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Blood in Baby Stool: What You Should Do

It can be alarming to see blood in baby stool. Any parent would be concerned and worry about the causes. Here’s what to do when you notice this symptom.

A baby having blood in their poop

Reasons for blood in baby stool? 

The following are common causes for blood in baby stool.

Food allergies

Blood in infant stool might be a sign that the baby is suffering from allergic colitis, a condition in which the baby has an allergic reaction to protein that makes its way into breast milk after the mother consumes milk and breastfeeds the baby.

Depending on how sensitive the baby is to the milk, the allergic reaction may result in colon inflammation that causes a little blood to find its way into the baby's stool. Even though cow's milk is the most common source of colitis, goat milk and soy milk have also been known to trigger the allergy.

Anal fissures

Anal fissures or tears are among the most common causes of blood in baby stool. When the baby passes stool that is too hard or runny, it can break down the fragile tissue that lines the baby’s anus. In many cases, a diet of only milk tends to result in runny stool.

Home treatment is usually effective for anal fissures, and they can heal in a few days. If they are taking too long to heal, your doctor can provide treatment to speed up the healing process. Anal fissures don’t lead to other severe health problems. However, if the blood in the stool persists, consult the doctor.

Infection of the intestine

Intestinal infection can occur due to any one of a variety of bacteria, including Campylobacter jejuni, E coli, salmonella, shigella, staphylococcus, and Yersinia. The inflammation caused by these infections may result in tiny tears, which in turn lead to blood in your baby’s stool. Note that bacteria in the stool of an infected baby can be transmitted to another person if they don’t practice proper hygiene.

Blood from the mother

Blood in baby stool might be from the mother’s sore, cracked nipples. Maternal blood from delivery can also cause blood in stools of babies. The blood appears in the stool after the baby ingests some of the mother’s blood as it breastfeeds. Maternal blood isn’t toxic to the baby.

Intestinal disorders

A baby having intestinal disorder

Intestinal disorders such as colitis can lead to inflammation of the colon’s inner lining, though this condition is quite rare. 

The more common one is intussusception, when part of the colon telescopes into itself and leads to blood in baby stool. Intussusception symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating, vomiting, vane, and bloody stool. This condition requires quick treatment.

Symptoms include abdominal pain which may wax and wane, vomiting, bloating, and bloody stool

Blood in newborn stool

When you notice blood in baby stools, continue to monitor it for a few days. There are several causes for blood showing up in baby poop. Some of these reasons aren’t cause for alarm, while others need medical attention.

Before concluding that it's blood you see, think about what foods your baby has recently eaten. The digestive system of an infant is not yet mature. For that reason, food that your baby eats may not change much, even after going through the digestive system. So your baby's poop can take on different colors, including red after eating tomatoes or beets.

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How do you treat blood in baby stool? 

In most cases, the cause for blood in baby poop is small tears in sensitive tissue. These tears are typically the result of extremely hard poop or explosive poop. The blood in these cases usually appears as a long streak or a spot on a specific area of the stool.

Generally, these cases heal quickly. However, the pediatrician may suggest using a glycerin suppository to lubricate the baby's rectum. The doctor may also suggest application of steroid ointment or the use of a warm saline bath. In some cases, fiber-rich diet and drinking more liquid may be of good help.

Is there a treatment for blood in infant stool?

Blood in baby stool is not usually serious, but it's a good idea to talk to a pediatrician. The first step to treating blood in your baby's stool is determining the cause. Check if the blood is bright or dark red. Take into account foods that the baby has recently eaten. Check for other symptoms such as abdominal pain, fever, vomiting, and diarrhea, and call your doctor right away if the baby presents more severe symptoms.

Red poop in babies: what's the cause?

Observe the appearance of the baby's blood in the stool and note if it appears in specific areas or throughout the stool. Also, note if it's a red stripe or streak as this can indicate the cause of the problem. For example, a red streak might be the result of a small tear in the anal tissue, while blood spread throughout the baby poop might result from a different issue such as an intestinal infection.

Should you call a doctor?

Call a doctor immediately if your baby appears severely ill, shows signs of abdominal pain, or cries excessively.

Here are other situations when you should call the doctor right away:

  • Presence of excess blood in baby stool
  • You suspect that there may be an injury to the baby's rectum or anus
  • You notice blood in the baby's stool on more than two occasions
  • The baby has diarrhea
  • The baby is under 12 weeks old
  • The baby’s stool appears tarry or black

If you don't observe any of the above symptoms in your baby, then it's not an emergency and you can wait to call your doctor during regular working hours. It's a good idea to collect a sample of the blood in your baby's stool and bring it with you to the doctor’s office.

If you see blood in your baby's stool, careful observation can help you determine the cause. You may need to change your baby's diet to relieve simple digestive issues. However, if the cause is more serious, you should see a doctor who can diagnose the problem and provide the appropriate treatment.

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/johns-hopkins-childrens-center/what-we-treat/specialties/gastroenterology-hepatology-nutrition/stool-color-overview.html

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/diapers-clothing/Pages/Babys-First-Bowel-Movements.aspx

https://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/diarrhea/basics/definition/sym-20050926

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK431078/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27080713

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