When Baby Poop is Green

What is that green poop and why is my baby having it? Green poop may indicate a foremilk/hindmilk imbalance in breastfed babies, which results in your baby is getting a larger portion of foremilk (watery milk) than hindmilk (thicker, fattier milk). Though this can cause tummy discomfort, it doesn’t indicate a milk supply issue or problem with your milk.

Green or bright yellow poop in breastfed babies is caused by foremilk/hindmilk imbalance, or eating green foods with iron supplements. Green poop may indicate a foremilk/hindmilk imbalance in breastfed babies, which results in your baby is getting a larger portion of foremilk (watery milk) than hindmilk (thicker, fattier milk). Though this can cause tummy discomfort, it doesn’t indicate a milk supply issue or problem with your milk.

Is your baby’s poop green? This is probably a result of foremilk/hindmilk imbalance in breastfed babies – a unique situation in which your baby is getting a larger portion of foremilk (watery milk) than hindmilk (thicker, fattier milk). This can cause tummy discomfort, but doesn’t indicate a milk supply issue or problem with your milk.

In breastfed babies, green poop may indicate a foremilk/hindmilk imbalance, where your baby is getting a larger amount of foremilk (watery milk) than hindmilk (thicker milk). Though this can cause tummy discomfort, it doesn’t indicate a milk supply issue or problem with your milk.

Green poop might be alarming, but it usually just means that your baby is getting a larger portion of foremilk (watery milk) than hindmilk (thicker milk). Though this can cause discomfort, it doesn’t indicate a milk supply issue or problem with your milk.

In breastfed babies, green poop can indicate that baby is getting a larger ratio of foremilk (watery, low-fat milk) to hindmilk (thicker, higher-fat milk). This imbalance can lead to tummy discomfort.

An infant’s poop changes color and consistency during their first few days, weeks, and months of life, and a wide range of colors is normal. Below, learn to recognize unhealthy baby poop and what changes to expect as a baby grows.

In infants, age, diet, and health are the main reasons for changes in stool color. The poop of newborns is almost black, while older infants tend to have yellow or brown poop.

Breastfeeding and formula-feeding can also influence the color of a baby’s stools.

Red or white poop can indicate a health problem. Otherwise, a wide range of colors is to be expected. Anyone who suspects that a baby has diarrhea or constipation should seek medical advice.

How Much Poop Is Normal?

“A lot,” says Kenneth Wible, MD, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Missouri and pediatrics medical director at Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics in Kansas City, Mo.

“It depends somewhat on diet,” Wible says. “Babies who are breastfed generally have more and thinner stools than babies who are formula fed. But five to six stools per day is pretty normal.”

While it’s a good idea to expect a lot of poop in the early stages of a baby’s life, the frequency of bowel movements among children varies widely, notes Barry Steinmetz, MD, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach in Long Beach, Calif.

“Some kids will go up to seven or eight times a day,” he says. Other infants may go every other day.

Many parents become concerned when an infant’s bowel movements suddenly drop in frequency. But particularly for breastfed babies, this is a common occurrence as a mother’s milk becomes more mature.

“The mother’s milk is so well balanced and the baby’s digestive processes are so good, there’s not a lot of residue,” Wible says.

The key, Steinmetz says, is that the stool is soft and the child is eating well and gaining weight.

Consistency

There’s often a large amount of liquid content in babies’ stool because before six months, doctors recommend that babies get their nutrients exclusively from milk.

“It kind of looks as if you took a jar of mustard and mixed it with cottage cheese, especially for formula-fed babies,” Wible says. “With breastfed babies, there is a lot more liquid and the milk curds in the stool are a lot finer and smaller.”


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Is It Constipation?

It’s not simply the absence of stool but stool that is formed or looks like pellets that should tip you off that your child may be constipated.

Very firm or pebble-like stools require a call to the doctor. This can sometimes indicate that the child is dehydrated. Other signs of dehydration might include decreased tears, lack of saliva, and a sunken look in the eyes and the infant’s soft spot. The soft spot, also called anterior fontanelle, is a space between the bones on the top of an infant’s skull. The soft spot can be present until about 2 years of age.

