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Getting to the Bottom of Colorful Baby Poops
to the Bottom of Colorful Baby Poops
Parents of infants have been asking me some colorful questions about the color and frequency of their baby’s bowel movements. Well, let me see if I can flush out some information on this topic.
As it turns out, most babies produce colorful bowel movements during infancy and most of these colors are of little or no concern. For example, breastfed bowel movements tend to be bright, mustardy yellow and seedy in appearance, and formula-fed ones can be more brown to yellow-tan with hints of green and pasty in appearance.
So are there some colors we do worry about? Yes, but just a few.
- Red might mean that blood is somewhere in your baby’s digestive system. It might also mean other things. For example, if a mother is breastfeeding and has cracked nipples, the baby might swallow some of mom’s blood from the sore nipples and that is the reason for the red color you see. As your baby gets older and starts eating red foods like beets, bowel movements can also be red, just as blueberries can turn a bowel movement blue, and eating a lot of carrots and squash turn a bowel movement orange. But if a mother’s nipples are not cracked, and a red food is not being eaten, then it’s a good idea to check with your doctor just in case to make sure the problem is not more serious.
- Black bowel movements can also reflect old blood but also can reflect the effect of taking an iron containing medication. If your baby is not taking extra iron, again this warrants some medical attention.
- White or pale bowel movements might represent some trouble with the liver, which delivers the pigment that gives a bowel movement its color, so this too warrants a visit to your baby’s doctor for further investigation.
If any of these three colors are seen or there are others that you are still concerned about, please talk to your baby’s doctor to see if a visit is warranted—but when you go, don’t forget to bring a sample of the bowel movement in a diaper with you.
Hopefully, tips like this will wipe up any concerns you have and make everything come out fine in the end when it comes to realizing that most colors of baby bowel movements are not a problem at all.
Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Children's Hospital at Fletcher Allen Health Care and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. You can also catch "First with Kids" weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at www.FletcherAllen.org/firstwithkids.