Your first glance into that ominously sagging diaper on your baby’s tush confirms that yep, it’s full of poop. But wait.
You take a closer look, and you notice that it’s full of green poop. “Is that normal?” you wonder as you gather a fistful of baby wipes and prepare to do battle.
The short answer is yes. It might look a little disconcerting, but there are a couple of possible reasons for the green color. And chances are, you don’t need to worry too much about it. However, you might want to look out for some other colors.
Here’s what you need to know.
First, consider the rainbow of colors that you can expect to see in your baby’s diaper throughout the course of their young life.
A newborn baby usually kicks off life on the outside with a few diapers full of dark, tarry stools known as meconium. Both breastfed and formula-fed babies produce these black stools at first.
One of the most common times for a baby to have green stool is when meconium transitions to regular baby stool. As the stool goes from black to yellow, there are often some dark green stools for a day or two.
Then, the yellow poop stage arrives. Breastfed babies are known for producing diapers full of yellow or mustard-colored stools or even orangey poop. They often have a seedy consistency, too.
Some formula-fed babies also have orange-ish poop, but tan or yellow-tan stools are more common. Often formula-fed young infants have stools that are slightly more formed or solid than the stools of breastfed babies.
When you start feeding your baby solid food, the stools may become more solid in general, even for the babies who are also breastfed. Many diapers will be full of brown poop, but you’ll start to see other colors appear in the diaper, too.
For example, if you’re feeding your little one anything that’s bright red in color, expect to see that hue again on the other end.
Occasionally, you may notice that your baby’s poop looks like it has some mucus in it. That can be a completely normal variation, especially if they’re teething. But the presence of mucus can also signify that your baby’s fighting off an infection.
Essentially, any earth-tone shade of poop, from brown to yellow to green, is probably just fine, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Green poop can come in many different shades. The shade of green can, but doesn’t always, help you identify the possible cause. Many things can potentially cause green or greenish poop, such as the following:
- Foods containing green dye, such as green fruit snacks. Food dye often colors stools.
- Iron supplements. Iron is necessary for healthy red blood cells and the transport of oxygen around the body. But it can cause green poop, too. If you’re giving your infant a daily iron supplement under a doctor’s guidance, it can also cause a green tint to their stools.
- Spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables. These foods are super healthy, but they can impart a green hue to your baby’s stools as well.
- Diarrhea or other illnesses. Diarrhea is often a culprit behind a diaper full of smelly, green poop.
Before you take any action, try to identify the most likely cause of your baby’s green poop. You might also check in with your child’s doctor to make sure you even need to do anything about it.
What have you been feeding your baby recently? Think back to see if you incorporated any dark green vegetables, like spinach, or foods with green dye that could be the culprit for the green stools.
If you determine that’s the cause, you don’t necessarily need to take any action at all — though you might want to cut out any foods with artificial dyes.
If a GI bug that’s causing diarrhea seems to be the cause, you could try a couple of different strategies.
- Monitor your baby for dehydration. If your baby has diarrhea that lasts for more than a day, this can become a very real concern. Look for signs like dry mouth, lips, and tongue, as well as a long stretch of more than 3 hours without a wet diaper.
- Make sure your baby’s drinking enough fluids. This should be in the form of breast milk or formula for babies younger than 6 months. For older babies and toddlers, Pedialyte and other similar products, often called electrolyte solutions or oral rehydration solutions, can be offered if your child is refusing milk and foods. (Still offer milk and foods, as long as they’re not being thrown up.) Try to avoid sports drinks, since they often contain a lot of sugar.
Avoid giving your baby any of those over-the-counter antidiarrheal medicines.
Medicine or vitamins
If you’re pretty sure it’s the iron supplement that’s responsible, you can confirm it with your baby’s doctor. But you shouldn’t stop giving the supplement unless directed to do so.
Prevention boils down to the cause. If it’s a benign cause and no other problems are showing up, you probably don’t have to worry about it. For example, you wouldn’t want to stop feeding your baby those healthy green veggies just to change the color of their poop.
But if your baby is experiencing green poops as the result of an illness like a stomach bug, it might be time to take preventive action.
Of course, you can’t prevent every illness, but you can take care to wash your hands thoroughly before and after changing your baby’s diaper and when preparing food, so you’re less likely to pass along any viruses that could upset their stomach.
Green poop might look a little yucky, but it’s usually not a sign of anything to worry about.
However, if you notice a red color to your baby’s stools, you might look closer. Red stools might just be the after-effects of your baby’s affinity for eating beets or foods and beverages containing red dye. Certain medications can also turn your baby’s stools a rosy color.
But actual blood in the stools could signify bleeding in your baby’s gastrointestinal tract. It might be bright red blood, or it could be a darker, maroon shade. So, if you see blood of any shade, call your child’s pediatrician.
Something else to watch out for: if your baby starts having bowel movements that are a very pale color. One white, pale yellow, or light gray stool might just be an anomaly, but if you start to notice it becoming a trend, check with your doc.
These pale stools could be a sign that your baby has a problem with their bile ducts, like a blockage.
When the flow of bile is interrupted, it can cause scarring and long-term damage to the liver. This is rare in infants. One of these conditions, called biliary atresia, can progress quickly and needs treatment.
You probably don’t really need to worry about stopping green poop.
A diaper full of green poop typically isn’t something to worry too much about — or call the pediatrician about — especially if you know your baby recently ate something dark green or is recovering normally from a mild stomach bug.
If your baby’s staying hydrated and doesn’t seem to be having any other problems, that’s a good sign. But if you start to notice other colors showing up, that might justify a quick call to the doctor.