Most parents are concerned that the pained, red-faced look their baby gets while pooping means straining and constipation. That’s usually not the case.

“A baby doesn’t know how to … contract the abdominal musculature and push,” Steinmetz explains. “Plus, they don’t have gravity helping them like when you sit on a commode.”

By the age of 1, most kids have it worked out and lose the tortured look.

Signs of Diarrhea

When it comes to diarrhea, parents sometimes have a hard time knowing what they’re dealing with because infants’ stools are naturally loose. But looking for subtle changes in a baby’s poop is often a waste of time, Steinmetz says.

“Blow-out diarrhea that goes up the back is not that subtle,” he says. And it’s just the kind of outburst that is common when diarrhea strikes very young children.

Call your doctor right away if there is diarrhea, especially with newborns, Wible advises. It can signal something more serious, such as a virus or other systemic illness dangerous for very young children.

What Does Color Mean?

Baby poop changes color and it’s a constant concern for parents. But for the most part, it needn’t be.

“Color has not much to do with anything except the transit time of food [in the baby’s system] and the bile coming through the GI tract,” Steinmetz says.

The poop color timeline works like this: Yellow means milk is moving through the baby’s system quickly. When the process slows down, poop becomes green — and can unnecessarily worry parents. Even slower, poop turns brown.

“That’s why infants often have yellow stools, because they have a very fast transit time,” Steinmetz says.


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Colors of Concern

The main colors that should concern a parent and prompt an immediate call to the pediatrician are white, red, and black.

White poop can indicate an infection or a problem with bile, which is a fluid produced by the liver that aids digestion. Black is a sign of digested blood in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, and red indicates fresh blood that could be coming from the colon or rectum.

Sometimes, however, breastfeeding newborns whose mothers’ breast skin is cracking swallow their mother’s blood while feeding, which comes through their stool, Wible says.

That’s no cause for alarm, and your doctor may be able to perform a test to tell who the blood belongs to.

Occasionally, green, mucus-like poop can be caused by a virus commonly seen in babies. If your child has green poop and symptoms of diarrhea, fever, or irritability, call your pediatrician.https://d6a0c16d57ba2ba46193d2f21b1e4b20.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

Solid Food and the Changes They Bring

When your child begins eating solid food, expect a firmer consistency and a change in the color of your child’s poop, notes Wible.

“How it will change is unpredictable, but it will change,” he says.

In general, it’s a good idea to pay attention to the contents of your baby’s diaper, as long as you keep it in perspective, Steinmetz says. Typical signs of an issue of real concern — blood in the stool, vomiting blood, abdominal distention — are hard to miss.

Still, if an issue is keeping you up at night, don’t hesitate to call your doctor’s office.

How to Stop Green Poop in Babies

New babies don’t come with an instruction manual, but they do leave clues about the state of their health. Hiding in a baby’s diaper is a wealth of information, and many new parents understandably find themselves spending a lot of time and energy trying to decode the messages left for them — the amount, the color, the consistency — and what it all means.

So what does the content of a baby’s diaper say about their health? And when should you be worried about what’s in the diaper? Here’s expert advice.

Poop colors and causes

a color wheel infographic showing the colours of baby poop

Various factors can cause changes in the color of a baby’s stools. Common colors and their causes include:

Black

In newborns younger than 1 week, black is a healthy color for stool. After this time, however, it could indicate a health problem.

During the first 24 hours of life, a newborn will pass meconium. This is thick, black stool. It is made up of cells, amniotic fluid, bile, and mucus ingested while in the womb. Meconium is sterile, so it usually does not smell.

Over the first few days of life, a newborn will continue to pass meconium. The color should gradually change from black to dark green, then yellow.

After 1 week of life, stool should no longer be black. If a black color persists, seek medical advice. It could mean that there is some bleeding in the digestive system.

Yellow

This is a normal color of poop from a breastfed baby. Their poop tends to be dark yellow

and may have small flecks in it.

These flecks come from breastmilk and are harmless. Poop from breastfed babies is often described as “seedy.” The so-called seeds may resemble curds in cottage cheese but are yellow.

