Newborn Poop: What to expect

Becoming a new parent means talking and thinking about poop a lot. Your baby’s poop can tell you a lot about their health and is frequently discussed on mommy blogs and at doctor visits. The color, consistency, and frequency are key indicators of your baby’s diet and well-being. So what exactly is normal, and what should you expect to find when you open their diaper each time?

First Poop

Your baby’s first poop will happen shortly after birth, and in some instances, it can happen while they are still in the womb. This first poop substance is called meconium. Meconium is a dark green, sometimes black tar-like substance that builds up in your baby’s intestines while in utero. This black, sticky substance is the byproduct of amniotic fluid your baby swallowed in the womb and typically passes out of their system within 24-48 hours after birth. 

In some instances, babies pass meconium in the womb or while the mother is in labor. If this occurs, the baby is at risk for meconium aspiration, which can be dangerous and even life-threatening. 

During delivery, doctors will look for signs of meconium in the amniotic fluid, so they will be prepared to treat them as soon as delivery occurs. 

Newborn Poop After Meconium

Once your baby has passed meconium, the consistency and color of their bowel movements will change. The smell of your baby’s poop will also change. A baby’s poop will change based on whether they are breastfed or formula fed. If you’re doing a combination of the two, expect fluctuations of color, consistency, and smell.

Breastfed Poop

Breastfed baby poop is often compared to mustard in color and consistency. Most people say it resembles Dijon mustard because of its brown “seeds.” The little brown, nutty-looking seeds are undigested milk fat. Exclusively breastfed baby poop often has a sweet, almost sugary smell from the natural sugars in breastmilk.

Your baby’s first few poops after passing meconium may have green streaks and may also contain mucus or streaks of blood. However, in most instances, traces of blood are nothing to worry about as it may be a sign your baby ingested a bit of blood during delivery. 

Even though there is probably nothing to worry about, anytime you see blood in your baby’s stools, it is wise to mention it to your doctor. Contact your pediatrician immediately if you see bright red blood or large amounts of blood. 

Formula Poop

Solely formula-fed babies will have very different poop than exclusively breastfed babies. The smell is the most significant difference between formula poop and breast milk poop. Formula poop will have a more pungent odor. It will also be darker in appearance and firmer.

How Often Should My Newborn Poop?

A newborn could poop several times a day or go 7 to 10 days without a bowel movement. This is especially the case for breastfed babies. However, since your baby’s diet consists mainly of liquids, it is more important that your baby urinate several times a day. 

The key factor isn’t frequency, but if the poop is soft and your baby can pass a stool without straining or pain. New parents shouldn’t worry about the frequency if their baby regularly eats, has several wet diapers a day, and has soft, painless bowel movements. 

The same can be said for the amount of poop each time they go. If they’ve had some longer nursing sessions expect more poop; if they are eating smaller, more frequent meals, you may notice smaller bowel movements. The amount of poop, especially in the first few days, should correlate with how much they eat, but it’s not hard science. 

When Is My Baby’s Poop A Red Flag?

Since newborn poop can vary widely in color, smell, consistency, and frequency, it can be challenging for parents to know what merits a call to the doctor. However, a few general guidelines indicate a call to the pediatrician is in order.

  • Newborn poop should be the color of nature: brown, yellow, and green. Any time poop is bright red, black, or white; there is cause for concern.
    • Red poop indicates active bleeding. The bleeding could be caused by a milk allergy, anal fissures, or hemorrhoids.
    • Black poop is a sign of old blood, most likely from the GI tract. However, it could also be blood from the esophagus or the mother’s nipples.
    • White or gray stools could mean a problem with your baby’s liver. If your baby is experiencing white or gray stools and has a yellowish tint to their skin, they likely have jaundice and need medical attention. 
  • Breastfed baby poop has little to no odor, while formula-fed poop will have a more “traditional” smell. However, if your baby’s poop smells exceptionally foul, it may indicate they aren’t properly absorbing nutrients. 
  • Mucus or small, hard stools could indicate constipation or improper digestion. Mucus can also be a sign of an infection.
  • Watery, loose stools are a sign your baby isn’t absorbing nutrients properly. Loose stools could also mean your baby has a milk allergy or they have a GI infection. 

The takeaway is that your baby’s poop should be soft, relatively smooth, and have a natural color like green, brown, or yellow. Breastfed baby poop will resemble mustard, while formula-fed baby poop has more of a peanut butter consistency. If your baby is frequently straining to poop, the color or odor becomes unnatural, or generally seems unwell, while it is likely nothing serious, it is always a good idea to give your doctor a call. 

You’ll be changing a lot of diapers in the first few months, so within a matter of weeks, you will learn what is normal for your baby and become an expert on newborn poop!

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