White Poop In Babies: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment

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Parents pay close attention to their baby’s meals and milestones as well as their poop. While your baby’s poop color may vary depending on their food and feeding patterns, white poop in babies who are otherwise healthy is uncommon and can indicate a major problem.

The color of your baby’s feces reflects their general health and digestive system. Green, red, yellow, and other colors can be found in a baby’s poop. A newborn’s first poop is usually black, known as meconium, and is excreted in the first few days after birth (1). It’s also common for the color of the stool to vary with the baby’s age (2).

Read on to know the different causes, symptoms, and treatment options for white or pale stools in babies.

Causes Of White Poop In Babies

The stool color of normal babies is brown-yellow due to bilirubin in the liver. Bile is composed of bile pigments, such as bilirubin and biliverdin, and bile salts. Bilirubin is yellow-green when produced in the liver. However, it turns brown or dark brown in the stool as it travels down the gastrointestinal tract (3).

When you observe your baby’s poop white, it indicates insufficient bile due to liver dysfunction or ducts’ blockage that transports bile.

The causes for white poop in babies can be:

1. Obstructive cholestasis

Cholestasis is the medical term given to slow-moving or static bile. The most common cause is obstruction of the bile duct. This condition is called obstructive cholestasis. The ducts’ blockage in the liver can occur due to the following reasons:

  • Extrahepatic biliary atresia; it is the most common cause of obstructive cholestasis in 35%-45% of patients (4)
  • Narrow bile duct
  • Bile duct inflammation
  • Bile duct cyst
  • Liver infection
  • Neonatal sclerosing cholangitis
  • Cystic fibrosis (5)
  • Alagille syndrome; a chromosomal disorder characterized by a decrease in bile ducts, occurring in 1 in 70,000 live births (6)

2. Hepatocellular cholestasis

There is little or no bile produced due to damage to liver cells called hepatocytes, or bile cannot leave the liver cells that produce it. There can be many reasons for hepatocellular cholestasis:

  • Hepatitis
  • Certain medications
  • Genetic diseases, such as short bowel syndrome
  • Premature birth
  • Metabolic diseases

3. Medications

If your baby is prescribed an antacid containing aluminum hydroxide, or if the medicine contains barium sulfate from a barium enema, they may cause pale or white stools (7).

Symptoms That May Accompany White Stool In Babies

White stools indicate a problem with the baby’s liver. However, the white stool is not the only symptom of cholestasis. Other symptoms that cause white stools in babies include (8):

  • Jaundice, yellow skin, and eyes
  • Dark yellow urine
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Itching all over the body, especially palms and soles
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Gas
  • Foul-smelling stools
  • Abdominal cramps or pain

Is White Poop In Babies Dangerous?

It can be alarming if you observe pale or white poop in your baby’s diaper because it is not normal. White poop indicates possible problems with the baby’s liver, gall bladder, or the duct system that transports the bile to the intestines (9).

Bile accumulates in the liver because it fails to move from the digestive organ. This may damage the liver and cause liver cirrhosis (8). If your baby passes white stools more than twice, you may need to consult a pediatrician (10). Also, check for other symptoms. If your baby has abdominal pain, swelling or bloating, or diarrhea-like stools, it is recommended that you see a doctor immediately.

Treatment For White Poop In Babies

Before treating babies for white poop, you must identify the underlying cause. The baby will have to undergo certain diagnostic tests to diagnose the cause. It is important to identify the underlying cause of white colored stool. Some of the diagnostic tests include:

  • Blood tests
  • CT scan and/or MRI to examine the baby’s duct system associated with the liver
  • Ultrasound can give a clear picture of a baby’s abdominal organs

You must consider the following factors in the management of white poop:

  • Your baby’s age
  • The number and severity of symptoms
  • The baby’s medical history

Depending on the cause of the baby’s white poop, your doctor will treat it with medication, and in some cases, surgical intervention may be necessary. Before the baby is two months old, you must pay attention to biliary atresia (8). Once the underlying cause of the baby’s white poop is resolved, the color of the baby’s stool will return to normal.

White poop in babies may indicate insufficient bile, which may indicate problems with the liver, gallbladder, or the duct that carries bile to the intestines. It may occur due to obstructive cholestasis, hepatocellular cholestasis, or medications. You may notice jaundice, abnormal swelling, dark urine, and other symptoms in your baby that is when you should talk to your doctor about the condition. After properly diagnosing and considering the baby’s age, the severity of the condition, and medical history, doctors may suggest options, such as medications and surgeries. It is important to take prompt medical advice for a good prognosis and prevent complications.

Key Pointers

  • White poop in babies is not so common and could be a cause for concern.
  • Some possible causes of white poop are obstructive cholestasis, hepatocellular cholestasis, or medicines.
  • It could be accompanied by gas, diarrhea, abdominal swelling, and itching.

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. Anita Chandra-Puri, Quick Dose: When’s Your Baby Poop a Problem, Northwestern Medicine
2. Susan C. Kim, Kathleen Romito & John Pope, Bowel Movements in Babies, Michigan Medicine- University of Michigan
3. The Poop Palette: What Do All of These Colors Mean?, Nationwide Children’s
4. Monica D’Amato et al., Cholestasis in Pediatrics, Revista Colombiana de Gastroenterologia
5. Cholestasis, Boston’s Children’s Hospital
6. Amy G. Feldman, Ronald J. Sokol, Neonatal Cholestasis, Neoreviews
7. Stools- Unusual Color, Children’s Hospital Colorado
8. Cholestasis, CHOC
9. The Color of Baby Poop and What it Means, Cleveland Clinic
10.Stools- Unusual Color, Seattle Children’s Hospital
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Dr. Priya Thomas

(MD)
Dr. Priya Thomas is a board-certified pediatrician practicing in Alpharetta, Georgia. She grew up in Kerala and completed her undergraduate degree at Georgia State University and medical education at Medical College of Georgia. Dr. Thomas has a special interest in mental health of children and she recently completed a mini fellowship in mental health. She lives with her husband and... more

Dr. Meenakshi Maruwada

Dr. Meenakshi is a dentist and a passionate writer with over eight years of experience in dentistry and four years in writing. She started her career as a dentist with a dental chain in Mumbai and soon rose to lead the clinic as a Head Dentist. She then switched to working for two start-ups in healthcare, before beginning her own... more