Your baby’s poop journey will tell a colorful, suspense ridden story, where the
reveal is oftentimes confusing until you work out what is actually “normal” for your little
Every mother will question any changes in her baby’s poop. Moms will question the color,
the consistency, the frequency, the poop-free vacation when there are no soiled diapers for
days on end, and of course, the odor.
What puts moms on the back foot about the frequency of their baby’s bowel movements is
that what is perceived as normal tends to be continuously shifting.
Each child is unique and their poop register aligns with their feeding, growth, and general health status. Taking this into consideration, it is best to monitor each child individually.
Instead of weighing your baby’s poop activity against the generalized idea of what is considered normal, you as a concerned parent should rather measure your little one’s poop activity against their unique circumstances that speak of their health, appetite, growth, activity, diet, and developmental changes.
The first movement
New-born poop is a dark greenish-black sticky tar-like substance called meconium. It will take a few days for the meconium to pass through your baby’s system, and at this time, you
can expect 1 to 2 soiled diapers until your milk takes over.
Your baby’s first poop is a welcomed sign and indicates that their digestive system is functioning normally. Yay!
From day 3 onward, your baby will poop more frequently, and the color and consistency will change to a soft seedy texture with a mustard color that may have a greenish tinge to it. You can expect 4 or more soiled diapers a day, but as your baby grows in the weeks that follow, their poop activity could increase to 5 or more movements a day or decrease to one movement every few days.
Both ends of the scale, and anything in-between, is considered normal. Here, normal is laced with conditions. Your baby’s stomach should be soft and there should be no signs of discomfort. Burping is very important because if it is not done properly your baby will show signs of discomfort that will lead to you possibly reaching out to your doctor for help.
Signs of normal poop
Different hues of yellow, brown, and green are all considered normal, whereas black, red, or white are signs of concern. Red and black indicate possible gastrointestinal bleeding, and white is associated with a liver disorder.
For purely breastfed babies, their poop will be soft and seedy as breastmilk contains a natural laxative to make digestion easy. On the other hand, formula-fed babies will have slightly firmer poop that resembles peanut butter. In both cases, the poop is soft enough to allow for easy travel.
Breastfed baby poop normally has a slightly sweet scent, while formula-fed babies will have a slightly stronger scent. The odor depends on how long poop stays in the bacteria-rich environment of the intestines.
Generally, baby poop should not smell bad at all, but if you are faced with a strong smell, it could indicate an intolerance or allergy. Once solids are included in your little one’s diet, the odor and consistency will change. It’s best to visit your pediatrician if your little one has bad smelling poop that lingers.
The frequency of your baby’s bowel movements depends on communication between the stomach and the colon. This is known as the gastrocolic reflex.
It regulates the stretching of the stomach with new food and the emptying of the colon. However, because the digestive system is still immature and is controlled by an active gastrocolic reflex, there will almost be a continuous flow in the early months.
Babies will tend to poop after each feed for the first few months, which could be up
to a dozen times a day. Once the gastrocolic reflex matures and settles into normal activity, the poop cycle will drop to an average of about 4 poop diapers a day.
Milk absorption will also determine the rate at which the colon fills up. At times babies
will only poop once a day or every few days but will still be feeding well. This is because
there is very little waste being created, and this is considered normal.
Formula-fed babies will have a slower movement of milk through the intestines, resulting in less but a more consistent poop cycle. Again, each baby will have a different poop frequency that relates to their individual development.
Increased Pooping Cycle
Initially, when babies poop after, or even during feeds, it results from an active
gastrocolic reflex and is normal in infants up to about to 2 months old. As the gastrocolic reflex matures, your baby’s poop cycle will subside, but some instances may otherwise cause a high poop rate.
Diarrhea is common in babies and can be difficult to detect in breastfed babies. Formula-fed babies generally have a thicker poop consistency, and it is easy to spot diarrhea as the poop will be somewhat watered down and sloppy with mucus streaks in it.
Breastfed babies should only poop once after or during feeds while in the active gastrocolic reflex phase. If their poop cycle increases to 2 or more times between feeds, then it is probably diarrhea-related.
You may notice the poop is watery with mucus lined into it. Left unchecked, diarrhea can lead to dehydration, which can seriously affect the health of your little one. Here are some signs of dehydration:
- Dry lips
- Dry eyes
- Sunken eyes
- Sunken fontanel (soft spot) on the top of your baby’s head
- Reduced wet diapers
- Dark-colored urine
You should contact your doctor immediately if you spot any of these signs of dehydration.
Most bouts of diarrhea in babies will clear up in a day or two, while at times, it will persist and must be brought under control. The best thing to do is to continue feeding your little one with breast or formula milk to avoid dehydration setting in and visit your pediatrician as soon as possible.
Although antibiotics can result in mild diarrhea, it is still advisable to continue the
course, but bring it to your doctor’s attention. A viral infection of the digestive system is the main cause of diarrhea, but several other causes like fruit juices should be avoided until your baby is at least a year old or mom’s diet that is transferred to her little one through her milk.
Parents will learn what is normal for their little one as far as pooping is concerned. If your baby hasn’t pooped for a day or two, it does not necessarily mean that your baby is constipated but rather that your little one is using up most of their meals with minimal waste.
As long as your baby shows no signs of discomfort and is not ill or has a fever, then there is no need to worry. If your baby is feeding well and poops a lot, it is also considered normal.
Only with signs of persistent, diarrhea which is three or more consecutive watery mucus-lined poops, will it be necessary to contact your doctor, but always be on the lookout for dehydration. Keep a record of your baby’s poop activity, noting the color, consistency, odor, and frequency so you can share the details with your doctor on your regular visits.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do growth spurts affect the poop cycle?
Growth spurts will see your baby feeding like crazy but may not affect their poop cycle as they will be absorbing most of their meals. They may poop as normal or not for a day or two, which is also normal, but will be feeding way more than usual.
How does lactose intolerance affect baby poop?
Your baby’s poop may be watery, loose, and frothy as well as acidic and will cause skin irritation that will lead to diaper rash. Your baby will show signs of discomfort after feeding and may have a bloated tummy. If you notice this then it’s best to consult your doctor.
How do solids affect baby poop?
Babies normally begin eating solids at around 6 months old. It’s a big deal because, up to
this point, they have thrived on a liquid diet. The introduction of solids should be gradual as it tends to bulk up your little one’s poop and may cause constipation if introduced too quickly.
Your baby needs time to adjust to the change so start with thin purees as a supplement to milk (breast or formula). The solids will change the odor, color, consistency, and frequency of poop, making it more smelly, browner, firmer, and less frequent.
Each child will have their own unique poop timetable that will begin with a few poops, and the cycle will increase drastically from the first week. Their poop cycle will fluctuate from no poop in a day to about a dozen times a day and gradually settle at about 4 soiled diapers a day.
By your baby’s first birthday, they may only poop once or twice a day or once every two days. This all depends on their diet and how much of their food they actually use. As long as your baby is feeding well and shows normal growth, their poop cycle is not a great concern but must still be monitored.
Signs of discomfort related to not pooping or signs of pain or difficulty pooping must be discussed with your doctor.
Some solid food types will cause your little one to poop more often but as long as they are eating regularly and the food is healthy then it shouldn’t be a big concern. But you might want to change your baby’s diet a little if you feel that the number of daily poops is too much to handle.
Much can be read into your baby’s health and development through their poop, so keep that register handy. The high poop cycle period in the first few months is normal and can be linked to an active gastrocolic reflex. As your baby’s digestive system matures, their poop routine will stabilize. Look at poop frequency this way; your baby’s normal at that specific time in their growth and development.