Why are my baby’s bowel movements green?

by Anne Smith, IBCLC

Ask Anne…

BFB Changing diaperQuestion: Yesterday my daughter’s stools were bright green. Neon green, actually. What could be causing this? The only thing I can possibly think of is that I have been drinking caffeine-free diet Mt. Dew and that maybe could be it, because it is almost that color. Also, her stools have been very pasty in consistency. Can breastfed babies get constipated?

Answer: The color and consistency of the bowel movements is not a big concern, unless there is a medical problem such as low weight gain associated with it. The color can change according to what you are eating, and I have heard of Mountain Dew turning stools green.

in his new breastfeeding book, Dr. Jack Newman says – in response to the question: “All my baby’s poops are green. Everyone is telling me this is abnormal and the doctor is making me very worried”  -“If the baby is content and gaining well, ignore the comments. Buy yourself a pair of sunglasses so you don’t see the color.”

You didn’t say how old your baby is or why you think she may be constipated, but you should know that it is perfectly normal for a totally breastfed infant over the age of 4-6 weeks to only stool once every 4-12 days. This change in stooling patterns can be very confusing to new mothers who are used to their newborns pooping after every feeding, but it is quite common in older babies.

When a baby is constipated, it means that her stools are hard and dry, and difficult to pass. Breastfed babies who aren’t receiving supplemental feedings rarely have hard, dry stools unless there is some sort of bowel obstruction or medical problem. Having stools every other day or even only once a week is often a normal pattern for an older breastfed baby.

Be prepared for a major blow out when she does go – she will have lots and lots of loose stool, and may grunt and be uncomfortable when she passes it. You may need to change her clothes and yours too! If the stool is soft when she does finally go, she is gaining weight appropriately, her abdomen is soft and she is content and alert, with no signs of illness (like lethargy or fever) then you don’t need to worry, even if a week or more goes by without a bowel movement.

Infrequent stooling may be a sign of inadequate milk intake, especially in a newborn. If your baby isn’t gaining weight, then there may be a reason for concern. Otherwise, I would try to relax and wait to let nature take its course.

Anne Smith, IBCLC
Breastfeeding Basics

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