Oct 24, 2023, 2:05:28 PM CDT Oct 24, 2023, 7:19:19 PM CDT

What does my child’s poop color mean?

Get details on what to expect for your child’s bowel movements

Unusual Color Stools Unusual Color Stools

Just like adults, babies' and kids' poop can vary. Factors such as diet and underlying health conditions can affect poop color, consistency and frequency. Claudia Phen, M.D., a pediatric gastroenterologist at Children's Health℠, provides more details and explains to families when they should seek medical attention for certain types of stools.

What should my child's poop look like?

Dr. Phen reviews what to expect from your child’s poop for various ages.

What should my infant’s poop look like?

The typical color for infants' poop is green or deep yellow, but it can sometimes be closer to brown. It will be seedy in consistency. Dr. Phen explains the differences to expect for stools between formula-fed and breastfed babies:

  • If your baby is breastfed, they may have up to several bowel movements each day, or they may even go up to a week without a bowel movement.
  • If your baby is formula-fed, they tend to have multiple bowel movements each day. If your baby drinks formula and goes several days without having a bowel movement, that can be a sign of constipation, and your child should see their pediatrician. Often, formula-fed babies' stool will be pastier in consistency and may have a stronger odor than breastfed babies' stool.

What should my toddler's poop look like?

As you start to introduce table foods into your baby's diet, their poop will change in color, consistency and odor. The more solid foods your baby eats, the more solid and thicker their poop will become. The poop will also get more brown in color as your baby eats more solid foods.

What should my child's poop look like?

Once your child eats all table food and no longer drinks formula or breastmilk, their stool will look the same as adults. It's important to make sure older children are having regular bowel movements and are not constipated. Drinking a large amount of cow milk can cause constipation in children.

"Constipation occurs when stools become harder to pass,” explains Dr. Phen. "The child may experience straining and discomfort.” Every child is different, but – as a rule – going more than three days without having a bowel movement could be a sign of constipation. If this occurs, they should see their pediatrician.

When should I be concerned about my child's poop color?

"The stool colors we worry about are white, gray, black and red,” says Dr. Phen. Red or black stool may mean there's bleeding in the GI tract. White stools could be a sign of liver or pancreatic disease. Keep in mind there are other causes of these worrisome stool colors – such as eating certain foods or food dyes. Therefore, it's important your child see their pediatrician so they can determine the cause of the unusual stool color.

Causes of unusual poop color

Dr. Phen explains the top causes of unusual stool color:

1. Diet

Poop colors can vary depending on diet and what the child is eating. Certain colored foods – such as those that are red or orange – can cause stool to be tinted that color. Drinking a large quantity of cow’s milk may cause stool to become pale or even white in color. If your baby is breastfed, the mom’s diet may also affect the stool.

Poop color differs when a child drinks breast milk or formula and begins eating more solid foods. "Once babies start eating more table foods, there’s a large variation in color, consistency and even odor," explains Dr. Phen.

2. Medications

Certain medications can cause changes to the stool. For example, the medication Cefdinir may cause a child’s stool to look red. "Some parents see this and worry there’s blood in their child’s stool," says Dr. Phen.

3. Infections

If your child has certain types of infection – such as a gastrointestinal (GI) or upper respiratory infection – their poop may change in color and/or consistency.

4. Gastrointestinal (GI) conditions

"If your child has an underlying GI issue – such as prior intestinal surgery – they may have an unusual poop color and consistency,” explains Dr. Phen. "But that may be the typical stool for that child.”

When to call your child's pediatrician

You should contact your child's pediatrician if your child's poop has changed in color, consistency or frequency – especially if your child is also experiencing any of these symptoms:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Poor growth (trouble gaining weight)
  • Vomiting

For more facts about poop, check out these common baby poop questions and concerns.

Get care now

If you're concerned about your child's stool or any aspect of their health, make an appointment with a Children's Health expert today.

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poop, stool, physician advice, bowel movements, infant, toddler, child

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