Your infant's diaper can be a window into her health, but a baby's stool can appear in a wide variety of colors and textures. Even when it appears in a color you're not used to seeing, it's not necessarily a reason for panic. A few colors, however, can indicate potentially serious diseases, in which case you'll need to consult a pediatrician.
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Your baby's stool generally should range in color from mustard yellow to dark brown, according to Merck. The color, however, can vary from infant to infant and depends on their diet, so stool outside of the range of this color spectrum does not necessarily indicate a health problem. If you breast-feed your baby, for example, his stool might appear lighter, closer to a daffodil yellow, according to the Children's Liver Disease Foundation, CLDF.
Your baby's stool will change in color during her first weeks and months of development, according to Mayo Clinic consultant Jay Hoecker. The first few days after she is born, her stool will have a greenish-black tint and be thick. This stool is meconium, a mix of amniotic fluid, mucus and other biological material from the infant's development, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health's MedlinePlus. As you start to feed your baby, her stool will lighten to a greenish-brown hue and ultimately into the yellow-to-brown range. Once you begin feeding your baby solid food, her stool should darken into the light to dark brown color that you're used to seeing with stool.
Occasional different colors in your baby's stool are normal, particularly once you move him to solid foods, according to Hoecker. For example, beets might stain the stool red, or blueberries can give it blue streaks. Your baby might even have an orange bowel movement. Medicines also can change your baby's stool color. Generally, one or two bowel movements outside of the normal color range are not a cause of concern, according to the CLDF.
Certain colors of stool indicate potentially serious health problems, in which case you should visit a doctor. Hoecker recommends seeking medical help any time you notice red and bloody stool, white stool, gray stool or black stool if it occurs more than a few days after birth. Pale yellow to pale gray stools, for example, could indicate liver disease, according to the CLDF. Hoecker suggests always checking with your doctor any time you're in doubt of a proper color.
Besides the stool color, you also should monitor the consistency of your baby's stool, according to Hoecker. Most stool will range from firm to soft and runny, according to Merck. Very watery stool is a sign your infant has diarrhea, and small, pebble-like stool can indicate constipation. Additionally, the color of your baby's urine can be an indicator of health. Merck reports that urine should range from almost clear to dark yellow, though constantly deep yellow, staining urine can be a sign of health problems such as jaundice.