Color Changes in Your Baby's Poop

Medically Reviewed by Amita Shroff, MD on November 28, 2022
2 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 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.

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 their 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 through the intestines, it also picks up digestive juices, bile, bacteria, and other things, which give it different colors and smells.

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

The color and timing of a baby’s poop changes as their diet changes, as their 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.

Let your baby’s doctor know if you see:

  • Poop that stays chalky white. It may mean their liver isn’t making enough bile to digest 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. A red stool 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.

You don't need to worry about green, orange, and yellow stools. They are par for the course and rarely a sign of a digestive problem.

Show Sources

"Clinical manifestations of gastrointestinal disease." Wylie R. in Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 17th edition. Behrman R, Kliegman R and Jenson H (eds.), Saunders: 2004.

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