Baby Poop: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly!

By Maureen Connolly for Your Baby Today

Baby in DiaperLet's face it: new parents can't help being preoccupied with the topic of their baby's poop -- and for good reason. During the first few weeks of your infant's life, the quantity, texture, and color of your baby's bowel movements are a great indicator of how he or she is thriving. We went to pediatrician and mom Bonnie Fass-Offit, M.D., to get the low-down on what's what when it comes to baby BMs:

  • Frequency
    According to Dr. Fass-Offit, during the first week of life, formula-fed babies will poop four to five times per day. By the second week, it can drop down to one to two times per day. Meanwhile, once a mother's milk comes in, breastfed babies commonly poop with each feeding and continue at this rate for the first month. "Many parents of breastfed babies mistake the frequency of bowel movements for diarrhea, but in fact this is one of the best signs that things are going well," says Dr. Fass-Offit, adding that diarrhea is actually uncommon in very young infants since their gastrointestinal tract is still protected by maternal immunities.
  • Texture and Color
    Whether your baby is breast- or formula-fed, for the first two to three days the stool will be black and tarry while she eliminates meconium, her first stool. Bowel movements will then turn to a dark brown color, and then, depending on whether your baby is getting breastmilk or formula, take on a different color. A breastfed baby will have liquidy, yellow stools, while a formula-fed baby has pasty, mustard-colored stools.

Trouble Signs

  • Hard stools. If your baby's stool is a hard, dry, little ball, this is a sign of constipation. While parents are quick to blame it on the formula or breastmilk, Dr. Fass-Offit offers a more common reason for constipation: "Very often babies aren't pushing the stool out at the right time. So when it sits in the rectum it loses water and becomes more difficult for the baby to push out." She explains that an infant has to learn to recognize the sensation of when it's time to go and that breastfed babies may have an easier time of it "since breastmilk more or less blows out on its own." Parents often mistake straining -- your infant might grunt or his face turn red -- for constipation. But if the texture of the poop looks normal, then it's more likely that your baby is just becoming accustomed to the sensation of eliminating waste.

  • Red streaks of blood in stools. This can be due to a fissure in the rectum or, if you're breastfeeding, cracked nipples that bleed into the breastmilk. Dr. Fass-Offit says that neither of these incidents are cause for concern. However, if your infant's stool is black or a red/jelly like consisitency you should notify your pediatrician since this can be a sign of a more serious problem, such as intestinal bleeding or blockage.


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