Kids and Poop: What’s Healthy?

It's a messy business. But it's a key indicator of health. Here is some advice to help parents get to the bottom of normal bowel movements in children.

Kids and Poop Whats Healthy

Everybody poops. That’s an inarguable fact that’s also the title of a cute 2001 kid’s book that introduces children to the point of poop – ridding your body of the waste from the food we eat. As the book charmingly points out, “all living things eat, so everyone poops.”

And while this sweet story offers just enough information for kids, parents need a bigger briefer on bowel movements to know whether their children’s digestive health is as it should be.

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The basics

Some things to consider are frequency of bowel movements, along with stool color and size.

“There’s a wide range of normal,” says Dr. James Landers of Pointe Pediatrics in Grosse Pointe.

Color of stools and number of daily bowel movements can vary from kid to kid, but Landers says that on average, children should have one bowel movement per day.

If your kid goes two to three times a day and the stools are solid and pass easily, though, parents shouldn’t be concerned.

However, if your child is constipated often or suffers from diarrhea, take a closer look at the things that could be causing these issues.

Constipation

Poor diet and lack of exercise can lead to constipation in kids, but Landers points out that kids can actually cause themselves to become constipated.

How? If your child has the urge to have a bowel movement, but doesn’t want to come inside when he’s playing outdoors, for example, he may be inclined to hold it. Holding stools in for long periods of time makes them hard and therefore more difficult to pass. Pushing the hard stool out may cause rectal fissures that bleed and cause pain, which may make your child even more likely to hold their bowel movements.

In an attempt to stop this unhealthy cycle, “establish a routine at that age. It’s sort of an extension of potty training,” Landers says.

The goal is to keep your child on the potty – whether you read to him or play a game. This will help him relax and condition him for producing a bowel movement. Over time, this will become part of his day-to-day routine.

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Diarrhea

On the flip side, if your child is experiencing diarrhea, Landers first suggests parents determine if the diarrhea is acute, recurring or chronic.

Acute diarrhea is when the body produces loose stools for less than 14 days, and it is usually a sign of infection. If diarrhea persists for more than 14 days, then it is categorized as recurring or persistent. Diarrhea for longer than one month is considered chronic.

“For acute diarrhea, make sure they don’t get dehydrated,” he says.

Drinking lots of water or Pedialyte helps to keep your child hydrated. Putting your kid on the B.R.A.T. diet – consisting of bananas, rice, applesauce and toast – will help to firm stools.

If your child is suffering from chronic or recurring diarrhea, it’s time for a visit to the doctor for an examination, which includes a stool test and a closer look into your family history – specifically regarding lactose intolerance.

Other warning signs

Color and stool size varies just like frequency of bowel movements, but there are a few warning signs that Landers suggests parents look for.

While normal stools are typically light to dark brown, if you’re seeing blood, mucus or grease in your child’s stool, notice fatty bowel movements or foul smelling ones, these could indicate serious problems such as cystic fibrosis or a parasite, like Giardia.

And when it comes to poop, size matters.

“It’s not normal to have such a large bowel movement that you are bleeding when you pass stools,” Landers says.

If your child is experiencing any of these abnormalities, contact his doctor for immediate attention.

Food regulation?

“I’m not a big believer in avoiding (certain) foods because they cause constipation,” Landers says. But that doesn’t mean he won’t suggest something like Activia to his patients, which is a pro-biotic meant to replenish or foster the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut.

Landers recommends this to patients, especially if they have been on an antibiotic – which can kill healthy bacteria in its mission to eradicate bad bacteria.

Yogurt with pro-biotics isn’t the only thing that keeps you regular. Healthy eating also keeps your colon on track. Whole grains, fiber, fresh fruit, vegetables and beans are good for digestion.

“All of the stuff that doesn’t come wrapped in a package,” Landers says.

This post was originally published in 2012 and has been updated in 2015.

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Comments
  • My 6 year old poop seems to have on a regular basis, a green color. It happens even when he does not eat green.
    Is this normal?

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    • My 4 year olds poop turns green when she drinks a blue juice… So maybe it could be what he is drinking turning it that color I know I freaked the first time my lil girls poop was green for few days and she wasn’t eating greens.

      Reply
    • Generally green like if it sits in toilet looks like it turns the water around it green indicates high metabolism levels in your child….perfectly normal I believe

      Reply
  • My 2 yr old just pooped and it looks completely nasty looks like there’s mucous iin it stringy slimy stuff.. and well it just doesn’t look right at all…what could this be

    Reply
    • Stacey W.

