Sometimes poop is healthy. Sometimes it’s not. But one thing is certain—it’s always changing. This is why hosts Alok Patel and Bethany Van Delft are here to guide you through your child’s poop evolution (by recreating it in the kitchen!).
Meconium is one of the first poops a newborn will make, and it’s made up of all the things they ingested in utero, including intestinal cells, amniotic fluid, and bile—and even the hair they grow, shed, and consume inside the womb. Meconium is dark, tar-like, sticky, and “hard to wipe off,” Bethany says. And it indicates an infant’s intestines are up and running.
Meconium doesn’t last for long, though: Once babies are no longer consuming the same things they did in utero, they eventually graduate to passing “transitional stool.” This stool is a little more consistent. It’s yellow, produced when a baby consumes breastmilk or formula, and, thanks to the baby’s gut bacteria doing a little bit of lifting, it’s a bit more solid. And new parents, rejoice: “It doesn’t smell bad,” Bethany says.
As time goes on, yellow, somewhat liquidy transitional stool can change to look either a bit looser or darker. This all depends on whether or not your child is breastfed. “Breast milk has a natural laxative to it,” so breastfed babies have lighter, seedier-looking stools, Alok explains. Formula poop might stink a little bit more, but not much.
Once your little one starts eating solid foods, their poop should become denser, “like poop you see in the subway,” says Bethany. It’s darker, heavier, much smellier, and inconsistent (depending on what your child has eaten recently) in texture. By this point, your baby’s poop—and their intestines—are well-evolved and working.
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Why Does my Newborn’s Poop Look Like That?
Published: May 10, 2021
Alok Patel: The thing about poop—it’s a window into the s… not the soul. But definitely into the body.
Bethany Van Delft: It is an ever-changing rainbow of colors and textures.
Alok Patel: Alright, Bethany, I want your first memory of poop that you saw in your little one’s diaper. Very, very first poop.
Bethany Van Delft: Oh God. It was meconium. And the nurse warned me about it. She said it was gonna be black and sticky and tarry and impossible to wipe off. But I didn’t really believe it because I was like, “It’s just a baby.”
Alok Patel: It’s just poop.
Bethany Van Delft: It’s just a baby, it’s a just poop. It’s not like a tar machine or anything. Of course you can clean it up, but no.
Alok Patel: It’s got all this material that baby ingested—intestinal cells, amniotic fluid, bile, mucus. Hair.
Bethany Van Delft: Hair!?
Alok Patel: Babies actually, believe it or not, start growing and shedding hair while they’re in utero in the womb. And when they shed it, they eat it right up. And it winds up in meconium. Step 1 of making meconium in the kitchen—prunes.
Bethany Van Delft: Prunes.
Alok Patel: Ok, alright, alright, alright.
Bethany Van Delft: Well, you said don’t skimp.
Alok Patel: And we have this prune juice. Perfect. Okay. Yeah! It’s stuck. I think we need more prune juice…
Bethany Van Delft: Yeah.
Alok Patel: …to get back to that newborn baby poop. How we looking?
Bethany Van Delft: It’s getting there.
Alok Patel: It’s getting there.
Bethany Van Delft: This is starting to put me in mind of my baby’s diaper.
Alok Patel: This actually looks pretty close.
Bethany Van Delft: It looks super nasty.
Alok Patel: Even though it looks nasty, this is excremental gold. This is what every pediatrician wants to see in that very first newborn poop. This tells us that baby’s intestines are up and running. Looks gross but I’m gonna be honest with you…
Bethany Van Delft: No! Oh!
Alok Patel: Meconium does not last forever, sadly, for people who like tarry, sticky messes. Meconium is actually going to graduate from kindergarten, and turn into: transitional stool.
Bethany Van Delft: What do you think of that color?
Alok Patel: Okay. This is Bob Ross painting of transitional stool is coming alive with golden raisins.
Bethany Van Delft: It’s a very, very happy stool.
Alok Patel: So a little more yogurt, just give me a little more bulk.
Bethany Van Delft: Three, four…
Alok Patel: Dare you do five. Dare you do five. It’s for the transition.
Bethany Van Delft: Don’t dare me. Yo, don’t dare me.
Alok Patel: I think it might need a little zest from the orange.
Bethany Van Delft: More? Oooo. Does anyone have a microplane?
