What It Means to See Green in Your Baby

Through my years as a pediatrician, I have found that new parents are often surprised at just how “juicy” newborns can be.  In their heads, they imagined nothing but a baby’s soft skin, gentle coos, and sweet smells. In reality, they discover lots of different fluids and noises coming out of their beautiful bundle of joy.  

When it comes to the things coming out of your baby, one of the biggest concerns for parents is seeing a color that doesn’t look normal—specifically the color green.  Here is a breakdown of what it means to see green in your baby’s poop, snot, or spit-up. 

Green Poop

Why It’s Green
The first poop from a newborn will be greenish-black, almost tar-like in its consistency.  This is called meconium and it is normal.  During those first weeks at home, you will notice the poop will be more army green, eventually turning a grainy yellow (if breastfeeding) or tan-brown (if formula). 

After those first few weeks, if you still notice green poop, it could be for a few different reasons:

  1. If breastfeeding, there could be a “foremilk/hindmilk” imbalance.  I usually see this when moms say they have short nursing sessions.  Short nursing sessions may be making it difficult for your baby to get enough hindmilk. Too much foremilk can lead to green poop. If this is accompanied by infrequent dirty diapers (newborns should poop at least 3-4 times each day), lack of weight gain, and fussiness could be a sign your baby isn’t getting enough milk, and you should call your doctor.  
  2. Green poop can also signal your baby isn’t feeling well; this is especially true if they have diarrhea or have a food intolerance to something in the mother’s diet (if breastfeeding) or with the formula. 
  3. What you or your baby eat could be causing the greenish tint.  If you’re breastfeeding and are eating a lot of leafy greens or, once your baby starts to eat solids, he eats a lot of green foods such as peas or spinach,  this could cause the poop to be green. 

When to Call the Doctor
The good news about green poop is that it is rarely the sign that something serious is happening with your baby.  However, if your child shows signs of illness such as a fever or vomiting, you should call your pediatrician and make an appointment.  I also suggest if your baby has diarrhea—green or not green—you should give your doctor a call.  Diarrhea can lead to dehydration. 

Green Snot

As a pediatrician who has invented a nasal aspirator, I know that the color of a congested baby’s mucus tells us way more about what’s going on than the congestion itself.  Although the ideal mucus color is clear, you may also periodically notice white, yellow, or green. 

Why It’s Green
If your baby’s snot is green, it is usually a sign that the they are at the end of a cold or sinus infection.  Green mucus in the morning, although startling, is often the result of bacteria your baby has collected as she sleeps and shouldn’t cause you any reason to worry.  

When to Call the Doctor
If your baby has green snot for several days, schedule an appointment with your pediatrician to rule out a sinus or other infection. 

Green Spit-Up or Vomit

There is a difference between spit-up and vomit: spit-up is the easy flow of a baby’s stomach contents, usually while burping, while vomiting is a more forceful flow, shooting out instead of dribbling from the mouth. 

Why It’s Green
Green spit-up or vomit is usually caused by bile and may indicate a bowel obstruction. 

When to Call the Doctor
Immediately.  A green (and sometimes brown) color of spit-up or vomit may be a sign of a blockage in the intestine, and you should contact your doctor’s office. 

As always, if anything is making you feel uncomfortable or concerned, never hesitate to call your pediatrician.

Disclaimer: This blog provides general information and discussions about health and medical issues and is provided as an entertainment and informational resource only. It is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. This information does not create any patient-physician relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. This blog is opinion based and these opinions do not reflect the ideas, ideologies, or points of view of any potentially affiliated organization. The information on this blog may be revised and/or otherwise managed.

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