Worried about your kid’s poop?

Quick notes:

  • Green stools are usually not a reason for alarm

  • There are many reasons for your child’s poop to be green

  • Pay attention to what you eat if you are breastfeeding, and to additives and food coloring if your child is on

  • Infrequently, green stools require a visit to your child’s pediatrician, especially if they are persistent

Green poop can be a shocker.  Usually, it’s unexpected, and a little gross, but have no fear because this can be normal for a breastfed or a formula-fed baby.  Baby stools can be a wide range of different consistencies and colors in a breastfed baby due variety in the mother’s diet, any food coloring she may be ingesting, and even ingestion of a lot of green vegetables.  These foods might include green Jell-O, spinach, or fruit snacks.

However, if the frog-colored feces persists for a few days, consult your pediatrician.  This may be a sign of an allergy to food in the mother’s diet or even an intestinal virus.  If your child has diarrhea, her stool is much more likely to be the color of the food she ate, because of the hasty exit through her system.  The common cold, teething, or a change in diet can also affect the color of your child’s poop.

What to watch out for

You may want to avoid feeding your child any food or drinks that you suspect may be causing a green tint.  If you happen to be breastfeeding, keep in mind that a disproportion in foremilk versus hindmilk can also lead to foamy green stools.  This is also called “lactose overload” or oversupply and can happen in a breastfeeding mother who has a plentiful milk supply, when the baby is getting exclusively or mostly high lactose foremilk.

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If you believe that your breastfeeding child may be suffering from lactose overload, you may want to try to only nurse on one side per feeding so that your baby gets a decent amount of hindmilk, which is also called “block feeding.”  You might also want to consult with a lactation consultant because lactose overload is easy to confuse with an allergy to something in the mother’s diet or not enough milk.

Other causes of green stool are:

  • Some medications, including iron
  • Bile excreted in illnesses that cause diarrhea
  • A change in diet, such as from formula or breastmilk to solids

Is it a big deal or not?

Interestingly, the opposite of oversupply can also cause green stools, which is the problem of not enough milk.  If your child has tiny amounts of green poop infrequently, this may be what the trouble is.  The time to be concerned about this is if your child is tense and unhappy, excessively sleepy, or failing to gain weight.  If this keeps up, be sure to call the doc.

Dr. Jack Newman quipped on his Facebook feed in 2012 that, “If the baby is content, gaining well and drinking well and the only problem is that the baby has green bowel movements, the mother should wear sunglasses so she can’t tell what color they are and stop worrying about green bowel movements.”

If a food allergy is the problem, the breastfeeding mother should evaluate her nutrition and consider an elimination diet.  Cow’s milk products are a frequent culprit of food sensitivities.  Other symptoms of a food allergy might include fussiness, eczema or rashes (including diaper rash), symptoms of colic, having a stuffy nose, or reflux.  Pay close attention to the stool if you suspect an allergy, as it may also have mucus or blood in it and be excessively runny and/or smelly.

A deeper dive – Related reading from the 101:

Foods NOT to feed your baby I Parenting 101

Foods to avoid for digestive health

Meal hacks to improve kid’s healthy eating habits I Parenting 101

Ideas for healthy meals for your children

Tips to naturally produce more breastmilk I Parenting 101

Examples of how you can increase your breastmilk supply for your baby