Skip Navigation
Menu Search
Johns Hopkins Children’s Center

In This Section      
Print This Page

What can your child's poop color tell you?

Poop comes in all colors (and smells and textures), including many shades of brown, green or yellow. In general, these colors are normal and variations in these colors do NOT indicate that anything is wrong.
In some instances, poop color can provide important clues as to problems with the gastrointestinal tract or liver. Visit our stool color guide to learn more about what your child's poop color can tell you. 

PoopMD+

Download PoopMD+, a free iPhone app that helps parents and caregivers better understand what the color of a baby’s poop means. The app’s color recognition software and your smartphone’s camera work together to determine whether the color of your baby’s poop is normal or abnormal. Data gathered about baby poop color will help advance pediatric liver disease research.

Red and Black Stools

Lots of foods, drinks or medications may make the poop red or black, and it is not concerning when foods do this. For example, beets and artificial fruit juice can make the poop red, while licorice, blueberries and Pepto-Bismol® can make it black. All babies have black stools called meconium for the first few days of life.

However, most of the time red or black stools are a concern for gastrointestinal bleeding. Bright red stools are most commonly associated with problems near the end of the gastrointestinal tract (e.g., the rectum) and black stools typically suggest problems earlier in the gastrointestinal tract (e.g., the stomach or the beginning of the small intestine). Maroon stools often suggest a problem somewhere in the middle of the gastrointestinal tract. 

If you suspect that your child has red or black stools, you should see your child's pediatrician right away.

Learn more about red and black stool colors.

White Stools

Very rarely, babies will develop white,chalky grey or pale yellow stools. This may not be obvious in the first few days or weeks of life when all babies have normal, black stools. However, these pale stools suggest that there may be a life-threatening blockage in the liver preventing bile, the green fluid stored in the gallbladder that gives stool the yellow/brown color, from getting out of the liver. If you suspect that your infant has white, chalky grey or pale yellow stools, you must contact your child's pediatrician right away. The most common cause of these stools in infants is a disease called biliary atresia can be found on our website.and early diagnosis of this condition is important to correct this problem.

Learn more about white stool colors.

stool color guide printable card

Additional Resources

Stool Color Guide
Visit our health section to see our collection of stool photographs to help you learn more about normal and abnormal stool color.

Stool color card
You can download a copy of a stool color guide to educate new parents about colors associated with infant liver disease like biliary atresia. The guides are available in English or Spanish. These guides are being distributed nationwide to birthing centers by Procter & Gamble Baby Care through a collaboration with the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology. To order printed copies of stool guides for your hospital or pediatric practice, please call 800-543-3331.

Explore the Children's Center

Find A Pediatric Specialist
Search our experts by specialty, disease, or condition
Search The Health Library
Get the facts on diseases, conditions, tests and procedures