feet of newborn baby by stack of diapers

Pediatric Perspectives: The scoop on newborn poop

Ellen Brooks, Valley View HospitalBy Ellen Brooks, MD, Pediatric Partners at Valley View

As a pediatrician, I frequently get questions on the color, consistency, frequency, and efforts of newborn and infant poop.  So here is the scoop on newborn poop. (Maybe don’t read this while you are eating.)

In the first few days after a baby is born, their poop is supposed to be very dark, tarry and sticky. This is called meconium. It is composed of the materials that the fetus ingests during pregnancy, which may include such things as bile, amniotic fluid, hair, and skin cells. Typically, the first meconium passes within 24 hours of birth.  If it occurs much later than that, it can be a sign of an intestinal issue. As the baby begins to feed, the stools begin to transition to a much lighter yellow color. Infants who are breastfed will typically have runny, seedy, frequent stools whereas those who are formula fed will have pastier, less frequent, yellowish stools.

Infants also strain a lot when stooling. This technically is not constipation because their stools are soft. The name for this is dyschezia. When adults like you and I need to pass stool or gas, we can isolate our stomach muscles and increase the pressure in our abdomens to push whatever needs to come out. Babies cannot do this. Instead, they ball up, cry, strain, and grunt to increase the pressure in their bellies to push the stool and gas out. Often while doing this, they are unable to relax their anus, so they are pushing against a closed door (so to speak). Then, suddenly, they will relax the anus while pushing hard and have a blowout. This is all normal. It can be hard to watch them strain and they may in fact be a bit uncomfortable, but it can be helpful to know that they are doing what they need to do to relieve the problem.

As infants approach six to eight weeks of age, particularly those who are breastfed, the stool frequency often, dramatically decreases. Some babies stool only once every five to seven days. As long as what comes out is soft, this is ok and in fact, normal.

The color of baby poop is rarely a problem. The only color I really worry about is bright red, suggesting there is blood in the stool. Please contact your pediatrician if this occurs.

The most interesting thing about all the questions related to baby poop is that the questions almost completely go away once babies are no longer in diapers. That is when you as parents no longer see the poops. Even though the colors and consistencies continue to change, you just don’t see it all the time anymore.

And that’s the scoop on baby poop.

Ellen Brooks, MD is a board-certified pediatrician at Valley View’s Pediatric Partners. Originally from Wilmington, Delaware, Dr. Brooks received her medical degree from the University of Virginia School of Medicine. She completed a pediatric residency training in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she met, dated, married and decided to go into practice with Dr. David Brooks. She truly loves all aspects of pediatric medicine but has a special affinity for nursery and newborn care. Aside from keeping busy as a physician, she enjoys family time, running and traveling. She is currently welcoming new patients of all ages, birth to 18, in Glenwood Springs, Silt and Willits in Basalt. 

To learn more or schedule an appointment, call 970.947.9999.