Causes and Advice for Blood in a Baby's Stool

It's alarming but usually not serious

Baby having his diaper changed
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If you notice a small amount of blood in your baby's stool, you're likely wondering what's causing it and if you should be concerned. Here's what to do when you see ​this distressing symptom.

Observe Your Baby's Stool for Blood

In the days ahead, monitor your baby's stool. Blood that appears in baby poop can have several causes, some of which aren't alarming and some that may require medical attention.

Before you assume that what you saw was blood, think about what foods your baby recently ate. Because their digestive systems are immature, the food babies eat may not change very much before it's eliminated. That why their stools can take on every shade of the rainbow, including red if food like beets and tomatoes were eaten.

Note if the blood is mixed throughout the poop, appears only in one isolated spot, or looks like a red streak or stripe. How the blood appears in the baby stool may help indicate the source of the problem. For instance, a streak may indicate that there's a tiny tear in the anal tissue, whereas blood that's more marbled throughout the stool may signal a different kind of problem. If the blood continues to appear in the stool, call your doctor and describe what you're seeing.

Causes 

Here are just a few reasons why your baby may have blood in his stool:

  • Anal fissures: These small tears are the most common cause of blood in baby's stool. They can occur when a baby passes a hard stool or if she has a more runny stool, which abrades the sensitive tissue that lines her anus. It's generally believed that a milk-only diet causes a more runny stool.
  • Food allergy: Babies can be allergic to a protein in the milk their mother drinks and that passes into her breast milk, a condition called allergic colitis. If the baby is very sensitive to milk it can lead to inflammation in the colon that causes his poo to be tinged with blood. Cow's milk is the top allergen, but soy milk and goat milk can also trigger the reaction.
  • Maternal blood from delivery or from cracked, sore nipples: The baby may ingest some blood while breastfeeding that then shows up in his stool. This isn't harmful to the baby.
  • Intestinal infection: Various bacterial infections, including Shigella, Salmonella, E. Coli, or Campylobacter, can cause intestinal inflammation that leads to tiny ruptures that lead blood into your baby's poop. 
  • Intestinal disorder: Colitis, an inflammation of the inner lining of the colon, and intussusception, which occurs when one portion of the bowel slides into the next, can cause blood in a baby's stool.
  • Oversupply of breast milk: Besides sometimes leading to stools that are mucousy, greenish, and explosive, having too much milk may also cause bloody stools in babies.

Should You Call Your Doctor?

Call your doctor right away if your child appears to be very sick, has abdominal pain, or is crying. Other reasons to call immediately:

  • There's a large amount of blood in your baby's stool.
  • Your baby has diarrhea.
  • You've seen the blood more than twice.
  • The stool is black or tarry.
  • Your baby is under 12 weeks old.
  • There was an injury to the anus or rectum.

You can wait to call the doctor for a day during their regular office hours if your baby doesn't have the above symptoms. Try to save a sample of the blood in the stool for testing.

Treatment 

In most instances, the issue is likely the small tear, possibly caused by a particularly explosive poop that you may have noted or by a very hard stool. If this is the case, the blood will likely appear as a spot or a long streak in the stool. These generally heal quickly, but your doctor may suggest lubricating your baby's rectum with a glycerin suppository, using a warm saline bath, or steroid ointment. If constipation is the cause, explore options for a non-constipating diet.

If your baby's issue is not an anal tear, your doctor will be able to advise appropriate treatment once a diagnosis is made.

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