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.

215 Comments

  1. Chelsea

    I have a 12 month old daughter, i just put her on milk and shes been really constipated ever since, her poop is really hard little pellets and they are yellow, is this normal or whats wrong?

    1. Cheryl Taylor

      If she is constipated with the addition of ANY food I would recommend taking that food out. Her body is showing you that she is not tolerating processing that food well.

  2. marshall

    my baby is a little over 6mths(first child) and have been exclusively breastfed for 6mths. I am continuing to breastfeed but am starting some solids a little oat cereal, squash, and stringbeans. I switched to oat cereal because rice cereal was constipating him- he was grunting a lot and he was producing little bowels that were pellet in size and dry. After being on oat cereal and the other foods above, his bowel movements has been wet no pellets but not explosive as they use to be i.e., filling the diaper, the size of the bowel movements are very light;small-little more than a stain, doesn't appear to be any pellets. Is this normal, he seems now to be going every other day? Shouldn't he produce a little more or am I worrying?

    1. Cheryl Taylor

      If BM is soft in consistency and yellow to brown in consistency there is no need for concern. It is fine for a predominantly breastfed baby to have a BM every other day. The key is the consistency when it makes its appearance.

  3. surya

    Dear Doctor,

    My daughter is just 4-months old and the stools color is consistently green since 3-weeks. She is not having cold, fever or diarrhea but still the green color is persiting.

    1. She is on breast feeding

    2. Along with breast feeding we are providing the infant formula known as lactogen-1 a nestle product

    What do you suggest us about the green color of our baby's stools?

    Awaiting for ur response,

    Regards,

    Surya

    1. Cheryl Taylor

      The most likely culprit for green BMs is a dairy allergy. I would suggest you consider eliminating all dairy from your diet and increasing your supply with very frequent nursings so that you can eliminate the dairy based formula. It will take 2 – 6 weeks for all dairy to be eliminated from your system, but many moms see improvement within 1-2 weeks.

  4. Elvira

    My baby is almost 4 weeks and is momentarily exclusively formula fed as I am on meds, Her stool has been green thin but claylike and very sticky for about a week and a half now, should I be worried?

    She is on Gentlease because she is a very gassy baby.

    Also she only has max. 3 Bowel movements a day nowadays..

    1. Cheryl Taylor

      Most medications are compatible with breastfeeding. Check Dr. Hale's information for the medication you are on. If you would like to email it to me I will look it up for you.

  5. Melissa

    I have a almost 4 month old baby, who is exclusively bf. Have done it with all my other children as well for extended period of time (beyond 1 year). Have had a heck of a start to this relationship…severe tongue tie, pyloric stenosis, reflux…

    We continue to have issues with weight gain, or lack there of..basically maintaining.

    I have changed two diapers in the last I want to say 2-3 weeks, that have been very thick almost paste like poops, in copious amounts. These poops usually happen when baby has gone for an extended period of time (1st was 12 days; and this was about 7-9 days).

    Also, the one today, OMG, the smell was horrible. I cannot quite figure out what it smells like, as it does not smell like any of my other children's breastmilk poops. To me it almost smells like a cross between my older son's ranch flavored gold fish crackers and italian salad dressing. Hubby thinks it smells like italian salad dressing….but it is horrible and the smell makes me want to puke.

    Any ideas what could be causing this. BTW, I am fairly certain I have gotten all the dairy out of my diet – not using dairy in my diet and trying to avoid it in processed foods and looking at packages for hidden dairy – and I am not using Soy.

    1. Cheryl Taylor

      First of all, kudos to you for sticking it through some tricky things in the beginning! That's awesome. His reflux was an immediate clue that you might be dealing with food allergies.

      How long have you had dairy eliminated? It can take up to six weeks with NO dairy in your diet to be undetectable in breastmilk. I would consider eliminating the top 7 allergens, which leave your system pretty quickly (not like dairy). They are dairy, egg, wheat, soy, shellfish, nuts and citrus (acidic fruits and veggies). I always suggest this first before going to an allergy elimination diet.

Comments are closed.