Meconium is made up of mucus and amniotic fluid. The first milk or colostrum acts as a laxative and helps push the meconium out of the baby’s system.
After about three days, the colour of the stool of a newborn will gradually change. It will be lighter in colour, changing from a greenish-brown to bright or mustard yellow. This yellow stool will have a loose texture. It may seem grainy at times.
In the early weeks, a baby may pass stool during or after every feed. On an average, four times a day in the first week. After the first few weeks, some breastfed babies will pass stool once every few days or once a week. This is not a problem as long as the stool is soft and passed easily.
As the stool moves through the intestines, it also picks up various digestive juices, bile, bacteria, and other chemicals, which impart their characteristic colour and odour. In normal infants, there is a change in colour and frequency in the bowel movement as the baby’s diet changes. It is rare that colour changes signal a digestive problem. Usually, colour changes just mean that there is more or less of the yellow/green/brown/orange pigments that are picked up along the way.
Stool passed by a baby who is given formula milk may be different from a breastfed one. It is bulkier in texture, pale yellow or yellowish brown in colour and strong smelling. This is because formula milk cannot be digested as fully as breast milk.
Chalky white stool may indicate that there is no bile from the liver to digest the food. Tarry black stool indicates that there may be blood in the digestive tract that has turned dark black. And bright red blood in stools may indicate that there has been some blood very close to the anus. There is no need to worry about green, orange, and yellow stools. They are normal and are rarely a sign of a digestive problem.
See the doctor if:
- You see mucus in the stool.
- Your infant is running temperature.
- Your baby is vomiting.
- Your baby is refusing to eat.