Baby poop: Guide to texture, smell and frequency

From newborn to solid-food-eater: What to expect from each baby poop milestone.

Illustration: Dave Quiggle

Whether it’s sticky black or foamy green, your baby’s first poops should be a happy sight. “One of the most important things for newborns is that they’re passing stool,” says Bob Issenman, chief of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition at McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton, Ont., as it means the digestive tract is working as it should. While many new parents leave the hospital with a baby poop chart in hand—a place to record their baby’s wet and soiled diapers—“almost anything is normal,” he says, “except failing to pass in the first 24 hours.” So as you try to muster gratitude for what looks like mustard, here’s a rundown of what you can expect with baby poop.

Stage: Meconium
Age: Within the first 24 hours of your baby’s life.
Colour/Texture: A sticky black-green or brown tar-like substance that’s hard to wipe off, meconium is made up of matter (fluid and cells) baby ingests in utero.
Smell: It’s oddly scent-free, since it hasn’t yet been colonized by the bacteria she’ll naturally pick up during and immediately after birth.
Timing/Frequency: In the first 24 hours, there should be at least one bowel movement as mom’s high-sugar colostrum acts like a laxative to push the meconium out.

Stage: The first 12 weeks
Age: In these first few months, your baby’s digestive system isn’t absorbing nutrients as effectively as an adult’s does. Undigested milk and sugar act like natural laxatives, leading to loose, irregular poos. As her system matures, poos may become more predictable and less watery.
Colour/Texture: 
Breastfed babies’ stools can be yellow and seedy, slightly runny and sometimes bubbly. As babies’ digestive systems begin to absorb nutrients more effectively, stools become firmer and less watery. Formula-fed babies’ stools are typically pasty, and lighter in colour and firmer than breastmilk poos.
Smell: 
Breastfed babies’ stools tend to have a sweet smell, while formula-fed babies’ poo has a more pungent aroma.
Timing/Frequency: 
Breastfed babies can have anywhere from one to eight bowel movements a day, with an average of four. Depending on their digestive system, some breastfed babies can go seven to 10 days between bowel movements. Formula-fed babies average two poops a day, but could have many more.

Stage: Starting solids
Age: Somewhere between four and six months, depending on how ready your babe is.
Colour/Texture: 
Get ready for some adult-like turds: firmer, darker and smellier. Colour and texture are largely influenced by what baby is eating—it’s entirely normal
for strong pigments (beets, blueberries, carrots) to colour the stool. It’s also common to find bits of undigested blueberry or tomato skins or corn, as babies aren’t able to grind food down effectively until their molars come in.
Smell: 
Without a doubt, poo becomes stinkier when your baby starts eating solid foods.
Timing/Frequency: Varies depending on diet.

Is green poop normal? Here’s a guide to your baby’s poop colour:

Mustard yellow

A version of this article appeared in our January 2016 issue with the headline, “You vs. Poo,” pp. 51-56.

Read more:
Newborn: Guide to infant poop

Causes and treatment for baby diarrhea
What to do when your kid is afraid to go poo

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