Baby poo: what's normal and what's not, with charts and pictures
What should newborn baby poo look like? How should breastfed baby poo look? And poo from a formula-fed baby? Is green poo normal? What about mucus in poo – or other colours and textures? We have the answers – and the pictures – with expert advice from Dr Philippa Kaye and Midwife Pip
From your newborn's first poo (unbelievably sticky) through the greens and yellows and browns of the early months – including, of course, the inevitable spatter-everywhere poonami – there is never a dull moment when it comes to the contents of your baby's nappy.
Your baby's poo can change – in colour and texture, in quantity and frequency – from day to day, and week to week. Which can be something of a surprise to a first-time parent. Before your baby's born, people go on and on about sleepless nights but green poo, then yellow poo in the nappies? Not so much.
So why all the changes in the contents of your baby's nappy? And are they all normal? "Changes in your baby's poo are perfectly normal, especially in the first few days," says expert family GP Dr Philippa Kaye.
The colour and consistency of your baby's poo will vary, quite naturally, depending on their age and whether they're being breastfed, formula-fed or, later, starting solid food
"Over the weeks, you'll find yourself wiping various shades of green, yellow and brown from your baby’s bottom – and some poos may be softer and more runny than others. But obviously, if you are concerned about anything, you should check with your health visitor or GP."
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To help you make sense of the myriad poo hues and textures you may see in your baby's nappies over their first 6 months (and more), we have – with the expert advice of Dr Philippa and of Midwife Pip, an NHS midwife and provider of postnatal courses – put together an easy-to-follow guide to what's normal and what's not on the baby poo front. It includes a baby-poo colour chart, a baby-poo consistency chart, guidance on what to do when you see a poo that doesn't seem normal and (when you're ready to look) real-life pictures of poo-filled nappies, so you can compare what you're seeing with what other parents have experienced...
Here's what you need to know about baby poo: colours, textures, poo charts and more – from newborn to starting solids
First baby poos | Baby poo in days 3 to 5 | Breastfed baby poo from 1 week | Formula-fed baby poo from 1 week | Colours of baby poo chart: what's normal and what's not | Dark green baby poo | Black baby poo | Red baby poo | White baby poo | Consistency of baby poo chart: what's normal and what's not | Mucus in baby poo | Frothy baby poo | Hard, pebbly baby poo | Watery baby poo | Baby poo when starting solids | Smelly poo| Baby poo and milk allergy | Poo frequency
What do a baby's first poos look like?
Your baby's very first poo looks dark green or black. It will be sticky (but not smelly) – almost like Marmite. That's because what's in your baby's first nappy isn't really poo at all but a substance called meconium.
"Meconium is a mix of stuff that's built up in your baby's bowel while they've been in your womb," says Dr Philippa. "It's mainly residues of amniotic fluid, mucus, bile, and skin cells. It is really thick and sticky – so sticky, in fact, that it can be difficult to wipe off."
Your baby should pass their first meconium-filled nappy within 24 to 48 hours of birth. Over the next couple of days, your baby's poos will continue to be dark green and sticky.
What do a baby's poos look like in days 3 to 5?
"As your baby starts to digest milk – breast or formula – their poo will gradually turn from dark green to a lighter green, then a greeny-yellow, then a creamy yellow or orangey brown in colour," says Dr Philippa.
These poos are called "changing stools" or "transitional stools" because the meconium is gradually being cleared out of your baby's bowel and replaced by a softer, 'normal' poo that's much easier to wipe away.
You'll also find that, now that your baby's bowel is being stimulated more by the regular arrival of milk, your baby's poos may get a little bigger and more frequent – roughly 4 a day, maybe more if you are breastfeeding. For more on poo frequency, see How often do babies poo?, below.
What does breastfed baby poo look like after the first week?
"Breastmilk poo is really runny and soft," says Dr Philippa, "in fact as soft as diarrhoea. It's almost creamy in consistency and it can also have grainy or seedy flecks (even though your baby isn't, of course, eating seeds) or look like it is curdled (think cottage cheese)."
It is generally yellow, sometimes slightly green, like mustard. And it usually has a slightly sweet but not very strong smell.
What does formula-fed baby poo look like after the first week?
Formula-milk poo is usually a little firmer in texture than breastmilk poo but still smooth and soft: think hummus or toothpaste. It usually needs a good few wipes to get it all off your baby's bottom.
"Its colour is generally a peanut-butter shade," says Dr Philippa, "but it can range from yellow to green to tan to brown.
"It has a stronger smell than breastmilk poo – not as strong as adult poo but definitely heading more in that direction."
How often do babies poo?
