Black Poop In Babies: Is It Normal, Causes And When To worry 

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Parents often observe the color of their baby’s poop to ensure that they are pooping right. However, a change in poop’s color, such as black poop in babies, can raise concerns.

Baby poop can be of different textures, colors, smells, and consistencies. They can usually be seen in green, yellow, tan, brown, and some other colors as well (1). The usual color should be brown because of the bilirubin pigment secreted from the liver. The bilirubin flows into the small intestines and turns brown as it passes through the small intestines (2). However, any other color of poop in babies could be due to an underlying condition and may require doctor consultation.

Read on to know about black stool in babies, including its cause, meaning behind the colors, and when you should worry.

Is Black Stool In Babies Normal?

Black poop caused by food is normal

Image: iStock

While black poop is common in newborns, you should be concerned if you notice it in your baby who is over three days old (3).

The first stool of newborns is called meconium. This sticky stool consists of amniotic fluid, intestinal epithelial cells, lanugo, mucus, bile, and water swallowed in utero. Meconium is often black, green, brown, or yellow and passed 24 to 48 hours following birth.

Several reasons could cause your baby to poop black or tarry stools. While black stools in babies can often be caused by food and medications, which is normal, black stools due to other reasons, such as bleeding in the stomach or any part of their digestive system or gastrointestinal tract, warrants immediate medical attention (4).

If your baby’s black poop is accompanied by a foul smell, it often signals a problem in your baby’s upper digestive tract (5).

Quick fact
The passage of meconium reduces your baby’s risk of developing jaundice. Formula-fed babies take longer to pass meconium than breastfed babies because the first milk colostrum acts as a laxative (6).

What Causes Black Poop In Infants?

Blueberries can cause black poop in babies

Image: Shutterstock

The most common causes of black poop in infants include (4) (6)

  • Specific foods

Foods such as blueberries, licorice, oreo cookies, dark chocolate, and grape juice can give your baby’s poop a tarry black color.

  • Medications

Iron supplements and bismuth-containing medicines, such as Pepto-Bismol, can cause black poop in your baby. These are generally not a cause for concern.

  • Digested blood

In some cases, babies digest blood that appears as black poop. This can occur if the baby is breastfeeding and has swallowed blood from the mother’s cracked, bleeding nipples.

These causes are usually not concerning. However, black poop can also result from bleeding in the baby’s digestive tract. The bleeding can occur either in the upper or lower gastrointestinal tract.

Some concerning causes of back poop in babies include (7) (8)

  • Bleeding in the esophagus, stomach, or upper part of the baby’s small intestine
  • Gastritis — inflammation of the stomach lining
  • Intolerance to milk protein
  • Complications of the liver, such as cirrhosis
  • Clotting disorders
  • Polyps

When To Seek Medical Attention For Black Poop In Babies?

Visit doctor if black poop is accompanied by fever

Image: Shutterstock

If you find any of the following signs and symptoms along with your baby’s black poop, call their pediatrician right away (8).

  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Fever
  • Blood in the stools
  • Vomiting of blood
  • Child looking pale

How To Manage Black Stools In Babies?

Discontinue food or medicine causing black stool

Image: Shutterstock

The treatment for your baby’s black poop depends on the cause.

  • If your baby’s black poop results from taking a food item, discontinuing the food item can help resolve the problem.
  • If the black stool is due to a medication, the healthcare provider may either stop or prescribe an alternative medicine to resolve the problem.
  • If your baby presents other symptoms, the underlying cause needs to be identified and resolved. Diagnostic tests along with medical history and other investigations may be required to determine the cause of your baby’s black poop.

Other Colors Of Baby Poop

Apart from black, the following are other baby poop colors that may indicate an underlying problem.

indicate an underlying problem.

1. Red poop

Constipation can cause red poop in babies

Image: iStock

Also called bloody stools, 90% of red baby poop is not a result of bleeding. A large number of foods can cause your baby’s poop to turn red. These include beetroot, cranberries, tomato-based foods, and red Jell-O. However, this is usually harmless and disappears with a change in diet (4).

In a few cases, red streaks on your baby’s diaper may indicate something more serious, such as (9)

  • Constipation
  • A small anal tear
  • Bacterial diarrhea
  • Bleeding in the lower part of the digestive system
  • Hemorrhoids
Be watchful
See a doctor if your baby’s red poop is accompanied by pink-colored urine, stomach pain, or rectal injury (9).

2. White poop

This happens if your baby isn’t producing enough bile. Chalky white stools are a cause for concern as they may indicate a liver or gallbladder problem (7). If you notice your baby passing white or pale gray poop, seek medical advice right away.

3. Dark gray poop

A dark gray baby poop indicates that the baby is not digesting food properly. This is common in formula-fed babies.

4. Dark green poop

While green baby stool is normal, watery green poop can cause worry. Green watery baby poop is common with diarrhea and needs to be treated immediately (9).

Point to consider
Sometimes, the presence of bile may cause dark green stool, which may look black due to poor lighting. Since the dark green color is normal, don’t get alarmed (4).

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can formula cause black stool in babies?

Babies consuming an iron-fortified formula may sometimes pass dark green or greenish-black stools (3).

2. Does black stool in babies go away?

Black stool in babies can self-resolve in a day to a few days, depending on the underlying cause. If the baby shows black stool with other signs of poor health, consult a doctor.

3. Can bananas cause black poop in babies?

Bananas usually don’t cause black poop. However, you may notice black threads in your baby’s poop if they eat bananas. Those threads are the center part of the banana (10).

Black poop in babies is common for the first three days of life and is usually not a cause for concern. However, if your baby is older than three days and still passes black stool, it may be due to underlying factors, such as food or medications your baby is taking or digested blood. In some rare cases, black stools can be due to bleeding in the digestive system. Hence, consult your doctor promptly if the black stools are accompanied by other symptoms, such as fever, blood in the stools, or lightheadedness.

Infographic: Uncommon Causes Of Black Poop

For most new parents, spotting an unusual infant poop color could raise concerns. Dark-colored baby poop is normal in the initial days after birth, but a few specific conditions that lead to black poop need to be treated in time. This infographic may help you understand the more severe causes of a baby’s dark or black stools.

causes associated with black poop in babies [infographic]
Illustration: MomJunction Design Team

Key Pointers

  • Black poop is common in babies and could be due to medications or food.
  • You can manage it by discontinuing either a specific food or medication.
  • Consult a doctor if you notice it for three or more days.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
1. Bowel Movements in Babies; Regents of the University of Michigan
2. The Poop Palette: What Do All of Those Colors Mean?; Nationwide Children’s Hospital
3. The Color of Baby Poop and What It Means; Cleveland Clinic
4. Stools – Unusual Color; Seattle Children’s Hospital
5. Black or tarry stools; MedlinePlus
6. “The Scoop on Poop”; Manitoba Government
7. What can your child’s poop color tell you?; Johns Hopkins Medicine
8. Bloody or Tarry Stools; Nicklaus Children’s Hospital
9. Stools – Blood In; Seattle Children’s Hospital
10. Starting Solid Foods; UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital
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