Contributing Expert: Jennifer Kusma, MD, MS
This post is part of our newborn health and wellness series. For more information from our pediatric experts, visit our Newborn Resources page.
Parents of newborns are often shocked to find how quickly they become familiar with bodily fluids. It’s not uncommon to hear a new parent remark, “How can all of that come out of one tiny baby?”
In this sea of wet and dirty diapers, you might wonder, What is normal? How will I know if something is wrong?
While you should always direct true concerns to your pediatrician, here are some basics about the wide world of newborn diaper contents.
Pooping frequency varies by baby, the same way it does for adults. Some newborns poop every time they eat. Others only poop every few days.
How often a newborn poops may also depend on whether they are breastfeeding or formula feeding. Typically, breastfed babies tend to poop a bit more often than formula fed ones.
When it comes to poop, newborns also go through stages. A new baby should poop in the first 24 hours of life. This first stool is called meconium, and its usually black and tar-like. (Hospitals generally won’t send a baby home if they haven’t pooped in the first 24 hours.)
Within the first few days, newborns transition to regular stool, which is generally yellow. The color is similar for both breastfed and formula-fed babies. But in babies who breastfeed, the texture tends to be very seed-like. This stool is generally soft — liquid almost.
Some newborns poop five times a day; others only poop every five days. If your newborn poops less frequently, but they are eating regularly and their stool is soft and appears typical, then that’s normal for your baby. However, if they go more than a week without pooping, contact your pediatrician.
After the black, tar-like meconium of the first few days of life, you shouldn’t see any more stool that’s black. If you see a black color long after the meconium phase, call your pediatrician. It could mean the presence of old blood in the stool.
Seeing red in your newborn’s stool could also be a cause for concern. However, newborn girls can have a “mini period” as they can have hormones from the delivering parent. This is usually just a few spots of blood or mucus. If you see blood IN the stool, call your pediatrician.
The other color to be concerned about in newborn poop is white. This can indicate a problem with their stomach enzymes. It’s also a reason to call your pediatrician.
After you introduce your baby to solid foods, usually between four and six months old, poop colors can start to change. Don’t be surprised to see the range of yellows, along with green and brown.
If your baby’s stools are hard, and your baby seems like they are working hard to poop, it’s a good idea to call your pediatrician.
A good rule of thumb for newborn urination is to have at least as many wet diapers as they are days old, up to five days old. For example:
This is handy to keep in mind in that first week. Why? Because you may hear or read to call the pediatrician for a baby not passing urine for six hours. But how old are they? In a two-day old, who may only go twice in 24 hours, it’s likely not a cause of concern. It also may not be a cause of a concern in a two-month old, who has started sleeping longer stretches.
Tracking the number of wet diapers your newborn has is a way to track how well they are feeding.
For example, if your one-month-old has, on average, eight wet diapers a day, and then suddenly you are noticing more are dry, that’s something to pay attention to. Have they missed feeds? Do they seem off in any other way?
Some parents tally the numbers of wet diapers in a baby journal, because it can help them keep track.
Newborn urine can take a range of yellow shades. Some parents may notice an orange tinge with some crystals, and that’s okay.
Newborn girls may have small drops of blood-tinged mucus in their diaper (from the delivering parent’s hormones). That isn’t cause for concern. But if you see any other blood in the diaper, give your pediatrician a call.
In general, if you see anything that gives you cause for concern or seems out of the ordinary, bring it up with your pediatrician.
And stock up on diapers!
In addition to expert specialty care, Lurie Children’s offers several primary care locations around the Chicago area for your child's healthcare needs — from infancy through childhood and adolescence. Learn more about our primary care services.