Parents of infants are asking me colorful questions about the color and frequency of their baby’s poops or bowel movements. Let me see if I can flush out some information on this topic.

As it turns out, most babies produce poops or bowel movements of many different colors during infancy. Most of these are of little or no concern. For example, breast-fed bowel movements tend to be bright mustardy yellow and seedy in appearance. Formula-fed ones can be pasty in appearance and more brown-to-yellow-tan with hints of green. 

So are there some colors we do worry about?

If the bowel movement appears red, that might mean blood is somewhere in their digestive system; although it may be as simple as coming from a breast-feeding mother with cracked nipples causing the baby to swallow some of mom’s blood.

Sometimes as your baby gets older and starts eating red foods like beets, this can also turn bowel movements red—but it’s good to check with the doctor just in case.  Other food colors of interest can include blue bowel movements with blueberries and orange ones after eating lots of carrots and squash.

Black can also reflect old blood – unless its baby’s first bowel movements, which have this natural green-black color and are not a problem. Bowel movements may also appear darker green to black if your baby is on supplementary iron.

If a bowel movement appears white or very pale, that might represent some blockage in the liver, which delivers the pigment that normally colors a bowel movement brown.

So, if you do see baby’s poops appearing red, white, or black, it is a good idea to discuss this with your baby’s health care professional, who will likely want to examine your baby and make sure all is okay.   

Hopefully tips like this will wipe up any concerns you have and make everything come out fine in the end when it comes to knowing more about the many colors of your baby’s bowel movements. 

Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.  You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at www.UVMHealth.org/MedCenterFirstWithKids.

Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.

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