      I’d suggest reaching out to your doctor immediately.

      Reply
    • Hi hun. Can I ask fid you take your 2 yr old to the doctor about this. Did it just happen once? My 2 yr old has just done one the sounds the same with mucus etc. So I was serving for a reason why. X

      Reply
  • My 3yr. Old grandaughter had a small round shape poops with a dark brown color, is it normal?

    Reply
    • Stacey W.

      I would suggest calling the pediatrician to discuss this.

      Reply
  • My 15 months son seems to do number 2, five times or more a day and now his having bad rash around his hole. but i don’t see any abnormality on his Poop. Is this normal?

    Reply
    • Stacey W.

      You should likely contact your son’s pediatrician with this question.

      Reply
  • My 10 year old daughter hasn’t had a bowel movement in 4-5 days. When she normally does have one, they are sometimes large and hard and occaisionaly leave blood on toilet tissue. Tonight she is complaining of nausea and tried to have a movement but couldn’t. Could the nausea be caused by constipation?

    Reply
    • Yes, the nausea is definitely from constipation. Her large intestine is filled with stool so it can sometimes make the person feel nauseous. Make sure when she eats fiber you are letting her drink a lot of water. The tissues having blood on it can be either just a tear from the stool being hard or it can be either internal or external hemorrhoids.

      Reply
  • My 10 year old has already pooped 4 times today with diahrehea but it is not green or bloody but she has been having diahrehea for the past 3-4 days

    Reply
  • My 2 year old just pooped and looks black or maybe dark brown but at a glance it looks black and also he is having a cold and a cough..should I worry..

    Reply
  • My ward is now 4 year old & poops 7-9 times a day, its very soft but not watery and has the most terrible smell, he has been like this since birth. every now and then its like broken biscuits, then its 15 times, smelly. then it all starts again! . I have been back and fourth to doctors but have said it may be allergies, I have tried everything. Has any one got any

    Reply
    • Re: Ward, did you ever find out what it was? My 4 year old and I have the same thing, tests reveal nothing, I am trying an antibiotic but no definitive answers. Do you know anything more?

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      • Sounds like a food allergy, to find out you have to test everything they eat and eliminate anything that is causing problems. Google how to test for food allergies. Doctors will ignore these issues so it’s often left to diligent parents to figure it out. I suffered from chronic constipation and as an adult I tested myself, I’m allergic to corn and potatoes I removed them from my diet and I lost unwanted weight and my bowels improved, it was amazing to me when I think about it now it was a simple solution but the doctor just don’t talk about it much, at least my doctors didn’t talk about food allergies and I reported the problem to them repeatedly.

        Reply
  • My Son is 3 years old he poops 3 times a day, but is poop is with mucus and the stool is dark brown in color recently he is having fruit juices like grape juice or sweet lime with kiwi juice, pomegranate juice in a day can this be the reason of the mucus in his poop? He also has normal food like rice and fish or meat he does not have milk or milk products but has complan. Please help

    Reply
    • That sounds like a problem for the pediatrian, any food or drink with color can cause your poop to have strange color but mucus is a pediatrician issue.

      Reply
  • My 6 year old has been going to the toilet to poop about 6-7 times a day this has been going on for the past 3 days which is not normal for him at all, (he usually goes 1-2 times. They are small in size but when the sensation comes he usually can’t hold it at all. He isn’t in pain and isn’t itching at all. Is this normal? What could this be and what would you recommend the best treatment would be?

    Reply
  • My son is 9 years old. He has stomach cramping and pain after he eats. No matter what he eats. Also his bowel movement is always loose . Sometimes with little blood.

    Reply
    • My son is also 9 Every day after School & meals he spends at least 20 minutes on the toilet 3-4 Times a day. I was thinking of starting him on a healthier diet tomorrow. Any suggestions?

      Reply
      • A vegan diet would help immensely. Fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, legumes, seeds, etc. Very healthy and good on your butt

        Reply
  • My daughter will be three in December and has been having bowel issues for over a year doctors just keep suggesting changes in diet it started with severe constipation annual fissure bleeding to very abnormally large bowel mivemnents she complains of stomach pain and has recently had loose stools with slimy mucus and tinged of blood , she’s just under the tenth percentile on the growth chart weighs 25!pounds anyone have anything similar so worried but getting no where’s with doctors

    Reply
  • My grandson (6) just won’t poop. He will hold it in for days. Of course when he does go it big and hard. Now all of a sodden he is pooping and peeing in his pant. At school or at the park. He peed the bed last night. What might be going on?

