Color Changes in Your Baby's Poop

Medically Reviewed by Zilpah Sheikh, MD on October 05, 2023
4 min read

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 show up in baby diapers 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.

Your baby's first poops are called meconium. It's a thick and sticky residue that is greenish black. You should see it only in the first 3 days of your baby's life.

The milk your baby swallows goes into their stomach, where acids break it down, and it moves into the small intestine. Some of the digested nutrients and water get taken into the bloodstream, and the larger, undigested ones (like fiber) keep moving through. If the nutrients continue through the intestines slower, your baby's body has enough time to take in more water from them, so what comes out may be more solid. But if things are moving faster, more water will come out with the rest of the waste, which could mean diarrhea.

As waste moves through the intestines, it also picks up digestive juices, bile, bacteria, and other things, which give it different colors and smells. If food is not digested all the way or passes through your baby's intestines quickly, parts of the food may appear in their poop.

Every baby is different, and there is a wide range of normal when it comes to poop.

What your baby eats makes a difference in what winds up in their diaper.

The consistency, color, and even how often they poop can vary depending on if the baby is breastfed or formula-fed.

Breastfed babies

About 3 days after birth, the poop of breastfed babies changes from meconium to a green poop that's not as sticky. As your baby takes in more milk, their poop becomes mustardy and "seedy" yellow.

Babies' bodies tend to take in breast milk more completely—sometimes there's so little left that a baby may not poop for days. Up to a week between pooping can be normal in breastfed babies.

They also may:

  • Poop one or more times a day, usually after they eat
  • Have poop with a sweeter smell

Once a breastfed baby starts formula or begins to eat solid food, their poop becomes more solid with a stronger smell.

Formula-fed babies

Formula-fed babies also have meconium for the first few days of life. After this time, their poop is usually darker and tan-colored.

They could also:

  • Have poop that is firmer and bigger
  • Poop once a day, sometimes more often
  • Have poop with a stronger smell

The color and timing of your baby's poop changes as their diet changes, their digestive tract develops, and as it gets more new, normal bacteria. It's not common 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 colors that waste picks up along the way.

During your baby's first 3 months of life, they may poop many times a day. On average, breastfed babies poop three times a day and formula-fed babies two times. After this time, the number of times per day will fall.

Some babies don't poop for 1 or 2 days—even a week. You don't need to worry as long as your baby is still eating and gaining weight.

If you notice a change in how often your baby normally poops, it's best to speak with a pediatrician. If your baby is breastfed, you may even talk to a lactation consultant, as the nutrients in breast milk can play a role in your baby's poop.

You don't need to worry about green, orange, and yellow stools. They are normal and not usually a sign of a digestive problem. Let your baby's doctor know if you see:

  • Poop that stays chalky white. It may mean their liver isn't making enough bile (a fluid that helps with digestion) to take in the food.
  • Poop that is tarry black. There may be blood in their digestive tract that has turned dark as it traveled through the intestines.
  • Bright red blood in their poop. Red poop can also be caused by certain medicines, beets, and food colorings. But the pediatrician can test your baby's poop to see if it has blood. This could be a sign of an allergy or infection.
  • Mucus-filled poop. Poop that is filled with mucus or water can also be a sign of an allergic reaction or infection.
  • Poop that is runny. If this type of poop goes on for a long time, it could lead to dehydration.
  • Hard poop.Solid, hard poop means your baby is probably constipated. This could also be a sign of lactose intolerance.