Brown, green, yellow, tan — babies and kiddos can often produce a rainbow of different colors of poop in their underthings. But which colors are normal and which are cause for concern?
Our poop is a window into our health, and its color can vary greatly depending on the kinds of foods, drinks and medicines that we’ve put in our bodies (anyone who’s ever eaten red velvet cake could probably attest to that). Most of the time, our poop is brown. But what if it’s a shade of yellow or orange? What if it’s gray or black or red? Which colors are fine, and which mean trouble?
As with any medical question you have regarding your children’s health, if the color of your child’s poop concerns you, you should definitely call your child’s pediatrician. Or, if it’s your poop, call your doctor. But here’s a handy primer to the common colors of poop and the possible causes for each hue of poo.
Brown: There’s a reason the poop emoji is brown. Brown is the most common poop color, and brown stools typically mean that all is well for a child’s digestive health. This color isn’t as common among infants who breastfeed, but as kids get older and start eating more solid foods, says the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), their poop typically turns brown.
Yellow: If you breastfeed your infant, you’ll most likely find stool of a mustard yellow color with a seedy texture in the dirty diaper, says the National Institutes of Health (NIH). And if you do, don’t worry — this color is perfectly normal for little ones.
Tan: If you feed your baby formula, you’ll likely see a lot of firm, tan stools in their diaper, the NIH says. Nothing to worry about here, either — your child’s body is working just as it should.
Green: Green poops are A-OK, too; like tan poops, they’re usually seen more often in formula-fed babies, the AAP says. Leafy veggies and iron-fortified foods, which your tot can eat once they graduate to solid foods, can trigger a green coloration in their stool, as can green Jell-O and fruit snacks, the AAP says.
Red: If you see red in your child’s stool, call your pediatrician as soon as possible — especially if your child hasn’t eaten anything red. That red streak could be blood in your child’s feces, which can signify a range of problems that need urgent attention.
As your child gets older, a number of reddish-colored culprits — such as beets, cranberries and red Jell-O — can turn poop red. In fact, more than 9 in 10 cases of red poop aren’t caused by blood at all, but from foods, medicines and drinks that are naturally or artificially dyed red, the AAP says. However, you should always call a doctor if you see red in your stool, just to be sure.
Black: Babies will pass black bowel movements their first few days after birth. This isn’t feces; it’s meconium, which is typically dark greenish-black in color, tar-like in texture, and perfectly normal. But after those first few days, a child shouldn’t have blackish stools again. If they do, it’s time to call the doctor; as with red poop, black poop may indicate blood in the stool.
However, some foods, drinks and medications can also make poop look black — licorice, Oreos and iron-based medicines, to name a few. And sometimes, healthy green poop can be mistaken for black poop, the AAP says. Always err on the side of caution, though, and call a pediatrician if you see a black stool.
White or Gray: White and gray aren’t as common as the other different colors of poop. If you see these colors, call your doctor right away. Some medicines like antacids may trigger whiter shades of feces. But white or gray poop could also be caused by a serious problem in your kid’s liver. The earlier your child gets diagnosed and treated, the better, so call your pediatrician to rule out any underlying disease.
Need to find a pediatrician for your poop queries — or any other children’s health questions? Find one near you.