- How often does a newborn baby poo? "Breastfed newborns babies tend to poo after every feed; formula-fed babies newborns poo up to 5 times a day," says Midwife Pip. "This frequency then tends to decrease after the first few months."
- How often does a breastfed baby poo? "There is no 'normal' when it comes to frequency," says Dr Philippa. "After the first week, some breastfed babies poo several times a day; others can go several days between poos. If your baby goes longer than a week without pooing, it is best to consult your GP."
- How often does a formula-fed baby poo? Formula-fed babies tend to poo less often that breastfed babies, as formula passes through the intestines at a slower rate. But that can still mean quite a bit of variety between formula-fed babies: after the first week, some will poo several times a day and some will go days between poos. If your baby goes longer than a week without pooing, it is best to consult your GP.
- How often will a baby poo once they're eating solids? Poos will become less frequent once a baby's on solids: they may pass 1 poo a day but it's not unusual for babies to go 2 or 3 days between poos. If you are concerned with how often or how little your baby is pooing, speak to your doctor.
Colours of baby poo: what's normal and what's not
Once your baby's past the first week or so and settled into a milk-feeding routine, their poos should be yellow, yellowy-green, orangey-yellow or brown in colour. There may be a lot of variation within and between those colours from day to day – and that's all completely normal.
Sometimes, though, you may spot a different colour. Here's what you might see – and what it could mean...
Why is my baby's poo dark green?
Green, greeny-brown or greeny-yellow are entirely normal variations of baby poo colours but a really dark green, once you're past the newborn meconium stage, is not so normal and can be a bit disconcerting.
Baby poo can turn dark green for a number of reasons, including:
- Formula milk. "Dark green poos are more common in formula-fed babies," says Dr Philippa."If you've switched from breastfeeding to formula-feeding or changed from one brand of formula milk to another, you may notice this change in colour. It's usually nothing to worry about."
- Tummy bug. "Poos can also look dark green if your baby has a virus or bacterial infection or a spot of diarrhoea. If your baby is otherwise happy in themselves, is weeing regularly and feeding well, then it's probably all fine– but you should, of course see a doctor if you're concerned, if the diarrhoea continues for more than a day, or your baby seems unwell."
- Teething. Babies who are teething quite often produce green poos, which can be on the darker side and may look a bit slimey. "This can happen if a baby is drooling a lot and swallowing loads of saliva," says Dr Philippa.
- Allergy or intolerance, including cow's milk protein allergy. Another, less common, cause of dark green poo can be an intolerance or allergy to milk formula or to something you've been eating, if your baby is breastfeeding. In this case, the poos usually also look very runny, and may contain large amounts of mucus or streaks of blood – and your baby may seem very gassy or unsettled. Do see your doctor if you think your baby has an intolerance or allergy.
- Milk supply. If your baby is breastfed and their poo is dark green but there isn't much of it and it's quite frothy, it's possible that your baby isn't getting enough milk. See more on this in Why is my baby's poo frothy?, below.
- Weaning. Once your baby starts on solids, you may see dark green poos – particularly if you're given them dark green vegetables, such as broccoli or spinach. For more on this, see How will my baby's poo change once they start solids?, below
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All change! Normal things that could explain a change in your baby’s poo
- Your baby's no longer a complete newborn
- You've introduced formula milk
- You've changed formula milk
- Your baby's had some vaccinations
- Your baby's teething (this is not supported by scientific evidence but many parents swear they've seen the actual evidence!)
- Your baby's started eating solids
- Your baby's got a tummy bug or a virus
- Your baby's taking prescribed medication
Why is my baby's poo black?
Assuming your baby is past the meconium stage and isn't yet old enough to be eating solid food (blueberries can, for example, turn baby poo a very dark, almost black colour), black poo is something to see your doctor about.
It's worth knowing, though, that very dark green poo (see above) can look pretty black at first sight or in poor light.
"If the poo is black like coal," says Dr Philippa, "do consult your GP, as this can indicate the presence of digested blood in the stool. However, if your baby's been prescribed extra iron supplements, that can turn their poo black, too."
Why is my baby's poo red?
If your baby's old enough to be eating solid food – and that food includes beetroot, this may be the answer. Otherwise, a red colour in your baby's poo is likely to be a sign of blood – and that's generally something your doctor will need to investigate, says Dr Philippa.
That doesn't necessarily mean it's anything serious. If it's still early days, it could be that your baby swallowed a little blood during the birth. Or there can be bits of blood in your baby's poo if your baby's constipated: "if a baby has constipation and is straining to poo," says Midwife Pip, "this may cause some tiny tears as the poo leaves their anus, which results in red flecks of blood in the poo."
