icon-arrow-down icon icon-arrow-fill-down icon icon-arrow-next icon icon-arrow-prev icon icon-tag-close icon
What should baby’s bowel movements look like?
Q: I’m a new mum who needs some advice. What should my baby’s bowel movements look like, and how often should she be going? Does the appearance change if she is on the bottle or breast-fed?
A: Tamara, congratulations on your new baby. Before having her, you probably never imagined that you’d find bowel movements so interesting! Here are the basics on this subject.

In the first few days of life, newborns pass their first bowel movement, called meconium. This is thick and dark-green or black. After the meconium passes, newborn stools take on their normal colour and pattern, which tends to be different for breast-fed and bottle-fed babies:
  • Breast-fed babies typically have many bowel movements a day, often after each feeding. The stool is usually soft and watery, with a yellow colour and seed-like particles in it.

  • Formula-fed babies usually have fewer bowel movements each day, and sometimes only one a day or every other day. The stool is usually firmer, like the consistency of peanut butter, and can be a tan or yellow colour.
Each baby establishes his own normal pattern of bowel movements. You will get to know your baby’s patterns. Some babies have many bowel movements each day; some have only one a day; and some have one every few days. Sometimes the colour of the bowel movement changes a little from day to day. These differences can be normal and healthy as long as your baby is feeding well, he is comfortable, the stool is soft and he doesn’t strain to have a bowel movement.

If you’re concerned that your baby might be constipated or have diarrhea, call your doctor. Remember, in the first four to six months, give your baby only breastmilk or formula—his intestines are not yet ready to digest cereal or other solid foods, and feeding him solids too early can cause constipation or diarrhea. Be thankful for the milk-only stools while they last—once your baby starts eating solid food, his stools will get more brown-coloured, firm and smelly!

Karen Sokal-Gutierrez M.D., M.P.H. Pediatrician