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Why Does my Newborn’s Poop Look Like That?

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: 6:16Topic: Body + BrainBody & BrainNova
Premiered on PBS

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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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.