Green with… Poop? When to Worry About Green Stools in Infants

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.

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1 Comment

Filed under Common Illnesses, Newborns and Infants

One response to “Green with… Poop? When to Worry About Green Stools in Infants

  1. Lindsey

    My son is 3 1/2 months old. He is purly breastfed. For about 2 months now he strains to go poop and he strains for about a week before I give in and give him a glycerine suppository. Then he will go (a total blowout!) and be just fine and a happy baby again. But lately his stools have been white pebble like and just recently have turned into big white chunks that are hard and dry. It almost looks like paint chips. (I know he has not been eating paint chips). But I have been to two different doctors and they both tell me there is nothing to worry about. They did not run any test or anything they just look at him and listen to his bowels. I even took samples of his dry white paint chip looking poop. But I know there is something wrong with my child but I cant seem to get an answer. Maybe I should let those dr’s babysit him when he is in pain. Maybe then they will understand. But I just dont think it is normal for a baby to strain and cry for 7 days at a time trying to poop. It seems like he has colic for about 5-6 days and then when he poops he is just fine. He will not sleep, nurses all the time, cries, and his belly is tight and hurts to touch it. Please if anyone has any reason why this could be happening. I am listening!

    Thank you so much,

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