Brown or orange

This is a normal color of poop from a formula-fed baby.

When a baby drinks formula, their poop tends to light brown or orange. It may be slightly darker and firmer than stool from a breastfed baby.

Green

Many babies occasionally have green poop. Some possible causes include:

  • slow digestion, usually because the baby has eaten more than usual
  • green foods in the diet of the breastfeeding mother
  • a cold or stomach bug
  • food allergy or intolerance
  • antibiotics, either in the baby or the breastfeeding mother
  • treatment for jaundice

Some infants’ poop is naturally slightly green. If the baby is putting on weight and seems content, green poop is not necessarily a cause for concern.

Learn more about green poop in children here.

Red

This is not a healthy poop color.

Poop is usually red because there is blood in it. Seek medical advice.

The baby may have a health problem, or they may have swallowed a small amount of blood. This could happen if a breastfeeding mother has cracked or bleeding nipples. Another cause of red poop is bleeding from the baby’s bottom.

White

This is not a healthy color for stool.

White poop is uncommon and could indicate a liver problem.

Jaundice, for example, is highly common in newborns, affecting as many as 80% of these babies in their first few days of life. It usually goes away within the first 2 weeks.

Anyone who suspects that their baby still has jaundice after 14 days should check the color of their poop. Pale or white poop may suggest liver disease. Another sign to look for is yellow pee.

If the baby has white or pale stool, the doctor may test their bilirubin levels. Bilirubin is a compound that helps the body get rid of waste. There are two types of bilirubin, and if levels of one type are too high, it can cause health problems.

Other qualities

Baby poop can also have a variety of textures and other features. Before an infant starts eating solid food, their poop is usually very soft.

Breastfed babies may have quite runny or stringy poop, while formula-fed babies tend to have firmer, but not solid, poop.

Mucus in a baby’s stool is also common and rarely a sign of any health issue. If the baby shows other signs of unusual behavior or illness, however, speak to a doctor. Learn more about mucus in baby poop here.

Dry or hard poop can mean that a baby is not drinking enough fluids, or they may be ill.

After an infant starts to eat solid foods, hard poop can also be a sign of constipation. Babies commonly become constipated when they eat foods that their bodies cannot yet digest properly. Here, find out more about constipation in babies.

Very watery stool can result from diarrhea. A baby with diarrhea may also poop more often than usual or have a high temperature. Diarrhea can cause dehydration, which is potentially serious for infants.

Every baby is different, and some poop more often than others. Many newborns poop after each feeding, though they tend to pass stool less frequently once they reach 6 weeks old. Breastfed babies may only poop once a week. A healthy frequency for formula-fed babies is once per day.HEALTHLINE NEWSLETTERGet actionable tips to help support your parenthood journey

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When to see a doctor

As a baby grows, their poop often changes color. For example, as an infant starts to eat solid foods, what they eat may affect the color of their poop. Undigested food in stool can also cause a change in color.

Unusual colors, such as green, may not signal a health issue. Stool color may vary for a short time, then return to its regular shade.

White, red, or black are the exceptions — these colors can each indicate a health problem.

Also, if a lot of mucus is present or it appears in stool on an ongoing basis, this could signal an illness.

See a doctor about any concerns regarding an infant’s health.

Healthy poop in babies

Expect newborns to poop frequently, sometimes after every feed. Infants older than 3 weeks may poop anywhere between two or three times a day to once a week.

Healthy poop can be shades of yellow, orange, brown, or green, and the texture may be runny to fairly firm. It should not be hard or watery.

Babies often strain a little as they pass stool and may make noises or scrunch up their faces. This is normal. However, too much straining or discomfort when pooping could be a sign of constipation.

Summary

Poop color can be one way to keep track of a baby’s health.

Stool that is quite soft and earthy in color is generally healthy. However, red or white poop often signals a health issue that requires attention — as does black stool from babies older than 1 week.

Overall, as long as an infant is gaining weight and feeding as often as they need, a broad range of poop colors is healthy.

Last medically reviewed on December 4, 2019

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