Why Is My Child's Poop Green?

Green Poop Is More Common Than You Think

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One of the most worrisome poop variations is when our child’s poop is a different color than the normal brown or tan color that we expect of poop.

Green poops are probably the most common of these poop aberrations. It’s common for a pediatrician to receive a ton of phone calls from worried parents about an unsightly green poop their child produced.

Thankfully, green poop is very common and is in fact a normal variation of stool coloring. Although green poop can indicate illness, it’s almost never a reason to panic.

Let’s discuss what it means if your child’s poop turns green, what causes green poop, and what to do if you notice that your child’s poop is green.

What Is Green Poop?

It may surprise you, but green poop is actually a variation of normal poop color. As the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) explains, “[n]ormal stool colors are any shade of brown, tan, yellow or green.”

When green poop is caused by something out of the ordinary, it’s usually nothing worrisome. Most cases of green poop are caused by something your child ate, a vitamin or medicine they took, or a tummy upset that produces diarrhea.

Green colored poop is especially common in newborns and babies, though toddlers and older children may also experience green poop at times.

Symptoms

Green poop may happen on its own, or be accompanied by certain symptoms that go along with an upset stomach:

  • Normally formed stool may look greenish at times; green is a normal color variation of stool
  • Sometimes stool that looks black may actually be dark green
  • Green stool may also be accompanied by loose stools, as in the case of diarrhea

Causes

There are many causes of green poop in babies and toddlers and they rarely indicate a serious medical issue.

Children of all age groups experience green poop at one time or another, but causes and frequency can vary depending on your child’s age.

In Babies

Babies, and especially newborns, are most likely to experience green poops. Here are some of the most likely causes:

  • A newborn’s first poop, meconium, looks tarry black, but may look greenish as well
  • Excess bile can cause green poop
  • A breastfed baby’s poop, as it transitions from meconium to mature milk, may look greenish
  • Green poop may indicate a foremilk/hindmilk imbalance in breastfed babies, where your baby is getting a larger portion of foremilk (watery milk) than hindmilk (thicker, fattier milk). Though this can cause tummy discomfort, it doesn’t indicate a milk supply issue or problem with your milk
  • Green poop may indicate an intolerance to a food in a mother’s diet, in this case, the baby may appear uncomfortable or gassy
  • Green poop, especially when accompanied by streaks of blood, may indicate an allergy to something in a breastfed mother’s diet or a formula ingredient
  • Certain brands of formula produce greenish stool
  • Viral or bacterial infections can cause loose, greenish stools
  • Your baby’s poop may turn green when you introduce solid foods into your baby’s diet, particularly green vegetables

In Toddlers

  • As your toddler enters daycare and begins to interact with other children, they are more likely to pick up viruses that can cause diarrhea—very often, diarrhea produces loose, watery stools with a greenish color
  • As your toddler expands their palate, they might encounter foods that turn their poop green, such as spinach, other green vegetables, and foods containing dye
  • If your toddler is consuming a toddler formula or supplement, this may turn their poop green
  • Vitamins, particularly containing iron, can cause green poops
  • If your child is recovering from a stomach virus and is taking grape-flavored Pedialyte, they may experience bright green poop as a result

In Older Children

As is the case for babies and toddlers, your older child may experience green poop as a result of the following:

  • Consuming green foods
  • Taking medications or vitamins
  • Diarrhea or an upset stomach can cause green poop

You may not be reviewing your older child’s stools as frequently as you do your baby’s or toddlers (thank goodness for potty training!), but you can encourage your child to report when anything is different about their poop’s color or consistency.

What Poop Colors Are Red Flags?

According to the AAP, green poops are almost never a cause of concern, beyond the fact that the appearance of green, loose or watery poop often indicates diarrhea, which needs attention and care in children of all age groups.

There are poop colors that may indicate a problem. If your child’s poop is white, red (especially bright red), or black, you should contact your pediatrician. Poop of those colors may not be an issue, but they do warrant a mention to your doctor and possibly an exam at the doctor’s office.

Treatment

Green poop rarely indicates a medical emergency, so you can call your doctor during normal business hours if your child has green poop and you feel concerned.

Usually, your doctor will assure you that your child’s green poop is nothing to worry about. In some cases, they will want to schedule a visit with your child for a medical examination, just to rule everything out.

Although green poops are rarely a major concern, if your child is acting very sick and also has green poop, you should not hesitate to call your doctor immediately, during after-hours, or seek emergency medical care.

For example, green poop that is accompanied by diarrhea can indicate a viral or bacterial illness. If your child has several days of loose, green poop, they may be experiencing dehydration as a result of their illness.

Most cases of dehydration can be remedied by hydrating your child, but if your child is also acting extremely lethargic or is difficult to rouse, they may need medical attention for their dehydration.

Dietary Changes

Most cases of green poop do not require treatment because green colored stool is a common variation of normal stool. If your child’s green poop is caused by something they ate or a vitamin or medication they have taken, it’s not necessary to remove that from their diet just to change the color of their stool.

However, if that food, vitamin, or medicine is bothering them in some other way, such as causing gas or other tummy upset, you may consider removing it.

If your child’s green poop is accompanied by physical discomfort, then it might be time to intervene. For example:

  • If your breastfed baby has green, frothy poops accompanied by gas and spitting up, they may be experiencing foremilk/hindmilk imbalance, or a food intolerance or allergy. If these things are upsetting your baby, you can try to remedy them with the help of your doctor or a lactation consultant.
  • If your baby’s formula is causing green poop, this isn’t a problem in and of itself, but if they also have an upset stomach, you can speak with your doctor about switching formula.
  • If your child has an illness or an upset stomach that is causing loose, green stools, and they are also feeling unwell, you can talk to your doctor about treatment for their illness or stomach issues. You may also need to rehydrate them if they have become dehydrated.

A Word From Verywell

It is a parental instinct to become worried when anything seems amiss with our children.

While green poops are usually nothing to panic about, it’s natural that you would feel uneasy if you notice that your child’s poop looks green. After all, although green poop is a common variation of stool color, it’s much less common than brown or tan poop.

If you notice green poop in your child, take a deep breath. If they are acting like their normal selves, it’s very unlikely that anything is wrong. However, there is nothing wrong with double-checking with your doctor—that’s what they are there for.

If something seems off with your child or they seem unwell, don’t hesitate to call your doctor right away, or visit your local urgent care or emergency room. Always go with your parental instincts when it comes to medical issues with your child.

Thankfully, while most of us gasp the first time we see our child’s green poop, it turns out that cleaning up a green poop or two (or more) is just one of the more unpleasant—though very common—jobs of being a parent.

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  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Stools - Unusual Color. Updated October 11, 2020.

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