A colorful talk about what’s inside your infant’s diaper

(Photo provided)

Parents of infants have been asking me some colorful questions about the color and frequency of their baby’s poops or bowel movements. Well, let me see if I can flush out some information on this topic.

Most colors are OK

As it turns out, most babies produce bowel movements of many different colors during infancy, and most of these are of little or no concern. For example, breast-fed bowel movements tend to be bright, mustardy yellow and seedy in appearance, and formula-fed ones can be browner to yellow-tan with hints of green, and may be pasty in appearance. Other food colors of interest can include blue bowel movements with blueberries and orange ones after eating lots of carrots and squash. So are there some colors we do worry about? There are, but they are few in number.

What shades to worry about

¯ Red — If a baby’s bowel movement appears red, that might mean blood is somewhere in their digestive system — although it may be as simple as coming from a breast-feeding mom with cracked nipples causing the baby to swallow some of mother’s blood. Sometimes as your baby gets older and starts eating red foods like beets, this can also turn bowel movements red, but it’s good to check with the doctor just in case.

¯ Black — A black color can also reflect old blood (unless it’s baby’s first bowel movements, which have this natural green-black color and are not a problem). Bowel movements may also appear darker green to black if your baby is on supplementary iron.

¯ White — If a bowel movement appears white or very pale, that might represent some blockage in the liver, which delivers the pigment that normally colors a bowel movement brown.

So, if you do see baby’s poops appearing red, white or black, it is a good idea to discuss this with your baby’s health care professional, who will likely want to examine your baby and make sure all is OK.

Hopefully, tips like these will wipe up any concerns you have when it comes to knowing more about the many colors of your baby’s bowel movements.

Lewis First, MD, is chief of pediatrics at the University of Vermont Children’s Hospital of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and NBC5.


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