If you have a baby girl, you may notice, in the first 10 days after birth, a little blood on her nappy, rather than in the poo – although we know it can be hard to tell! – and/or some blood-tinged or pink discharge. "This is called 'false menstruation' or 'pseudo menstruation'," says Midwife Pip. "It's a tiny amount of vaginal bleeding, caused by the drop in exposure to your oestrogen in the womb. It's totally normal and shouldn't last more than 3 or 4 days."
Why is my baby's poo white?
Baby poo that's very pale grey/light clay, white or chalky in colour can be a sign of bile issues or liver problems, such as jaundice, says Dr Philippa. "Do talk to your doctor, if you spot poos like this," she says.
Consistency of baby poo: what's normal and what's not
Normal baby poo is soft, smooth and somewhere between quite runny and thick custard in consistency. Its texture can change from day to day, and poo to poo – and, if your baby is breastfed, can often be quite curdy (cottage-cheese-like) or grainy-looking too.
Sometimes, though, you may spot a more noticeable change in consistency – much runnier, maybe, or much more solid – or maybe the poo has something in it that you're not sure about. Here's what you might see – and what it could mean...
- Once your baby starts eating solids, their poos will naturally get thicker and browner – see How will my baby's poo change once they start solids?, below.
Why has my baby's poo got mucus in it?
Occasional small amounts of slimey, jelly-like strings or blobs – yellow, green or brown – in your baby's poo are quite normal. Your baby's intestines are coated with mucus to help digestion and move the poo along and out and, sometimes, some mucus will end up in the poo, too.
However, if you start seeing a lot of mucus, there might be something else going on. This could include:
- Teething. A baby who is teething can have quite slimey poos because they're producing and swallowing so much more saliva than normal – and saliva contains mucus.
- A viral or bacterial infection. A tummy bug or other infection can result in mucus in their poo, which is often also dark green and very runny.
- Milk allergy or sensitivity. If your formula-fed baby is allergic to something in their milk, their guts can get inflamed and produce more mucus. Your baby's poos will also probably be green and frothy and your baby may be unsettled, irritable and windy.
- A more serious health problem. Rarely, poos full of mucus can be a sign of liver, pancreas or intestinal issues. Often, these poos will look very fatty and pale and have a strong, unpleasant smell.
If your baby is producing more than the occasional slimey poo and is displaying other symptoms, including discomfort, distress, blood in the poo, diarrhoea (for more than a day) and/or fever, then do see your doctor.
Can I tell from my baby's poo if they have a cow's milk allergy?
It's possible but it's tricky – and you'd need a doctor to confirm it.
A baby with a cow's milk protein allergy (CMPA) can have persistent diarrhoea or watery poos, maybe with mucus and/or blood in. But this kind of poo can indicate other things, too, like a tummy bug or maybe even lactose intolerance (an inability to digest the sugar in milk).
It's also possible that a baby with CMPA will have constipation – and constipation, too, can have other causes.
A baby with CMPA is very likely to have other symptoms too, including an itchy rash or swollen lips. And a baby with lactose intolerance will probably also seem unsettled and very windy.
If you have any concerns about your baby's reaction to milk, whatever the state of their nappies, you should see your GP.
Why is my baby's poo frothy?
The answer to this one depends on whether your baby is breastfed or formula-fed.
"Foamy stools in breastfed babies – particularly if they're green and watery – may indicate something called lactose overload," says Midwife Pip. "It's also sometimes called foremilk/hindmilk imbalance."
Breastmilk contains foremilk and hindmilk. Typically, foremilk – which, as its name suggest, comes out first – is watery and nutrient-dense; hindmilk, which follows, is very fatty. Both foremilk and hindmilk contain lactose (which helps with your baby's brain and nerve development, growth and energy) and the fattiness in the hindmilk helps with lactose digestion. But if your baby is getting full before drinking enough hindmilk – this can sometimes happen if you have an oversupply of milk or the time between feeds is too long – the lactose can pass through their system without getting properly broken down or digested. This can lead to frothy poos, gassiness, bloating and stomach pain.
If you think your baby has lactose overload, it's a good idea to see a breastfeeding counsellor for advice: try the Lactation Consultants of Great Britain or find your local Breastfeeding Support Services. Things that can help include checking your baby's latch, feeding lying down, feeding more often and allowing your baby to feed as long as they want on one breast, rather than switching to the other breast.
"If your baby is formula-fed, foamy poo may indicate an infection or an allergy or intolerance," says Midwife Pip. "If this continues for a few days and you are concerned or your baby seems unsettled, contact your GP for guidance."
Why is my baby's poo hard and pebbly?
