If you're a new parent, you might think about your baby’s poop more than you ever thought you would. Different colors and textures pop up all the time. How do you know if they’re normal or a sign of a problem?
Get a handle on the basics to get you through this stage in your baby's life.
Is My Newborn Normal?
The moment your newborn is delivered, you're bound to heave a heavy sigh of
relief. But if you're like most first-time parents, that relief doesn't last
Unexpected birthmarks, a pulsating soft spot, jaundice, skin rashes, eyes
that cross, head lumps and bumps: It can all be downright scary and can easily
send new parents into panic mode.
"If you don't know what to expect, or especially if you are expecting
that sort of 'Hollywood' version of the doll-perfect newborn, seeing and
examining your baby for the first time can be quite shocking to some parents --
and even cause some serious anxiety attacks," says Tia Hubbard, MD, nursery
pediatrician at the University of California at San Diego Medical Center.
Your baby's first poops are called meconium. It’s a thick and sticky residue that is greenish-black in color. You should see it only in the first 3 days of your baby's life.
The milk your baby swallows heads to his stomach, where acids break it down and it moves into the small intestine. Some of the digested nutrients and water get absorbed into the bloodstream, and the larger, undigested ones (like fiber) keep moving through. If they continue through the intestines at a leisurely pace, your little one’s body has enough time to absorb more water from them, so what comes out may be quite firm. But if things are moving rapidly, more water will come out with the rest of the waste, which could mean diarrhea.
As poop moves thorough the intestines, it also picks up digestive juices, bile, bacteria, and other things, which give it different colors and smells.
The Effects of Breast Milk vs. Formula
What a baby eats makes a difference in what winds up in his diaper. The body tends to absorb breast milk more completely -- sometimes there’s so little left that a baby may not poop for days. On the other hand, many breastfed babies pass a mustardy, "seedy" yellow stool with each feeding, at least for a short while. Formula-fed babies tend to have darker, tan-colored stools that happen less often.
But remember: Every baby is different, and there is a very wide range of normal when it comes to poop.
Tips for Concerned Parents
The color and timing of a baby’s poop changes as his diet changes, as his digestive tract matures, and as it gets more new, normal bacteria. It's rare that color changes are signs of a digestive problem. Usually, they just mean that there is more or less of the yellow/green/brown/orange pigments that stool picks up along the way.