    Reply
    • I heard that can happen with children who potty train too early. They learn to hold it when they don’t want to stop playing to go to the bathroom and it can cause bed wetting and accidents at 5 or 6 years old, also problems with constipation and UTIs (but UTIs are more common with girls). I’m just guessing but the article I read about this was written by a pediatric urologist. He recommended giving them a high fiber diet with lots of whole fruits and vegetables, not juiced because juicing gets rid of all of the fiber.

      Reply
  • Hello, I have a concern with my 8 years old kid, he’s a normal kid with no illness or problem at all, but he makes too big poop, really big, I mean much bigger than an adult since he was 3-4 years old aprox, he goes to the toilet everyday with no problems or pain. He eats very healthy, lots of fiber fruits and vegetables. His maternal half brother, who I met when he was 10 yrs old, had exactly the same thing, and he’s now 21 yr with no problem at all. As an aditional info, his mother died of a methastasis caused by a colon cancer at 44 yr. Thanks in advance for your help. Rgds.

    Reply
  • I am concerned about my 11 year old son he has several bowel movements daily at the most 6 it’s not loose stool or constipation should I contact his primary care physician..or is this something that kid’s his age goes through

    Reply
  • My son is passing stool at least for 4 times in a day.n his appetite has become increased suddenly. What’s the reason?

    Reply
  • My kid is 5 and off and on for a week shes been having mucus in her poo. She is now complaining it hurts.. says her tummy hurts.. she also has a bit of consipation. And she eats fairly heathly…. is there something i should be concerned about

    Reply
    • my 5 year daughter’s poop is always hard and little peletts
      she does have soft stool after the pellets but next day goes back to hard please help

      Reply
  • My child has had drainage for almost two weeks now. His wet cough is getting better, but now he has tummy pain and I see mucus in his poop. He goes several times, but the poop is small in amount. What can I do for the pain?

    Reply
    • You should contact your doctor. Mucous in the stool can be a sign of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or ulcerative colitis.

      Reply
  • My daughter has been having mucus in her poop for about a week she also is going very frequently a day and it has a very bad smell and also she has gotten a rash on her private area…what shall I do

    Reply
  • My child has 2 shades of green poop for a few days an very smelly. An today it has some slime in it. Is this normal?

    Reply
  • My daughter has had blood in her stool for over a week she’s using the potty over five times day with urgently every time she goes.

    Reply
  • My son 30 months old is having bowel movements with blood and mucus for more than 3 times a day. This has started from november 2015 .We have contacted many pediatric doctors. Have been done stool tests , blood tests and even thioroid test. But all the reports are normal. We have contacted pediatric surgeon also who asked us to have sigmoidoscopy test which is also normal. Then on March 31st there was a rectum prolapse in my child . So we have contacted doctor immediately and my son was admitted in the hospital for 5 days and said the treatment was given for dysentry (given some antibiotics injections). And doctors suggested us not to give milk , ice cream, bread , sweet. we have done the same and my son was normal for 15 days. Then after again started the bowel movements for more than 3 times with mucus and blood. Please suggest me what to do to make my normal. We are soo worried about him.

    Reply
  • My daughter 1 year old used the bathroom at leat 3 times a day and when she do the color is light brown like a yellowish color and it smells bad real bad. And its like dierahha poop. I dont know what to do cause uaslly she dont do this. But can apple juice do this to her?

    Reply
  • Why does my 3 year old child poops 5 to 6 tyms a day, her poops so bad smell and very soft but not watery, she has been this before and until now..the poops size there small, and sometimes large in a day..is this normal? What are the solution of this..?

    Reply
  • My grandson has HUGE in circumference bowl movements, What size is time to see a doctor?

    Reply
    • Stacey W.

      It seems like you should contact his doctor soon to help diagnose this issue.

      Reply
  • Hi
    My son 4 years old boy very healthy eating drinking active everything is normal
    He goes to poop more than 5 times a day . Before he was pooping twice a day and it was normal shape. Somedays he was complaining about soft tummy pain which goes away .Now he has runny bowel with normal colour it is already 10 days he is pooping like runny loose (no vomiting or fever at all )
    Shall i need take him to doctor or uts normal?

    Reply
  • My 4yr baby doing poop 5 times a day ..an after eating immediate she poop is that normal

    Reply
  • my daughter 12 yrs old, she went poop 4 times in a day upnormal and very bad smell coming, plz tell what i do

    Reply

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