Thursday Tip: Explaining Green breastmilk and Green baby poop

As a new mother you may find yourself extraordinarily interested in the colour of things that you never imagined that you would spending any time considering: breastmilk and poop! In honour of St Patrick’s Day let’s look at the colour that causes mothers the most concern.

Occasionally mothers who are pumping their milk are startled to discover it has a greenish tint. Generally breastmilk would be described as clear, white, bluish, tan or yellow. But at some point during the course of your breastmilk pumping experience, you may be surprised to find that your milk can be other colors as well.

Green milk can show up after the ingestion of green foods or foods containing green or blue dyes. Drinking green or blue coloured sports beverages can pass the dye into your breastmilk. Eating spinach, other deep green vegetables or seaweed may give your breastmilk a greenish cast. Some herbs and supplements can also turn breastmilk green.

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (WAB 8th edition page 307) reminds us; “Don’t worry about the colour of your milk. It can change after you eat certain foods, but that doesn’t harm the milk at all. Just tell yourself, “If I were nursing, I wouldn’t be seeing this.”

Most parents will change a diaper and find a greenish poop at least once during the diaper years.

If the baby is within the first few days of life the poop will be transitioning from black meconium to the yellow colour that is usual for a breastfed baby. During that transition phase there can be some poops that could be described as greenish. The colour should continue to change over the next few diaper changes and is nothing to be concerned about.

As baby gets older an occasional greenish diaper is also nothing to be concerned about as long as baby is happy, eating and gaining well and there is no sign of blood in the diaper.

Some babies have green, frothy poops. These can be a result of baby receiving more foremilk than hindmilk. “Foremilk” describes the breastmilk at the beginning of a feeding. It is lower in fat and higher in lactose than the milk at the end of a feeding which is known as “hindmilk”. The lactose, when it isn’t balanced with fat, moves through baby's digestive system very quickly and can result in green poop. Sometimes this happens when mom has an especially forceful letdown or she has an overabundant supply of milk and baby isn’t getting the higher fat content hindmilk. If baby is otherwise healthy, happy, and gaining weight, nothing needs to be done. If baby is having trouble latching or staying latched, or isn’t gaining weight as expected then talking to a La Leche League Leader or other lactation specialist can help you find a solution to balance your supply and baby’s intake.

Green mucousy poop is a sign that baby's intestines are irritated. If baby is still happy and eating and sleeping normally then you can probably wait a day or two to see if things get better. If the poops return to their previous colour and frequency probably baby had a mild virus or a reaction to something in mom's diet. Teething may also be the culprit: When baby swallows a ton of drool, it can irritate the intestines and cause some mucus in the poop.

Green watery poops with a foul odor can be a sign of diarrhea, especially if they are much more frequent than usual. Baby diarrhea can be caused by a virus, infection, stress or food intolerance. Babies can get dehydrated quickly when they have diarrhea. In this scenario evaluation by a doctor is a good idea.

If you have questions about any breastfeeding related situation please contact a La Leche League Canada Leader.

Link to: Some Common Concerns When Storing Human Milk

To encourage, promote and provide breastfeeding, chest feeding and human milk feeding support and educational opportunities as an important contribution to the health of children, families and society