Originally published on Mother’s Guide to Sanity
Most parents spend an abundant amount of time worrying about what goes into their baby without realizing the great value of observing the substance that comes out.
What can you learn from the stuff in baby’s diaper?
- Whether baby tolerates her food: If baby has frequent, possibly green, watery explosions without fever, has infrequent or hard stools, or alternates between these two, it’s very likely that she is not tolerating certain proteins in her formula or in her breastfeeding mother’s diet. Little bits of red blood or black digested blood in the stools can also result from food reactions. Cow milk proteins are the most common cause.
- Whether baby’s liver function is impaired: When poops are getting lighter in color, approaching light tan, gray, or white, this is a sign that something is blocking baby’s bile duct; some kind of liver, pancreas, or bile duct inflammation is developing. A call to the doctor during office hours is in line. If this appearance occurs after giving baby Tylenol, make an emergency call to the doctor.
- When someone sneaks in a bottle of formula: When an exclusively breastfed baby’s mustard-colored poop is suddenly brown, either the child is receiving iron supplements or has been exposed to a bottle of formula or to some solid foods. The color change signifies impairment to the highly protective bacterial flora that only exclusive breastfeeding brings.
- Whether baby is sick: A sudden appearance of watery poops, with repeat performances, can signify a bacterial or viral intestinal illness, as can green poops. These all can also result from food intolerance reactions. Often fever will accompany an intestinal illness, along with tiredness and fussiness. Rashes around the mouth or on the bottom commonly accompany food reactions whereas fuller-body rashes may occur from various bacterial or viral illnesses.
- Whether baby is digesting solids: When starting solid foods, if they come out looking an awful lot like they did going in, they did not get digested, meaning that baby is not yet ready for this step. Little black threads may result from poorly digested banana. It’s not a concern, but may be a hint to wait a while longer.
- Whether nutrients are being absorbed well: Poop that is orange, or more yellow than usual, and appears greasy or shiny, is a sign that baby is not absorbing certain nutrients well. A common cause of malabsorption is gluten (wheat) intolerance, also known as celiac disease.
- Whether baby is receiving too much iron: Excess iron will appear as dark green-black in baby’s stools. When regularly appearing in the poop, it is clearly not being absorbed. Likely a baby receiving iron supplements or consuming a high iron formula could benefit from a lower daily dose of iron, as non-absorbed iron is not only oxidizing but often causes problematic constipation.
- Whether baby has freeloading creatures: When tiny white threads appear in baby’s poop, or peek out at you from baby’s pooper, these are little wormy creatures living in baby’s intestines. They need to be exterminated, either with standard worm medication (which may lead to yeast infection) or possibly through a natural treatment regimen of garlic and ginger.
- Whether baby has a penchant for crayons: The occasional baby will find something to chew on that they shouldn’t. Brightly colored flakes mean that baby has found big brother’s crayons. Among foods, artificial food colorings in icing, candies, or gelatin desserts can lead to some colorful results, as can healthy berries or beets.
- Whether baby has a bowel obstruction: Poop that looks raspberry colored, like red currant jelly, with gel-like blood and mucus, represents a kind of intestinal blockage known as intussusception. This needs urgent medical attention. Don’t wait for a doctor to call you back.
Linda F. Palmer, DC, is the author of Pinnacle Award-winning “Baby Poop, What Your Pediatrician May Not Tell You… about Colic, Reflux, Constipation, Green Stools, Food Allergies, and Your Child’s Immune Health.” She left her 11-year nutrition-oriented chiropractic practice after the health challenges of her newborn son overwhelmed her. Perplexed by the lack of appropriate advice from pediatric sources, her extensive literature research led to her first, IPPY Award-winning book, Baby Matters, What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Caring for Your Baby.