Fort Worth, Texas,
10:51 AM

Is My Child's Poop Normal?

The Doc Smitty looks at 11 different types of bowel movements

It’s one of the most common problems that no one talks about except with their pediatrician.

It’s not the most common I see but it might be #number2.

And, no, I’m not advocating for an Instagram stream of abnormal poop pictures; but, we should all know that all of our kids will have some kind of weird poop this year. Here are the most common types:

1.Hard balls - In babies, little hard boo-boos are how I define constipation. It’s not about the frequency of poop or how hard a baby strains because all babies turn into purple Troll dolls when they are pooping. I like to say they are just learning which muscles to poop with …

2.White - White stools in babies mean that the gall bladder is not working the way it should and can point toward a serious liver condition. This should be evaluated and the child’s bilirubin should be checked.

3.Hard stools/stools that are hard to push out - This is how I define constipation in older kids. If a kid feels like they need to go but can’t, it’s probably constipation. Other common symptoms are vague belly pain but when you ask them … Guess what? The kid hasn’t pooped for days.

4.Large - Some kids just make humongous BMs. I don’t know why. If there are no other symptoms and they can go regularly without pain, it’s probably just fine.

5.Bloody - Bright red blood, particularly if on the outside of the feces or that comes off on the toilet paper is likely the result of a small tear in the rectum (the area right before the poop comes up). This is really common in children who have constipation and can lead to very painful attempts to poop. If there is a lot of blood, or it doesn’t go away, the child may need to be checked for rectal polyps.

6.Red - The most common cause I’ve seen for this lately: Hot Cheetos. Just because it’s red, doesn’t mean it’s blood. Think about what the child has been eating. Particularly if you parent the one child in the world who likes beets.

7.Black - Dark, black stool are one of the most concerning stools but not always. It can be an indication that there’s bleeding somewhere higher in the stomach or intestines. If the child has other symptoms, they should be seen fairly quickly. Other possible causes include: ingesting blueberries, taking iron supplements or Pepto-Bismol (which we don’t recommend but can also cause dark green stool).

8.Looseish - Not really diarrhea but not normal either. This can be the norm for some kids. Think about places where your child might be ingesting some extra sugar (especially juice).

9.Runny - The most common cause of diarrhea is a stomach bug. Usually these children have vomiting as well (but not always). It generally last a few days to a week and the child should not appear particularly sick. Children who have diarrhea that lasts longer than a week or that has blood or mucous should be seen by a doctor as it could point towards a different kind of infection.

10.Snotty - Small amounts of stringy mucous in poop can be normal, especially for a very short period but if the child has blood or belly pain along with it, it could point toward an inflammatory bowel problem like Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis.

11.Nutty/Corny - Yep. It happens. You all know it does. In fact, it’s one way to know how fast everything is passing through …

Next time you’re wondering if your child’s poop is normal, I hope this takes a load off your mind. Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

About the Author

Justin Smith is a pediatrician and the Medical Advisor for Digital Health for Cook Children's in Fort Worth, Texas. He has an active community on both Facebook and Twitter as @TheDocSmitty and writes weekly for Cook Children's His interest in communications started when he realized that his parents were relying more on the internet for medical information. He believes that strategic use of social media and technology by pediatricians to connect with families can deepen their relationship and provide a new level of convenience for both of their busy lifestyles. Dr. Smith’s innovative pediatric clinic, a pediatric clinic “designed by you,” is set to open in Trophy Club in 2017.

Comments 1 - 5 (5)
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Brandi sealy
Thanks for the advice. I'm a little at ease. My 5y old son does not eat normally very little food selections and for 2 days he's been with loose grey/green poop. More to a Grey like diarrhea. Bug I think. But will pay closer attn
Thank you for this article, my son (1yr) just passed a hard, very black stool and I nearly started panicking until I read the blueberry part. Yesterday I was giving him blueberries and he ate more than I realized when he swiped the container lol
Thank you
This was a great article. My toddler just had a hard black stool and then you mentioned the blueberries which he had a ton of the day before. Thanks for a humorous yet informative article
Dustin holsted
My 7 year old boy goes a long time without pooping. He holds it in because when he poops it’s kind of a gray color and is so big that it cloggs up the toilet. It hurts him. I’ve bought the fiber gummies. Don’t seem to help. It’s concerning to me. Poor kid.
Very informational. Thank you!