The scoop on poop

Everything you need to know about what’s in your baby’s diaper.

It’s funny how many parents start to obsess over everything their babies do, right down to what’s in their diaper. To be fair though, your baby’s poop can tell you a lot about their health, so it is useful to pay more attention to those dirty diapers. But how do you know what’s normal and what’s not?

Getting to know newborn poop

The good news is, babies don’t poop in the womb. The bad news is, your baby’s poop for the first few days is a sticky, greenish-black substance called meconium. It’s made up of amniotic fluid, mucus, skin cells and other things that your baby has ingested in the womb. Lovely, isn’t it?

After the first few days, your baby’s poop will change into a watery, mustard yellow if you’re breastfeeding or yellow, brown or green if you’re feeding your baby formula.

Breast milk digests fast, so don’t be surprised if your baby poops after every feed. All babies poop less frequently as they grow but frequency is not as important as consistency. Frequent stools that are more watery than usual and green could mean diarrhoea, while firm, pebble-sized stools, especially if streaked with red or black, could mean constipation.

The effect of solids on poop

As your baby starts eating cereals and pureed foods, you’ll start to see a more direct relation between what they eat and the colour of their poop. When they start on solids, breastfed babies will usually have a thicker stool but with formula-fed babies, the stool usually softens. Pooping also becomes less frequent. You might find partly digested bits in your baby’s diaper too but these will disappear as they become better chewers and their digestive systems adapt.

Strange poop explained

If your baby’s poop is green and frothy, they’re probably getting too much foremilk and not enough hindmilk. Foremilk is the low-calorie milk that comes first in a feeding and hindmilk is the good, higher fat milk that comes later. It might be that you’re not feeding your baby long enough on each breast.

Your baby fills up on foremilk on the first breast and before they can get to the hindmilk, you switch them over to the second breast for more foremilk. This usually happens when you try to breastfeed for a fixed amount of time instead of letting your baby set the pace.

To ensure your baby gets the right balance of foremilk and hindmilk, let your baby finish feeding on one breast before offering the other. Or start the next feed on the same breast you ended the last feed on.

If you’re giving your baby an iron supplement or an iron-fortified formula, their poop may turn dark green or almost black.

Poop problems you should discuss with your doctor

  • If your breastfed baby poops frequently and isn’t gaining weight, they may not be getting enough to eat.
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  • Your baby might be having diarrhoea if their poop is runnier than usual and appears to be more water than solids.
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  • If your baby’s poop is hard, looks like pebbles and is streaked with blood, and they look uncomfortable when they poop, they’re probably constipated.
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  • Slimy, greenish poop might mean mucus in your baby’s poop. This could be a sign of infection or allergy. So if it shows up for two days or more or is accompanied by other symptoms, then it’s best to see a doctor.
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  • Bright red blood can mean several different things, none of which are good. Normal poop with a tinge of blood could mean a blood protein allergy. Blood in constipated poop could mean tears in the anus or small haemorrhoids. Diarrhoea mixed with blood could mean a bacterial infection.
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  • Sometimes the blood in poop can look black, which means it’s been digested. If your baby’s stools are black and they’re not on an iron supplement or iron-fortified formula, check with your doctor to make sure there’s no bleeding along the intestinal track.

Sound the poop alarm

These types of poop are thankfully, very rare but point to a serious condition and should get medical attention right away.

  • Dark and sticky black poop that’s mainly digested blood.
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  • Poop that’s almost entirely red blood, which could mean a severe intestinal problem.
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  • Pale, chalky, clay-coloured poop that signals liver or gallbladder failure.