Alok Patel: So we’re starting to show transitional stool. But more importantly, it’s starting to smell great. You’re gonna start to see this when baby starts taking in formula or breast milk. Food comes in, bacteria has a little metabolic party, water gets reabsorbed, you create actual bulk. And this is great news because this is telling us that the kid is relying on the power of his or her gut. Do you think I should try some of this facewash right now?
Bethany Van Delft: You’re gonna do it whether I think that’s appropriate or not. So you do you, Alok.
Alok Patel: Listen, I once saw orange zest being sold. And I’ll be honest, like, right now...
Bethany Van Delft: Can you feel the hydration?
Alok Patel: First child, you said she was only breast feeding. What did her poop start to look like after our wonderful transition stool?
Bethany Van Delft: Like grainy mustard. And it smelled like a grassy field. It didn’t smell bad, it smelled really natural and nice.
Alok Patel: Formula stool tends to be a little bit more real world. And it stinks. Breast fed babies’ stool does not. It’s a little bit lighter and looser. Breast milk has a natural laxative component to it. And it tends to move really fast through their gut, making those stools, which you probably remember were plentiful, sometimes explosive.
Bethany Van Delft: This stool defies gravity. It goes up the diaper. Up and out, up the back, and out the diaper.
Alok Patel: So tell me when your kids started to eat real world food.
Bethany Van Delft: Um, that’s when it got real. Stinky, like poop. Like poop that you see in the subway. Nico was probably eating solid foods at six months cause he was a hungry baby.
Alok Patel: He was right on when pediatricians say kids can.
Bethany Van Delft: Oh God. Here we go.
Alok Patel: In any other context, this would look delicious. Can we use the bagel and maybe crumple it up a little bit to give me a little bit of inconsistency in the texture?
Bethany Van Delft: Here we go.
Alok Patel: Just like the kind of stool you would see in the park.
Bethany Van Delft: Bagel. Park stool is different. I think park stool is different. I think that subway stool is more urgent.
Alok Patel: There’s a sense of urgency with subway stool, ok.
Bethany Van Delft: I think park stool, there’s a bigger range of stool.
Alok Patel: Park stool might be strategic.
Bethany Van Delft: Park stool is more like, oh, it’s noon.
Alok Patel: If I happen to have a potato, we can add a little bit of bulk to this stool. Bethany, if you wouldn’t mind mashing, grinding, cutting—do anything you can to add some potato bulk to our baby stool.
Bethany Van Delft: Oddly enough, I have a prepared potato right here. Let’s use this one.
Alok Patel: Did you just know I was going in this direction?
Bethany Van Delft: This is my son’s favorite texture of stool. Do you have to do— ugh.
Alok Patel: It’s actually not bad. It’s actually not bad at all.
Bethany Van Delft: How did I know you were gonna say that?
Alok Patel: I mean, I’m gonna be honest, I think you were right. The bagel adds a little bit of earthiness to it, and the mustard does cut down the sweetness. I actually think of all the poops that we’ve made today, this one is actually a winner. Dare you to. That one has breast milk stool on it.
Bethany Van Delft: What? No, no.
Alok Patel: You have not tried any of them.
Bethany Van Delft: No, no, that’s okay.
Alok Patel: You literally have not tried one. I had one on my face.
Bethany Van Delft: I’m keto. I’m on keto, yeah.
Alok Patel: Is poop involved in keto?
Bethany Van Delft: Yeah, you can’t eat poop.
Alok Patel: We can emulate a little bit more bulk in here if we just happen to have a potato. If I had a potato… If I had a potato… I missed that one completely! Alright, we’re gonna get this, I swear to God. If I happen to have a potato.
Hosted by: Alok Patel and Bethany Van Delft
Producer/Director: Ari Daniel
Producer/Camera: Emily Zendt
Production Assistance: Diego Arenas, Christina Monnen, Arlo Pérez, Madeline Weir, Amanda Willis
Senior Digital Editor: Sukee Bennett
Rights Manager: Hannah Gotwals
Business Manager: Elisabeth Frele
Managing Producer: Kristine Allington
Coordinating Producer: Elizabeth Benjes
Director of Audience Development: Dante Graves
Director of Public Relations: Jennifer Welsh
Legal and Business Affairs: Susan Rosen and Eric Brass
Director, Business Operations and Finance: Laurie Cahalane
Executive Producers: Julia Cort and Chris Schmidt
Scientific consultants: Kyle Staller, MD, MPH & Claire Zar-Kessler, MD
Archival: Shutterstock & Storyblocks
Sound Effect: cetsoundcrew / flickr / CC BY 3.0
© WGBH Educational Foundation 2021