This St. Patty’s day I got not one but three inquiries from worried moms whose babies were celebrating the day by wearing green: in their diapers.
Green stools are often a source of concern for parents of infants and children. Usually, however, this common finding is nothing to fret about.
What is poo (poop, stool, number two…) supposed to be like?
During the newborn period, stools are usually yellow and seedy, especially those of breastfed infants. How the body takes white creamy liquid milk from mom and turns it into something that *so* resembles seedy mustard is remarkable to me. But it does.
Sometimes, however, for reasons that we don’t always understand, the poo is a different color. Stool color in a normal healthy infant can vary from day to day or week to week. Some days may be green and some brown. The green can range from deep dark forest green to jungle khaki to a nearly fluorescent yellow-green color that seems truly improbable.
We often don’t understand why the stool color changes, though moms and grandmoms certainly have lots of theories. We do know that the color of the stool can be related to the rate of intestinal transit. When the milk or food is rapidly processed and moves quickly through the intestines, the stool is often more green in color. You may notice this in older children when they have a viral infection like a cold or a stomach “flu.”
In newborns who are breastfeeding, green stools may be a sign that the baby is mostly ingesting the carbohydrate-laden foremilk and not getting much of the fat-rich hindmilk which is important for nourishment and slows down the intestinal processing of the milk. If a baby is happy and growing well, the color of the stool is nothing to worry about. But if the weight gain is poor or the baby is very irritable, I often suggest a change in the breastfeeding pattern: have the baby feed only on one breast, and switch to the other breast at the next feed. By suckling longer at one breast, the infant is more likely to get the hindmilk. This is only important, however, if there seems to be difficulty with weight gain or irritability. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
Tips for parents:
When observing your baby’s stools, try do so with wonder and awe rather than with worry. Talk to your pediatrician if the stool:
- has blood in it.
- becomes very black and tar-like.
- becomes white or grey with very little color at all.
- is full of mucous.
- becomes very pasty (like thick peanut butter) or hard and pebble-like.
Or , or course, if your baby seems ill or is extremely irritable.