All babies are different. Some poo every time they feed; others can go days without a poo. This is all normal.
A lot will depend on how old your child is, whether they are breast or formula fed, or whether they have moved to eating solid foods. But certain kinds of poo can be a sign that your baby might be sick or that something is missing from their diet.
New parents are usually quite surprised by the variety of colours they find in their baby's nappy!
Baby's first poo
You might be a bit shocked by what comes out of your baby the first time they do a poo. It’s a sticky, greenish black poo that looks like tar but is perfectly normal. This is called 'meconium' and is the by-product of your baby being in the womb for 9 months. It should only take a day or two for this to go away and for the next colour poo to arrive. If your baby continues to have black or very dark poo after 4 to 5 days, speak to your doctor.
Your baby's poo can tell you a lot about their health.
The first 6 weeks
During their first 6 weeks of life, both breast-fed and formula-fed babies will have generally have poo that is either yellow or green. Breast-fed babies tend to have softer, runnier poo while formula-fed baby poo is a little bit firmer.
In the next few weeks, you can expect the colour and shape, as well as how often they poo, to change.
Breastfeeding mums might find a bit more variety in the nappy because your diet and any medication you are taking can affect your baby's poo.
Why is my baby's poo green?
Parents sometimes find varying shades of green in their baby’s nappy.
Breast-fed babies can produce bright, frothy green poo, usually because they are getting too much foremilk or because mum is swapping from breast to breast during feeds. Try feeding from just one breast at a time until the breast is drained to make sure your baby is also getting the rich hindmilk.
If your formula-fed baby’s poo is green, it could just mean they are getting a lot of iron in their feed. Check the formula to see if it contains an iron supplement and speak to your child health nurse or doctor about possibly adjusting which formula you use.
Moving to solids
At around 6 months, when you start to introduce solids to your baby’s diet, you’ll notice a change both in colour and texture. The colour tends to be more of a greenish brown to orange, although the type of food your baby eats will affect it. Many babies start off eating pureed carrots, pumpkin and sweet potato, so don’t be surprised if their poo is almost the same colour!
Most babies will go through about 6 to 8 nappies a day - that can be almost 3,000 in your baby's first year!
Listen to Dianne Zalitis, midwife, talk about baby poo on the podcast Feed Play Love.
Constipation versus diarrhoea
Because babies can’t tell you when they are sick, it’s important not only to check their nappies but to take note of other behaviours that could be a sign your baby is unwell.
Many parents often think that their baby might be constipated, either because they haven't passed anything for a few days or because they might look like they are straining when they go.
As long as your baby's poo is soft, it's perfectly normal to go for a few days without doing one. You will also find that babies often strain, make noises, go red in the face and even cry when they are doing a normal poo.
Signs of constipation include:
- hard and dry poo
- poo that is firm and pebble-like
- your baby being upset
- a small streak of blood
Seeing a streak of blood might be alarming, but if they are constipated, they might have a little tear in their anus. You should see your doctor or child health nurse to have them checked out.
Fully breast-fed babies shouldn't get constipated. Even if they are not feeding as often, their poo should still be quite soft. Constipation is more common in babies who are formula-fed, so it's important to follow the directions on the container to make sure the mix of powder and water is correct.
When it comes to diarrhoea, baby poo is already quite soft and runny, particularly before the baby starts on solids. But if it becomes more runny and more frequent than usual, it could be diarrhoea.
Some signs to look out for include:
- poo that is quite watery
- doing more than usual
- your baby is being unwell, especially if they are vomiting
- your baby not wanting to feed
If you think your baby has diarrhoea, speak to your doctor or child health nurse since babies can easily become dehydrated if they don't get enough fluids.
What's not normal
Although you can expect to see many different colours of poo in your baby’s nappy, there are some colours that indicate there might be a problem.
White, chalky poo is never normal and could be a sign your baby has jaundice or a problem with their liver. You should see your doctor immediately if you notice that your baby’s poo is white.
While a single streak of blood in your baby’s poo could be a sign of constipation, if you discover more than one streak, you should see your doctor immediately.
It’s also a good idea to take your baby’s nappy, or a poo sample, to show the doctor.
The bottom line
Most babies will go through about 6 to 8 nappies a day - that can be almost 3,000 in your baby's first year! And whether you use cloth or disposable nappies you'll be spending a lot of time looking at what comes out of your baby. Just remember that all babies are different and you will soon settle into a routine of feed, poo, sleep, repeat.
If you are unsure whether your baby is unwell, visit your doctor or call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436 to speak to a maternal child health nurse.