Color of the Day: Solving Bowel Movement Mysteries

Color of the Day: Solving Bowel Movement Mysteries

  • Posted by Dr. Jay Gordon

Stools in breastfeeding babies are predictably green, brown, yellow or orange. There is a wide variety of color and consistency of bowel movements.  In my glamorous job as a pediatrician, I discuss this hot topic every day.

We shouldn’t be any more surprised to see a variety of bowel movements in our babies than we would in anyone of any other age.  In breastfed babies, the mom’s diet can affect the color or consistency of a baby’s stools, particularly if the baby is showing an allergic reaction to a certain food or food group.

Greenish or Yellow/Brown, grainy or seedy
This is the transition between meconium and a regular breastfed stool and begins as mom’s milk is coming in on the second, third or fourth day of life.  There may be three stools each day, ten, or even twenty.  Occasionally, even a baby in the first week of life will skip a day and have no bowel movements at all.  Call your doctor to discuss this even though it is normal.  This does not require a dietary change or supplementation of a breastfed baby.


Frequent Watery Stool often “Greener” than usual
How can you spot diarrhea in a baby who has loose frequent stools every day?  This type of poop is “diarrhea” in a breastfed baby.  It can be due to a virus, a bowel infection, stress, anxiety or a food intolerance.

Black stools often accompanied by constipation
This is the result of iron supplementation. Iron fortified infant foods and infant vitamins can cause constipation. A healthy breastfed baby does not need iron supplementation. The iron in breastmilk is much more bioavailable than any other form.

Green, frothy stools
This can be a result of a hindmilk/foremilk imbalance. A true imbalance is rare. It is often seen accompanying a forceful letdown. Lactation consultants will help moms find a nursing pattern which works to combat this problem.  If letdown it too forceful in the early weeks, the solution can be to allow milk to leak into a cloth diaper during letdown, then latch baby back on.  Feeding two to three times off the same side may also show improvement. Caution should be used with same side feeding as it can decrease supply.

Another cause of malabsorption in the intestines can be teething. The profuse saliva of a teething baby can cause irritation in the intestines interfering with proper absorption.  When babies teethe, we can see lots of drooling.  Large quantities of saliva is swallowed which can irritate the intestines causing runny, acidic stools. This can also cause a rash in the diaper area.

In summary, stools in breastfeeding babies are predictably green, brown, yellow or orange.  It is runny and has curds almost every time.  It changes color with viruses, may have a small amount of blood (call your doc) and may come once a day and even taper off to once a week or more after a few weeks of age.  Formula feeding babies may show a little trickier set of changes involving constipation and diarrhea.  This is just one small reason to strongly recommend and support breastfeeding your baby.


  1. Megan

    My daughter who will be 5 months in 5 days has had green and yellow mucus like poop that's really runny and she's had a very bad rash along with it that won't go away i'm constantly changing her diapers and nothings helping! Any suggestions?

    1. Cheryl Taylor

      If she is a breastfed baby there are two things to consider first: Has there been a change in your diet that coincides with the change in her BMs and rash? Is it possible that she may have gotten a virus that will run its course in 5-7 days?

  2. Megan

    My 4 week old exclusively breastfed baby has had green, frothy, sometimes tar-like, stools with specks of blood every so often for about a week & a half now.. MD suggested eliminating dairy for 48 hours but i have done that and the poo is still the same.. now what??

    1. Cheryl Taylor

      It takes up to six weeks for the cow's milk protein to be undetectable in breastmilk. It will begin to lower but may take longer for symptoms to go away.

  3. Jennifer Hernandez

    I was wondering if it is normal for a 9 week old exclusively breast fed baby to poo only only a week. He has been doing this for around 5 weeks now. I think one week he has gone 3 times and one week 2 times. He does not seem to be uncomfortable. He usually goes on Sunday mornings. It is kind of a sour cream consistancy and dark yellow. There is alot of it though when he goes.

    1. Cheryl Taylor

      It is very normal. If baby is nursing well, wetting well and BM on appearance is soft in form then baby is not constipated. It is not unusual for an exclusively breastfed baby to go one or two weeks inbetween BM's. Dr. Jack Newman speaks of a perfectly healthy breastfed infant that went 30 days. The key is always the consistency of the BM when it does make its appearance.

  4. Sergio Miguel

    Ever since my son was born I have to admit that I have been a bit over paranoid about everything. Our son is 2 months old and we have noticed very little streaks of blood along with some mucus substance in his stool; it’s not all the time it’s once in a while. He is exclusively breastfed. I’ve read so many things about oversupply (which my wife has) etc….I don’t know what to think, although we’re going for his 2 month physical on Wednesday. Otherwise he is growing and happy, sometimes fussy and he does cry when he’s tired, but all babies do that. Any suggestions, I want to enjoy this marvelous period, which never will come back with my son and not worry so much.

    1. Cheryl Taylor

      You might try keeping track of what your wife is eating along with the symptom that you are seeing. You may see a correlation of something or some category that she is eating and the reaction in baby 3-4 hrs. after ingestion.

  5. jane

    hi, our foster baby was diagnosed at hospital for being lactose intolerant and put on soy formula. We noticed he was a moderately fussy baby with occasional gassiness but other than that had no problems till his 6 week mark, when I noticed an inch long string of blood in his yellow stool.

    We took it to the dr. after a few visits and seeing more blood, they had us go on the Alumentum (sp). Baby has been on it for 3 full days now. Stool immediately became softer and is more green than its previous healthier looking dijon mustard color. Now, every poop has blood mixed in with it. it sort of seems to sit on the surface of the poop…like its getting coated with it on its way out.

    It is more than enough to notice. Sometimes you can see flat areas that are the size of a quarter in addition to other tinged areas, sometimes it seems mucousy or tissue-y…

    The dr does not seem concerned. He says I should give it 2-3 weeks to 'see'.

    its just so unsettling…

    Would you happen to have any thoughts on the matter? thank you very much!

    1. Cheryl Taylor

      Alimentum is dairy based so it doesn’t make sense to diagnose an infant with lactose intolerance and then put them on a dairy based formula. The difference is that the cow’s milk protein is broken down into smaller pieces in this formula, but the protein source is still dairy. Soy if another of the top 7 food allergens and often babies that are allergic to dairy are also allergic to soy. The good news is that many infants can react to dairy prior to the age when their gut closes (approx 6 months) because the protein goes directly into the blood system with an open gut. Once that gut closes we sometimes see the reactions stop. This is more commonly caused a sensitivity instead of a true allergy.

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