipple. Red foods like beets could also be the culprit. However, it’s important to visit a doctor, since black-red poop may also be caused by illness or gastrointestinal injury.
As a general guideline, expect your breastfed newborn to poop after almost every feeding, usually 5-12 times per day. After a few weeks, however, baby poop frequency will dwindle to 3-4 times per day. Babies older than six weeks may poop even less often – maybe even once a week. There’s usually no need to worry as long as the color and consistency is normal, ensuring your newborn has enough to eat.