It’s a topic that no one really likes to talk about, and yet questions about infant stool are among our most common. When is it time to worry and when can a bowel movement be classified as “normal”? Our baby poop guide below lists the more frequently asked questions we receive, organized by age group.
Baby Poop Guide:
Newborn 0-3 months
1. My baby is stooling less than usual. Should I be worried?
This is usually not concerning if the baby is otherwise doing well. If the baby is feeding less or having fewer wet diapers that would be a reason to contact the office. If the baby is spitting up much more than usual or much more irritable than baseline, that is also always a reason to call. For infants in the first two weeks of life, you should always contact the office if it has been more than 3 days since he or she has had a bowel movement. Typically, formula fed babies stool at least once daily. Breastfed babies may stool multiple times daily or only once per week, there is a large range of variability. Just like each baby is different, pooping patterns are widely variable even among infants of the same age.
2. My baby’s poop turned green.
Green stool is a normal variation of infant poop. If your baby is having green stool but is not showing any signs of illness, having difficulty feeding, or signs of distress this is usually fine to monitor at home. Green stool would be more concerning in a baby that is feeding less, having a fever (rectal temp of 100.4 or higher), or a household contact with recent vomiting or diarrhea. Breastfeeding moms should be aware that getting more foremilk can sometimes cause babies stools to turn green. Green stool alone is not usually a sign of a dietary intolerance or allergy.
3. How can I tell if my infant is having diarrhea?
Most infant stool is not formed and can look like what adults would consider diarrhea on a regular basis. The most important thing to identify is other signs of illness- fever (100.4 or higher rectal), poor feeding, or sudden increase in spitting up. A noted change in the frequency of stool can also indicate diarrhea in a small infant. Stool that is completely liquid or coming out of the diaper can indicate diarrhea in a young infant.
4. What color stool should I be worried about?
Any stool that has red flecks or bloody mucus, black stools, or white stools are always concerning and you should contact the office to discuss your child’s symptoms.
Infancy (3 months- 1 year)
1. My baby’s poop smells weird/ bad/strange. Should I be concerned?
This is something no one really wants to talk about but is most often not concerning. Unless your infant’s stool smells very distinctly such as rotten fish or eggs, very sweet like maple syrup, or the child is acutely ill, this can be monitored at home.
2. I changed something in my baby’s diet and now their poop changed. Is that normal?
Anytime there is a change in diet – this can mean changing a type of formula, adding formula in the diet, or introducing solids – there is the potential to change the stool. Frequency, texture, and odor may all be different after changing the diet.
3. My baby started eating solids and now they are straining to pass a bowel movement or having hard stools. What can I do?
Make sure to limit starchy solids like rice cereal. You can also add a little 100% fruit juice into the diet. Juice typically works best if given at the end of the day, all at once – generally about 1 ounce for every month of life. It is important to make sure the child is otherwise well hydrated and having regular wet diapers. If constipation is persistent, causing a lot of distress, or not improving after a few days of diet modification, you should always contact the office.
Toddlers (1 Year-3 Years)
1. My child is having hard stool, small pellet poops, or having discomfort or straining with passing a bowel movement, what can I do?
Make sure your child is getting enough fluids to drink and having the regular number of wet diapers. Encourage fiber in the diet via leafy greens, fruits, whole grains, lentils, legumes, beans, berries, melons, mangoes, stone fruits, avocados, broccoli, peas, and root vegetables. Use processed foods with whole grains (e.g. whole wheat or fiber added pasta in place of white pasta).
Fresh fruit and vegetable based smoothies can be an easy way to increase fiber intake for a picky eater. Crushed flax seed, chia seeds or oatmeal can give an extra fiber boost. You can offer up to 4 ounces of 100% fruit juice (non-diluted) every day and should limit cow’s milk intake to 24 ounces daily. If your child does not improve with home treatment, is vomiting, or has a decreased appetite drive you should always contact the office.
2. My child is potty trained, but just won’t poop on the potty, what can I do?
Unfortunately, sometimes getting into a battle of wills is not the best way to potty train a child and they just need to really be ready. Signs a child is ready to potty train are having a word for poop, fine motor skills to remove pants or pull-ups, and the ability to vocalize when they need to have a bowel movement. Positive reinforcement is usually the best way to potty train a child. Families know their children best, so you need to decide what is a good motivator. Common rewards are verbal praise, sticker charts, M&Ms, or anything you can get creative about!
3. My child seems to be withholding bowel movements, what can I do?
Usually we suggest calling the office to discuss the best way to manage this behavior going forward. This is also a great thing to talk about at your child’s annual well visit.
4. My toddler has a bowel movement a couple times daily, or their poop is still mushy, is this normal?
This is usually perfectly normal. Unless the stool is liquid, associated with acute illness, abdominal cramping, or appetite changes toddlers may have a bowel movement multiple times daily. Softer stools or mushy poop can be a variant of normal, particularly if your toddler is eating a lot of fiber or loves fruit.
Preschool Age and Beyond
This time is when most families stop talking about bowel movements, or at least monitoring bowel movements as closely as for younger children. It is still important to be aware if a child is having any issue with chronic diarrhea, constipation, or discomfort with having bowel movements. So just remember to ask your child “how things are going” (no pun intended).
Contact Our Office to Schedule an Appointment
This has been the scoop on poop, and we hope it helps families navigate the tricky world of deciphering common bathroom problems! To set up an appointment to see our pediatricians, call our Center City office at (215) 735-5600, or our Bala Cynwyd office at (610) 257-9000.
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