Blood in an infant’s stool can sometimes be nothing more than a reaction to a certain food.
However, on the other hand, it could also be a sign of a more dangerous infection or perhaps an anal tear, and might require a trip to the emergency room. Either way, it’s always best to get it checked.
Similarly, some amount of mucus is considered normal in an infant’s stool, but an excess amount – especially when accompanied by blood – needs to be checked, as it could also signify an infection or problem with the digestive tract.
Common reasons for blood/mucus in a baby’s stool
- Infections: Infections caused by bacteria such as Salmonella or E.Coli often lead to blood or/and excess mucus in the stool. Sometimes, the stools can be loose as well (diarrhoea), and baby may also have fever, vomiting and a tender belly.
- Diet: Reaction to certain foods: Some foods result in a harmless color change in the baby’s stool. This is due to the proteins found in certain foods like cow’s milk and soy. Although this is not a serious medical concern, it is advisable to temporarily eliminate these foods from baby’s diet as it could lead to dehydration and poor weight gain. This type of food reaction is known as Food Protein-Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome (FPIES).
Foods such as beetroots and tomatoes can also cause colored stools. These, however, pose no cause for concern.
- Anal Tears (Fissures): Often, small tears in the lining of the anus can cause blood in the baby’s stool. The anal tissues are extremely delicate, especially in the case of a baby, and contain many small blood vessels. Sometimes, passing a hard stool could cause these tissues to tear, leading to blood in the stool.
- Problem with the Digestive Tract/ Colon: If there is a lot of blood or continuous bleeding, it is most likely an issue with the digestive tract. Known as Intussusception, this occurs when a part of the bowel slides inside the digestive tract, causing a blockage. Other symptoms include colic-type of pain and vomiting. This is a serious condition and requires immediate medical attention.Colitis – inflammation of the colon – is another common reason for large amounts of blood or mucus in a baby’s stool.
- Blood transported through breastfeeding: If the mother has a cracked or bleeding nipple, then the baby may ingest some blood whilst breastfeeding, which will then show up in his stool. This is not harmful to the baby.
- Oversupply of breast milk: This is not a common cause neither is it a relatively known one, but according to breastfeeding experts at Kellymom.com, an oversupply of breast milk can sometimes cause bloody stools in babies.
- Vitamins: Certain vitamins can also cause mucus or blood in a baby’s stool.
The color of your baby’s stool can reveal the cause…
- The color of your baby’s stool can often help you determine the cause of the problem. Babycenter provides a detailed guide:
- If the blood in the stool is a bright red or dark maroon, it usually signifies a problem with the digestive tract.
- Black stools with a tar like consistency imply that there has been dried blood in the intestines.
- If there is diarrhoea mixed with red blood, it could indicate a bacterial infection.
- If the stool seems normal but is tinged with red blood, it is probably a milk protein allergy.
- If the stool is hard and has a hint of blood, it is most likely a result of tears in the anus.
- Black poop in little specks (that look like mustard seeds) could mean that the blood is ingested and digested (due to swallowing blood from the mother’s cracked nipples during breastfeeding).
Does it require medical attention?
Blood and/or mucus in a baby’s stool is a sign that something is amiss.
While some causes might not be serious and can be easily treated, others could signify a larger problem and be detrimental to baby’s health and well-being.
Hence, it is advisable to call your doctor right away and get your baby examined. It’s better to be safe than sorry, correct?
What can I do to prevent/ stop the bleeding?
If the cause of the blood or mucus in your baby’s stool is not severe, and if baby is otherwise healthy, here are a few things you can do to prevent further bleeding.
- If it’s a case of diet-related bleeding, the simplest solution is to change baby’s diet. Milk is often the culprit, so eliminating cow’s milk and other dairy products from the baby’s diet or mother’s diet (if baby is exclusively breastfed) can help. If baby is formula fed, you can try changing the formula.
- The most common cause of colitis in young babies (which sometimes leads to blood or mucus in the stool) is food allergy. Giving your baby only breast milk and nothing else for the first six months is the best way to reduce the risk of colitis.
- Always be careful when introducing any new food to your baby. Give only a little amount the first few times and look out for signs of an allergy or a reaction to the food such as vomiting or diarrhoea. Eggs, peanuts and soy are the most common foods to cause allergies in babies.
- If the bleeding is caused due to anal fissures, it could mean your baby is constipated. Increasing water consumption (or if baby is formula-fed, increase the water:formula ratio) and giving baby prunes, prune juice or fruit juice will help ease the constipation. Foods such as spinach, broccoli, pears and high-fibre cereals can also help in producing smooth bowels.
- If the bloody stools are due to an oversupply of milk while breastfeeding, a simple measure is to let baby have more of the fatty ‘hind milk’. In order to ensure that happens, let baby finish the first breast before switching to the other.
In conclusion, regularly check your baby’s stools to see if there are any abnormalities, excess mucus or blood in it. Abnormal stools indicate a problem, so be aware.