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What Should Your Kids' Poop Look Like?

Parenting is full of obstacles that can be hard to navigate—even without a toddler yelling at your face. There’s no instruction manual, which means discerning fact from fiction and reasonable from ridiculous can be maddening. That’s where Parentalogic comes in, a digital series brought to you by NOVA and PBS Digital Studios. Subscribe to the YouTube channel to receive alerts when new episodes launch.

Premiered: Runtime: 6:25Topic: Body + BrainBody & BrainNova
Premiered on PBS

In this Parentalogic episode, hosts Alok Patel and Bethany Van Delft get into the bowels of babies’ and childrens’ bowel movements — and try to solve the mystery of diarrhea, constipation, and “poop diaper.” Using a variety of models including paint chips, chocolate frosting and candies, they break down what different poop colors and textures might mean, demystifying everything that could spark curiosity — or utter concern — in a parent or caregiver. 

But first, what is poop? Most of its solid material is stuff your or your little one’s body can’t break down: fiber and cellulose. In addition, poop has fats, mucus, tons of bacterial cells (dead or alive), and bilirubin, a molecule that old or broken down red blood cells release. Bilirubin goes through the liver and gets secreted into the gut, where bacteria metabolize it. This is what turns poop BROWN. You may have noticed, however, that kids’ poop can come in many other colors (red, dark green, blue, or white ring a bell?).

Some of these colors aren’t worth worrying about. Anything in the brown or dark green spectrum is A-OK. And sometimes foods, whether it’s healthy stuff like beets or special candy treats, can produce a benignly bright stool. Other colors, like black or white, are generally worth a doctor’s visit. (The shape of poo provides lots of information, too, Alok points out.)

If you’ve ever wondered why your kid’s poop is round, runny, or dolphin-shaped, or what could possibly turn your little one’s stool bright blue (dare we say dolphin-colored?!), Alok and Bethany have your back — so you can keep attending to your child’s rear.

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National Corporate funding for NOVA is provided by Draper. Major funding for NOVA is provided by the David H. Koch Fund for Science, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and PBS viewers. Additional funding is provided by the NOVA Science Trust.

Major funding for Parentalogic is provided by the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation and PBS.