The importance of checking your breastfed infant’s stool; this is a not only a smelly subject but a health concern. Your baby’s poop can tell a lot about his/her health and can answer quite a few frequently asked questions.
When you look at your baby’s stool, there are a number of things to look at, for example, the color, texture, smell, and frequency.
Different Types of Stool
1. Meconium Stool:
It is very important for your newborn baby to have a bowel movement. The first bowel movement shows you that his/her digestive tract is busy maturing.
Color: Dark greenish, almost black color.
Meconium is a baby’s first stool. You may wonder why a newborn baby would have a bowel movement when he/she hasn’t been fed yet. Babies swallow the amniotic fluid in your womb. Thus the Meconium is made up of amniotic fluid, mucus, skin cells, and other substances that are ingested in the womb.
2. Transitional Baby Poop
Color: Light greenish, mustard color.
Texture: Less sticky.
Smell: Mild smell.
When your baby is between 2 to 4 days old, the stool will change in color and texture. This change indicates that your baby is starting to digest your breast milk or formula and is a sign that his/her digestive system is on track.
3. Normal Breastfed Infant Stool
Babies who are breastfed have different stools to formula fed babies.
Color: Yellow or slight greenish color
Texture: Creamy or mushy, even a bit runny with some seed like spots/solids particles.
Smell: Mild smell (not that strong)
When it comes to an exclusively breastfed baby, you may find quite a few shades of normal. If you ate a lot of a particular color-rich food, like beetroot, your baby’s stool might have a slight red color to it. I remember the first time I drank too much of a certain blue cold drink. My little boy’s stool was a bluish color.
If your baby doesn’t have any other symptoms or effects from this, it’s perfectly normal.
Your baby might have this change in his stool when he is taking in too much foremilk (low in calories) and not enough hindmilk. Not to worry; you can correct a foremilk/hindmilk imbalance.
5. Formula-fed Infant Stool
Color: Brownish color (from tan, yellow to green-brown)
Texture: Pastey, peanut butter-like texture
Smell: Mild to slight strong smell
The difference between a breastfed and formula fed baby’s stool is due to the different quantities of proteins in them. Both breast and formula milk contain whey protein (easily digested) and casein protein (slowly digested).
In breast milk, there is more whey protein than in formula milk. This is why breast milk is more easily digested and results in more bowel movements.
Formula milk contains more casein protein. Because the casein protein is digested slowly, it can result in fewer bowel movements and bigger volumes.
6. Iron-fortified Baby Poop
Color: Black or dark greenish.
Texture: Pastey, peanut butter-like texture.
Smell: Mild to slight strong smell.
The dark green to black color is a sign of too much Iron in your baby’s digestive system. Most formulas contain Iron, which is very important for a baby’s brain development.
But you must have heard the saying that too much of anything is not usually a good thing. It’s the same scenario with Iron. If you are giving your baby an Iron supplement, it might be too much together with the Iron in your formula.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If your baby's stools are blackish, with a thick consistency and he/she is not taking an iron supplement, it might be a sign that he has melena (digested blood).
7. Solid Food Stools
Please be advised that your baby’s digestive tract is only mature enough for solids by the age of 6 months. Early introduction to solids might cause some digestive problems later on.
Some healthcare professionals may suggest solids at four months, but recent studies have proven it to be the cause of many digestive issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome.
Color: Anything from brown to green, even rosy pink in color.
Texture: From pasty or creamy to thick and lumpy.
Smell: Mild to strong odor.
If you started your baby on solid food, you would notice an immediate change in your baby’s stool. It’s not only the color that changes but even the smell.
Color: Rainbow colors (from brown to green or even yellow)
Texture: Contains food particles.
Smell: Strong smell.
Every now and again you may find pieces of undigested food in your baby’s stool. This is nothing to worry about. Some foods are only partially digested or may move through the digestive tract too fast to be entirely broken down.
The big chunks may also indicate that your baby eats a lot of a specific food or that he/she doesn’t chew properly. Nothing can beat the smell of a half-digested grape.
NOTE: If you regularly find undigested food particles in your baby’s stool, please contact a healthcare professional to illuminate any medical causes. The doctor will check to make sure that your baby's intestines are absorbing food and nutrients properly.
9. Warning Stools
Although your baby’s stool may be a number of different colors and even textures, some stools serve as a warning sign. If you identify any of the following, please contact a healthcare professional immediately.
Black Stool: The black color is due to the digestion of blood. It looks dark and tarry like meconium, but firmer and not as sticky. This problem is known as Melena.
Bright red blood can show up in a baby’s stool because of the following reasons: Milk protein allergy, Hemorrhoids (caused by constipation) and bacterial infection (blood accompanied by diarrhea).
Blackish blood: If the blood in your baby’s stool seems black, it means that blood has been digested. If the blood appears as little specks, it’s usually due to cracked and bleeding nipples. If this is the case, your baby is consuming your blood. This is not harmful. Read more about blood in breast milk here. If there are more than just specks of blackish blood visible, it can be due to bleeding in a baby’s upper intestinal tract.
NOTE: If a baby’s stool consists mostly of red blood, known as "currant jelly poop," it can indicate a severe intestinal problem.
Stool with mucus: If this is accompanied by any other symptoms for longer than two days, it is a sign of allergy or infection. If there are no other symptoms, your little one might just be drooling more than usual. The excessive mucus in a baby’s saliva will often go undigested and end up in his/her stool. Read more about mucus stools.
Diarrhea: When your breastfed infant produces stool that is very runny or watery, without many solids, it is usually a sign of diarrhea. The color of the stool might range from yellow to brown or green. Diarrhea is caused by allergies or infections and can lead to dehydration, which can be fatal. If your baby had more than three diarrhea like diapers or continues to show signs of diarrhea for more than 48 hours, you should contact your doctor immediately.
NOTE: If the watery stool contains visible blood or mucus, please contact your healthcare professional.
Constipation: Your baby may produce very hard or even pebble-like stools. It can be caused by sensitivity to milk proteins or certain formulas, the transition to solid food, or the lack of fluids in your baby’s diet. The lack of fluids might be caused by fever or illness or the loss of fluid from too much heat (sweat). Exclusively breastfed babies do not need extra fluids but should be breastfed on demand. Before giving your breastfed baby any supplements, first read: Is my baby drinking enough? And; When is it okay to supplement? If your baby has more than three constipated bowel movements or you notice any sign of blood in the stool, it is essential that you contact a healthcare professional, especially if your baby is younger than three months. Read more about constipation in the breastfed infant here.
Baby Poop Frequency
How many stools are normal?
The answer will differ for each baby. Some babies will have a bowel movement after every meal and others may have only one or two bowel movements per week.
What’s more important than the frequency of your baby’s bowel movements is the texture or consistency. If your baby’s stool is relatively soft, it’s entirely normal.
Exclusively breastfed newborns often have a bowel movement after every feed (around 6 to 10 times per day). Don’t despair, after 3 to 6 weeks they start having less frequent bowel movements.