Q. My two-month-old’s bowel movements change colors. How do I know when to worry and when this is normal?
A. Occasional variation in color and consistency of stools is normal. Until babies start to eat solid foods, the consistency of their stools may range from very soft to loose and runny. For a baby who is breastfed, stools should resemble light mustard often with seed-like particles. For a baby who is fed formula, stools will usually be tan or yellow in color. Stools will generally be firmer in a formula-fed baby, but not firmer than peanut butter. As stool moves through the intestines, it also picks up bile, which is a yellow-green fluid. As bile travels through the intestines, its pigment can be altered by enzymes along the way which can affect the color. Green stools can also occur on occasion when the stool travels quickly though the colon. Discolored stool rarely represents a serious problem. However, if the infant is having diarrhea, he or she may need to be seen by a doctor. I would also see a doctor if the stools are white or clay-colored for more than a couple of days or if the stools are black or have obvious blood. Keep in mind that while a two-month-old is not eating solids yet (which can affect color), drinking colored varieties of pedialyte can affect stool color.
Karin Wolford, M.D.
Galen East Pediatrics
1651 Gunbarrel Road
Chattanooga, TN 37421