What to Expect to See in Your Baby's Diaper

From Meconium to Transitional Stools

You will become a diaper-watcher when your new baby is born. Everyone tells you that this is the best way to tell if your baby's health is going well. It's inevitable and natural, but most new parents don't know the difference between meconium and transitional stool and what to look for. Here's a quick guide to what to expect for a newborn's stools.

1
Meconium: Your Baby's First Stool

Baby's First Stool
Robin Elise Weiss

Meconium is the first stool your baby will pass. It is a thick, green, tar-like substance that lines the baby's intestines during your pregnancy. Most babies will have their first bowel movement within a few hours after birth.

Occasionally meconium stools will be passed while your baby is still in utero. As meconium passed prior to birth can indicate fetal distress, your birth team will monitor you more closely during labor to ensure your baby is tolerating labor.

If this happens your baby may need extra attention at birth to ensure that the baby doesn't inhale any meconium into the lungs. Inhaling meconium can lead to aspiration pneumonia.

Meconium can also be a problem to get off your baby's bottom. Use petroleum jelly, baby oil, or diaper cream on your newborn's diaper area to help you during diaper changes. This makes diaper changes a bit easier on you and the baby.

2
Transitional Stool: Stage One

Transitional Stool from a Newborn Diaper
Robin Elise Weiss

Your newborn will slowly begin to pass the meconium after birth as he or she begins to eat. The meconium will begin to change in consistency. These stools are called transitional stool. The first stage you will notice is slightly lighter in color than the meconium.

3
Transitional Stool: Stage Two

Transitional Stool from a newborn diaper
Photo © Robin Elise Weiss

The next stage of transitional stool is stage two. This stool is lighter in color and slightly less thick than meconium.

4
Transitional Stool: Stage Three

Photo © Robin Elise Weiss

Stage three transitional stool is much lighter and thinner than meconium. It is passed just before regular stooling begins. Each of these stages can last a varying amount of time, depending on how long your breast milk has been in or how long your baby has been eating. Colostrum has a natural laxative effect and will encourage your baby to pass stool more frequently. The same can be said of breast milk.

The advantages of getting rid of the meconium and transitional stool are that it can help prevent jaundice or make jaundice leave more quickly.

5
Breastfed Stool

Photo © Robin Elise Weiss

In a healthy, breastfed infant, you'll notice that the stools are yellow. They are also fairly runny. This is not considered a problem. You will also notice that there are small seed-like objects in the stool. Breastfed diapers are often called baby poop mustard because they look a lot like mustard.

Your new baby should begin having stools daily by age 3 to 4 days. Your baby should be having at least three to four soiled diapers a day by the first week of life. While your newborn will have different sized stools, large and small, you should only count a stool as one of these stools if it is larger than a quarter. Report any problems with stooling to your baby's practitioner or pediatrician.

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Vaginal Mucus

Vaginal Mucus in Newborn diaper
Photo © Robin Elise Weiss

Baby girls will have vaginal mucus after birth. It may be streaked with or contain small amounts of blood, akin to a first period. It is caused by a surge in hormones from the mother. You should not be concerned with this.

If the blood does not seem to be with mucus or comes in the stool you need to report this to your baby's doctor as it may be a problem.

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View Article Sources
  • Committee on Obstetric Practice. Committee Opinion No 689: Delivery of a Newborn With Meconium-Stained Amniotic FluidObstetrics and Gynecology. 2017. 129(3):e33-e34.
  • Cunningham, F. Gary., and John Whitridge Williams. Williams Obstetrics. New York: McGraw-Hill Education Medical, 2014. Print.
  • Kliegman, Robert M., Bonita Stanton, St Geme III Joseph W., Nina Felice. Schor, Richard E. Behrman, and Waldo E. Nelson. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th Edition. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier, 2015. Print.