As a parent, you probably observe the color of your baby’s poop each time you change their soiled diapers to make sure your baby is pooping right. Baby poop comes in different colors, textures, consistencies, and smells. Normal baby poop is either brown, tan, green, or yellow, and other-colored poops may also be observed in some cases (1).
The normal brown color of poop is due to the pigment bilirubin. This pigment is originally yellow when secreted from the liver into the small intestine, but as it passes through the intestines, it turns brown (2). However, other colored stools, such as red, black, or white, are uncommon in babies and a cause for worry.
In this post, we tell you about the causes of black stool in babies, if it is normal, when you should be worried, and what other-colored stools mean.
Is Black Stool In Babies Normal?
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).
What Causes Black Poop In Infants?
- Specific foods
Foods such as blueberries, licorice, oreo cookies, dark chocolate, and grape juice can give your baby’s poop a tarry black color.
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.
- 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
When To Seek Medical Attention For Black Poop In Babies?
If you find any of the following signs and symptoms along with your baby’s black poop, call their pediatrician right away (8).
- Blood in the stools
- Vomiting of blood
- Child looking pale
How Is Black Stool Managed In Babies?
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.
1. Red poop
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)
- A small anal tear
- Bacterial diarrhea
- Bleeding in the lower part of the digestive system
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 grey poop, seek medical advice right away.
3. Dark grey poop
A dark grey baby poop indicates that the baby is not digesting food properly. This is common in formula-fed babies.
4. Dark green poop
The color of your baby’s poop can reveal a lot about their health. Black stools are common in the first three days after a baby is born and not a cause for concern. However, if your baby is more than three days old and poops black stools, it may be due to food and medications that your baby is taking or due to bleeding in the digestive system.
In some rare cases, black stools can be due to bleeding in the digestive system. If it is accompanied by other symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.
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