Green Stools in Infants

Green Stools in Babies

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Congratulations on your new bundle of happiness! Thus begins the seemingly endless process of feeding, changing, bathing, putting down for a nap, soothing the cries, and then doing it all over again. Now, once you’ve had your baby, you’ll also be getting a lot of advice on many things, the main of which are what to put into your baby, and how to deal with what comes out of her. At first, the look, smell and texture of your baby’s poops might seem a little gross, but soon enough, you’ll get used to them!

Changing your baby’s diapers every day will also inevitably lead to an inspection of the poop. The size, texture, colour, consistency and smell will be all too familiar after a few weeks. So, what happens when you notice that your baby’s poop is green instead of the standard yellow-ochre? Do you need to panic? Absolutely not! Green poop need not necessarily warrant a visit to the doctor’s clinic. Educating yourself on the possible causes should be enough to put you at ease, because almost every baby has pooped green stools at some point!

Also Read: Baby Poop: What’s Normal & What’s Not

What Causes Green Poop in Babies?

Causes of Green Poop in Babies

This must be your number one question (right after wondering if you should worry, of course!). To put your mind at rest, read on below for some of the reasons for green stools in babies:

1. Transitional Poop

On breastfeeding after the baby’s birth, the baby will pass her first stool in the form of meconium (a dark green substance that is the first faeces of a newborn). As your baby begins feeding on breast milk, this poop will transition from black/green/brown to yellow. This is natural, and is no cause for concern.

2. Baby’s Diet

The inclusion of green leafy vegetables such as spinach or peas could cause green poop. This could be because the baby has eaten the food too fast without properly chewing, or the food has passed through the digestive system too quickly.

3. Imbalance of Foremilk/Hindmilk

This happens when there is an improper mixing of foremilk and hindmilk. Foremilk (milk which comes out first from the breast) has a low fat constitution and is rich in lactose. Hindmilk (which comes out after foremilk), on the other hand, is rich in fat. Together, they form a perfect blend that is required for your new baby’s diet. However, when there is an abundance of foremilk, the baby is full before she can get to the hindmilk. This causes digestive problems as there may not be enough lactase (a digestive enzyme) to break down the lactose, leading to green coloured stool.

4. Teething

When babies go through their teething phase, they end up swallowing excessive drool and saliva which can lead to intestinal irritation. This irritation leads to a green, mucous-like stool.

5. Illness

The baby may have a viral infection or may be suffering from stomach flu, both of which lead to diarrhoea in the form of watery green stools. Continue breastfeeding your baby under such circumstances, as breast milk contains antibodies that can help boost the baby’s immunity! If it persists for more than a few days, please take your infant to the doctor as she may run the risk of getting dehydrated.

Here are some signs that your baby might be dehydrated:

  • Your baby is crying with no tears.
  • Your baby has dry lips and a dry mouth.
  • Your baby hasn’t wet her diapers in over 3 hours.
  • Your baby has sunken eyes or cheeks.
  • Your baby has a sunken soft spot on the top of her head.

6. Mother’s Diet

Is your diet filled with a lot of greens, too, such as spinach and peas? Or have you consumed any foods that contain artificial colouring? This can be the reason for your child having green poop. Breast milk in such instances is also green, but don’t worry, it’s not harmful in any way!

7. Medication

Iron supplements for your baby tend to give out green coloured stools, which is normal. In fact, if it isn’t green or black, it’s a sign that the supplements aren’t working.

8. Allergic Reaction

If your baby is allergic to something that has been consumed by the mother or directly by the baby, it may result in green stool. This could be cow milk, or some form of medication. However, allergic reactions are accompanied by other symptoms such as skin rashes or mild breathing problems. In such a case, it is best to go to a paediatrician for a consultation.

9. Jaundice

Some newborns may contract jaundice, as their livers are immature and unable to process the bilirubin produced by the body. This is normal and often disappears in a week or two. Anything longer could be an indicator of an underlying liver condition, and a trip to the doctor is advised.

What Are the Possible Treatments?

Possible Treatments of Green Poop in Babies

Most causes for green stools are harmless and do not cause any long-term damage to the infant. However, there are some which may warrant some form of treatment.

  • An upset tummy caused due to a viral infection can result in diarrhoea and green coloured stools, which brings in another problem: dehydration. Dehydration can, fortunately, be remedied with the help of an oral rehydrating solution that should be given based on the baby’s weight.
  • For children suffering from a severe case of jaundice, phototherapy is used to accelerate the bilirubin removal by the body. In some instances, a doctor may advise a glycerine suppository.

Oversupply of milk can be regulated to prevent green stools. This can be done through a variety of techniques, such as:

  • Exclusive feeding: The problem arises when a mother switches between breasts too quickly. Exclusively feeding from one breast alone for a certain number of feeds would ensure that the baby gets both the parts of the milk (foremilk and hindmilk). If the other breast starts getting too full, you could use a pump to relieve the pressure.
  • Medication: If there is an oversupply of milk, one can try out medication such as cold medicines, which reduce milk supply as a side-effect. However, this approach should only be used after careful consultation, as there may be other side effects.
  • Consumption of cabbage: Cabbage is known to reduce the supply of milk. You can apply some chilled cabbage to your nipples for about 30 minutes, no more than three times a day.

How to Prevent Green Poop in Infants

  • Avoid eating too much of green leafy vegetables, as they can cause green-coloured stools in infants.
  • Avoid giving cow’s milk to your baby, as it could result in green stools due to a lactose overload.
  • Chart your and your spouse’s medical history to avoid giving any food items that can cause an allergic reaction in your baby.
  • If your child has an allergic reaction, you can try an elimination chart to figure out which food is the cause of the reaction. The elimination method is where your and your baby’s food intake is recorded on an everyday basis. If the child gets another attack, the parent notes down which food was eaten before. That food is discontinued for a few days and then reintroduced – if there is another allergic reaction, it is confirmed that your child is allergic to that food item.

When to Call a Doctor

Green poop in most cases is not a problem, but it’s important to watch out for any other symptoms that could occur along with it. If your baby is dehydrated, is vomiting for longer than 24 hours, has a high fever and is being a fussy eater, it’s best to visit the paediatrician as soon as possible.

While green poop may look like it is out of the ordinary, in most cases, it gets resolved on its own without any intervention by a medical professional. The main sign to look out for is the overall health of the baby. If your infant has green poop but is in perfect health, it shouldn’t be a cause for concern! However, if this is a recurrent problem, it might be a good idea to go to the paediatrician to get a professional medical opinion.

Also Read: Milk Allergy in Babies