Baby poo that is hard and pebbly, like rabbit droppings, is generally a sign of constipation, says Dr Philippa – especially if it seems your baby is feeling discomfort or even pain when passing poo.
Constipation tends to be more common in formula-fed babies than breastfed ones. If your baby is formula-fed, it's worth checking that you're being super-accurate with the formula measuring scoop and using the correct number of scoops to the right amount of water when making up bottles.
Be careful, too, not to encourage your baby to keep feeding when they're showing signs of having had enough: pushing the teat away, spilling milk out of the side of their mouth, stopping or really slowing down with the sucking and swallowing. Also, if your baby's moved on from first-stage formula milk, it might be worth moving back to it again.
If your baby's already eating solids, make sure they're having enough fluid and aim for a good fibre intake.
Whatever you're feeding your baby, you may find that tummy massage helps get things moving again. It may also help to lie your baby on their back and pedal their legs, as if they're riding an upside-down bicycle.
If things don't improve, see your doctor or health visitor. But do note: not pooing for a bit is not constipation. Pooing less frequently after 4 to 6 weeks of age is very common indeed (see How often should my baby poo?, above) and some breastfed babies can go for about a week without a poo.
Why is my baby's poo all watery?
It's every parent's lot to experience the dreaded 'poonami' (liquid poo explosion) at some point – or indeed many points – in their baby's early life, and, messy as it is, it is very normal.
However, if your baby is having really watery poo, it could be diarrhoea – and this could indicate a tummy bug or an allergy. Diarrhoea caused by an infection usually clears up on its own within 5 to 7 days but, with babies, it's important to keep a beady eye out for dehydration. And, obviously, if there are other symptoms or if you're worried that the cause is not a bug, you should have a chat with your GP. As a rule of thumb, always call your doctor if your baby has diarrhoea and:
- Has signs of dehydration, such as no or very few wet nappies, dry lips, crying without tears
- Has blood or lots of mucus in their diarrhoea
- Has a fever
- Is vomiting/can't keep down fluids
- Is under 8 weeks old
- Has had more than 6 diarrhoea-filled nappies in 24 hours
Why is my baby's poo really smelly?
Before your baby starts solids, their poo shouldn't be that smelly – especially if your baby is breastfeeding. Poo is never going to smell wonderful, of course, but it shouldn't be the kind of smell that clears the room. If your baby's poo is suddenly particularly foul-smelling, especially if it's also mucusy or watery and/or green, ask your doctor or health visitor about it, so they can consider causes such as an infection, illness or an allergy.
If your baby's started solid and their poo is really smelly, we're afraid that's probably quite normal!
How will my baby's poo change once they start solids?
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Oh my! You will notice a big change in your baby's poo when they start solids– especially if your baby has been exclusively breastfed until now. Their poo will now be brown or dark brown and thicker in texture, though still mushy. And – joy of joys – it will definitely be smellier.
"You also may notice what looks like undigested food in it – often peas, banana seeds, carrots or sweetcorn," says Dr Philippa. "This can be a bit of a surprise but it's perfectly normal, and down to the fast transit of food through your baby's intestines at this age. It's really not a cause for concern."
- How often will your baby poo now they're on solids? See How often will my baby poo?, above
Baby poo warning signs: when to see a doctorIf you notice any of the following, consult your doctor:
- Black poo (if your baby is more than 1 week old)
- White or grey poo
- Red poo
- Frequent green poo that's slimey or full of mucus
- More than 4 very watery or diarrhoea-filled nappies in 24 hours
- Your baby has gone a week or more without pooing
- Tiny, threadlike worms in poo
About our experts Dr Philippa Kaye and Midwife Pip Davies
Dr Phililppa Kaye works as a GP in both NHS and private practice, and appears regularly as an expert doctor on ITV's This Morning. She attended Downing College, Cambridge, then took medical studies at Guy’s, King’s and St Thomas’s medical schools in London, training in paediatrics, gynaecology, care of the elderly, acute medicine, psychiatry and general practice. She written a number of books, including ones on child health, diabetes in childhood and adolescence. She is a mum of 3.
Midwife Pip (Pip Davies) has more than a decade of experience as a practising midwifery sister for the NHS. She is also the founder of the Midwife Pip Podcast, has released a series of online antenatal and postnatal courses, provides evidence-based advice to parents on Instagram – and she's a mum, too.
With thanks to Cher Whelan for additional research
Pics: Getty Images (main pic)/MadeForMums Top Testers
Graphics: Emma Winchester (charts); Janet Mtima
Helen is author of the classic advice book Parenting for Dummies and a mum of 3. Before joining MadeForMums, she was Head of Community at Mumsnet and also the Consumer Editor of Mother & Baby.
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