When you are first getting acquainted with your little one, there is a lot of staring into their sweet eyes, relishing their soft skin — and wondering what the hell just came out of their diaper. Whether it's explosive, smelly, funky colors, or all of the above, it's not always easy to pin down what's going on with your baby's bathroom habits. But what about their urine? Are there rules about frequency and color? If you're wondering, then here's what the color of your baby's pee can tell you, according to experts.
You might be surprised at just how aware of pee and poop you will become as a parent when it comes to taking care of your baby and their health. In terms of how often your baby should be peeing, every infant will be different. “Babies can really vary in the frequency of urination depending on their bladder capacity and intake,” Dr. Kelly Fradin, M.D., fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics (FAAP), pediatrician, and author of Advice I Give My Friends newsletter, tells Romper. “Some babies seem like ‘camels’ and can pee three to four times a day, whereas others pee eight to 10 times a day.”
In general, when it comes to healthy newborn urine, the rules are pretty fluid (pun intended). That being said, there are some things to look out for and general guidelines to keep in mind. For more on what different colors of baby urine might mean, read on.
Light yellow urine
We all pretty much know what urine is supposed to look like on a typical day — and the same goes for babies. "Urine is usually yellow," Dr. Danelle Fisher, M.D., FAAP, and chair of pediatrics at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, tells Romper. Fisher notes, however, that urine does concentrate overnight, so first morning diapers may seem more pungent than the rest of the day, but that should resolve as the baby drinks fluid.
While baby urine should typically be a light yellow, "the more concentrated it is, the more dark yellow it is,” Dr. Gina Posner, M.D., pediatrician at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, explains. Slightly darker yellow urine, especially in the morning, should be no cause for pause.
Baby pee that is red in color could signify serious conditions. “Worrisome colors of urine include brown or red, which could indicate blood in the urine,” Fisher says.
According to a 2014 study published in the Italian Journal of Pediatrics, red urine in children may signify disorders such as urinary tract infections, hereditary cystic renal diseases, or glomerulonephritis (inflammation and damage to the filtering part of the kidneys). However, it could also simply be a result of medications or food coloring that a baby consumed.
If you don’t immediately know why your baby’s pee would be red, you should visit a medical provider. “Red in the urine could signify blood, so you would always want to bring a baby in to get her or his urine tested if it ever appears red," Posner tells Romper.
Green, pink, or orange urine
More often than not, the hue of your baby’s urine is just being slightly altered based on the food they are eating. “Sometimes urine will be darker or lighter depending on hydration status, but the foods we eat and drinks we consume also impact our urine color, sometimes shifting it to brighter shades of yellow or even green,” Fradin explains.
Additionally, if you are breastfeeding your baby, then certain foods, food dyes, herbs, and vitamin supplements you consume may also change the color of your breast milk, and therefore turn your newborn's urine green, pink, or orange.
Dark yellow urine
Dark yellow urine isn’t usually a problem, but if you’re noticing a consistent pattern, you might want to take a closer look. Urine that looks darker and smells stronger than usual can sometimes be a sign of dehydration, especially if it is paired with other symptoms and behaviors. “Babies who are dehydrated may cry without tears [and] may have tacky lips and tongue rather than moist,” Fradin says. “Babies who are dehydrated are typically more fatigued and ‘down’ than a baby who is well hydrated.”
Dehydration in babies
Signs of serious dehydration include sunken eyes, excessive sleepiness or fussiness, or sunken fontanels (the soft spots on your baby's head). If your baby shows signs of severe dehydration, you should immediately visit the emergency room. “When a doctor sees a child, they will also look at capillary refill, or how quickly the skin color bounces back after a firm touch, and the baby’s heart rate as other indicators,” Fradin says.
Of course, the solution to dehydration is drinking proper amounts of water. “Once a baby is over 6 months, free access to water during the day should be provided, and a child's thirst will typically drive adequate hydration in the heat,” Fradin explains. “Under 6 months, sometimes parents will have to adjust and feed formula or breast milk on demand to meet the hydration needs of younger babies.”
Preventing dehydration becomes especially important when your infant is exposed to hot weather or becomes ill. “Infants have a decreased ability to sweat and cool themselves at extreme temperatures, and car seats and strollers can add to their temperature load,” Fradin says. “For babies who are sick, if they are taking in less than half of the volume or taking in the same amount while putting out more fluids than normal (e.g. diarrhea), I'd encourage parents to speak with their pediatrician to ensure they get what they need to recover from their illness and maximize their comfort.”
All this being said, baby and newborn urine color shouldn’t be the only thing parents use as a marker of how healthy or unhealthy their child is. “Parents should look more at their child's overall health than their urine color to determine their health,” Fradin says. “Even if the urine smells strong or ‘bad,’ it's less likely to indicate a concern than a child with pain with urination or fever.” As with all medical concerns, reach out to a pediatrician if you have any questions.
Ultimately, what happens in your baby's diaper is pretty important, and you might surprise yourself by how frequently you begin discussing poop, pee, and everything in between once your little one arrives. After all, kids have a way of turning the most "Oh, I will never ..." of us into parents who say things like, "Ah, it's just pee — at least it's sterile." Hey, no one said parenting wasn't messy, right?
Pecoraro, C., & Luongo, I. (2014). Red urine in children. Italian Journal of Pediatrics, 40(Suppl 1), A19. https://doi.org/10.1186/1824-7288-40-S1-A19
Dr. Danelle Fisher, M.D., FAAP, and chair of pediatrics at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California
Dr. Gina Posner, M.D., pediatrician at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California
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