Color of the Day: Solving Bowel Movement Mysteries
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.