Meconium is the name of the first baby poop or stool that your baby will pass. It is black or dark green in color and is often described as tar-like. It is thick, sticky and difficult to clean off of your baby's bottom. Meconium stools will last for 24 to 48 hours. Breastfeeding assists in the passage of meconium from your baby’s body, since your first milk, colostrum, is a natural laxative.
Between the third and sixth day of life, the thick meconium will begin to change into a thinner, looser greenish-brown or greenish-yellow transitional stool.
After the sixth day, all the meconium will have been evacuated and the baby will begin having milk stools. If you are exclusively breastfeeding, the stool will often be a golden, mustard yellow color, but the color can be a variety of shades from orange to green. These bowel movements may or may not contain curds of milk, called seeds. They are often loose, unformed and have a mild odor.
In the first week of life, a breastfed baby may have a bowel movement with almost every feeding. However, this is not true for all newborns. The number of bowel movements will vary, but the baby should have at least one or two bowel movements a day in the first month. After the first month, it is normal for a baby to have stool in every diaper that you change. It is also normal for a baby to have a bowel movement once every few days, once a week or even longer.
Breastfeeding with Formula Supplementation
The stool of a formula fed baby is firmer with a stronger odor. The color is tan to brown. If you are combining breastfeeding and formula feeding, you will get a combination of breastfeeding stools and formula feeding stools.
The color, frequency and consistency of the stool will change once solid foods are introduced at approximately 6 months of age. The bowel movements will be thicker and more formed. The foods that you feed your baby will change the color of the stool, too. Carrots and sweet potatoes can turn the stool orange while green beans and peas may turn it green. Some foods will not get digested and end up in the diaper in their original form. The introduction of solid foods can also increase the chances of constipation.
After the first month, some breastfed infants will not have a bowel movement for many days. This is not constipation. Breast milk is very easily digested and produces very little waste in some babies. Less waste means fewer bowel movements. This is not something to worry about as it is a normal occurrence in breastfed babies.
If your baby is constipated, he will show signs of difficulty or pain while trying to move his bowels. The stool will be hard and dry.
Do not give your baby any type of laxative. Notify the baby’s pediatrician. He or she will advise you regarding the solutions to this problem.
Sometimes breastfed babies have frequent loose stools, and you may be concerned about diarrhea. The good news is that breastfed babies rarely get diarrhea. Breastfeeding actually helps prevent diarrhea and the infections that can cause it.
True diarrhea will usually appear as very frequent watery stool, often green or brown in color with a foul odor. Diarrhea in babies can be very dangerous. If your baby has diarrhea for longer than 24 hours, notify the pediatrician. Continue to breastfeed as often as possible to help prevent dehydration.
When To Notify Your Baby’s Doctor:
- If the baby is still passing meconium after the fifth day of life.
- If your baby has white or colorless stool. This is rare, but could indicate a problem with your baby’s liver or gallbladder.
- If you see blood in your baby’s stool. This could be a sign of a fissure, or small tear in the baby’s anus from straining with constipation.
- If the baby’s stool is black (after the meconium period is over). Black stool could indicate bleeding from inside your baby’s digestive tract.
American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books. New York. 2011.
Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Sixth Edition. Mosby. Philadelphia. 2005.