There is little more concerning than noticing that your baby’s poop seems like something from an old horror film. It may have streaks of blood or be globby and mucusy, and you’re understandably worried about your baby’s health.
Baby stool can change colors, textures, and appearances with frequency, and it’s often normal to see it different from one day to the next. But how can you know when something more serious is going on?
Both breastfed and formula fed babies can have blood and mucus in their stool, though it’s slightly more common in breastfeeding babies.
Also, take into account if your baby is six months or older and eating solid food.
This article will tell you why blood and mucus appear in your baby’s stool, when you can stop worrying, when you need to take your baby to a pediatrician, and everything within your capabilities you can do to prevent blood and mucus in their stool if needed.
First Things First: Take Note Of The Following
Note the amount of blood, whether it appears bright red or dark brown or black, and how frequently you see blood in your baby’s diapers.
Pay attention to whether there is mucus with the blood or not.
Record your baby’s level of fussiness throughout the day and any other symptoms that create concerns for you.
Think about what your baby has consumed, such as breast milk, formula, or solid foods, and write that down as well.
Oftentimes the cause of blood and mucus in your baby’s stool is benign and will resolve within 24 hours.
If it hasn’t, and depending on whether or not your baby shows other symptoms, it may be time to make an appointment with a pediatrician.
Here’s an overview article that’s an excellent read about this issue from Seattle Children’s Hospital.
Causes Of Blood In Baby Stool
Blood in your baby’s stool can occur in a lot of different situations.
Most of them aren’t serious and can be remedied with a little effort and some extra support.
Below you’ll find the most common reasons your baby has blood in their stool and what you can do to make sure your little one is healthy and comfortable.
1) Cracked Nipples
If you’re breastfeeding your baby, and especially during the early weeks after they’re born, your nipples may crack and even bleed.
When your baby suckles at your breast, they might get small amounts of blood with your milk, which will show up in their diaper as dark brown or very dark red streaks or particles.
This is old blood which has oxidized on its way through your baby’s system.
It isn’t harmful, but you may find that your baby spits up more after feeding and that there is some blood in their spit up as well.
This should resolve once your nipples have healed and are no longer bleeding.
Healing cracked nipples and continuing to breastfeed is easier said than done. You don’t have to stop breastfeeding to heal cracked nipples.
First and foremost, cracked and bleeding nipples is a sign of a poor latch, so be sure to get help from a certified lactation consultant if breastfeeding hurts.
Second, nurse often so your baby doesn’t get too hungry and nurse aggressively.
Third, try pumping for a minute or two before nursing so your nipple elongates and your baby doesn’t have to work so hard to latch on.
After your baby has eaten, pat your nipples dry or let them air out for a few minutes.
You can use a 100% Lanolin salve, but avoid other creams, as they may make the condition of your nipples worsen or be harmful to your baby.
Keep your pads and bra clean and dry, and keep feeding your little one!
2) Anal Fissure
This condition sounds more serious than it is.
Adults get them all the time, and so do kids and infants.
An anal fissure is a tiny abrasion, or tear, inside the anus and causes bright red streaks in your baby’s stool or diaper.
This can happen when your baby strains to poop or has particularly thick, constipated stool, possibly with undigested bits of food inside.
Watch your baby to make sure they don’t pick non-food items off the floor and eat them, and make sure the foods they eat are soft and cut into small pieces.
Also be sure your baby has plenty of fluids to keep their stool soft.
An anal fissure should (usually) heal quickly on its own.
3) Infant Colitis
This medical-sounding term means your baby’s bowels or intestines are irritated, causing streaks of bright red blood to appear in their stool.
This is most often caused by your baby having an allergy. The first line of prevention is to only feed them breastmilk or formula for the first six months of their life.
When breastfeeding, anything the mother eats can pass to her baby through her milk, causing the baby to have a reaction. Dairy is the most common allergy in babies.
With an allergy, your baby’s poop will be a normal texture with streaks of red in it.
If an allergy is suspected, then try eliminating dairy (ice cream, cheese, milk, yogurt, etc.) for 2-3 weeks, and see if your baby’s stool clears up.
If so, dairy may be the culprit and you will want to keep it off limits for your little one’s comfort and well-being.
Other common allergies include wheat, eggs, and peanuts. Eliminate them one at a time from your diet to figure out which one might be the cause.
Mothers of infants that suspect an allergy may wish to wean their baby and feed them with formula instead of breastfeeding. Most formulas on the market are made with whey, which is a form of dairy, so your baby’s condition may worsen if you make the switch.
You can find a dairy-free formula or eliminate dairy from your own diet and continue breastfeeding.
If you try formula, be sure to keep pumping for a few weeks to keep up your supply, just in case your baby has an adverse reaction to the formula you try and you need to return to breastfeeding.
Note from Dr. Leah Alexander, M.D., F.A.A.P.: “Here is an article discussing the pathophysiology of milk protein allergy.
Also, here are two patient-friendly articles that are worth a read as well:
Parents should always consult with a doctor before trying hypoallergenic formulas.”
Infant Colitis can also be caused by a viral or bacterial infection, so it’s important to have your baby seen by a doctor if there is blood in their stool, especially if it’s accompanied by a fever or other symptoms.
The good news is that breast milk can help heal an inflamed digestive system in a baby, so where possible it’s recommended that you continue nursing them.
When you have an overactive supply of milk, your baby may get bloody stools.
Dr. Jack Newman, an expert on breastfeeding, discovered that when a mother’s supply was regulated using various means, the blood stopped appearing in the baby’s stool.
5) Vitamins or Fluoride Drops
Some supplements, like Iron or Fluoride, can cause side effects like constipation or blood and mucus in your baby’s stool.
This can be resolved by finding an alternative to the drops and no longer letting your baby ingest them.
Note from Dr. Leah Alexander, M.D., F.A.A.P.: “I cannot find any research that shows fluoride causes blood or mucus in stools, unless it was a situation of excessive exposure.
The fluoride vitamin supplements prescribed in New Jersey and Oregon (the only states without municipal water fluoridation) are given at an age-appropriate dose, not high enough to cause toxicity or GI bleeding.
Here is the only article that makes any mention of GI bleeding: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5651468/
As for iron supplements, it should be made very clear that any blood seen is most likely related to constipation and bleeding from a fissure or straining, not the iron itself.”
6) “Currant Jelly” Stool
If blood in your baby’s poop continues to increase in amount or mixes with mucus to create a red, currant-jelly-like substance, this requires an immediate visit to the doctor as it may indicate something very serious.
Mucus In Baby Stool
Similarly to finding blood in your baby’s stool, finding mucus isn’t that unusual and in most cases isn’t anything to be concerned about.
Mucus in stool looks like strands or globs of a glistening clear or white substance and sometimes accompanies green-colored stool.
Below you’ll find the main reasons your baby’s poop is slimier than usual and what you can do about it.
Note that mucus in your baby’s stool has many of the same causes as blood in the stool, and the two often happen together. If you only see mucus in your baby’s diaper without blood, here are a few reasons why:
1) Teething or Excessive Drooling
When babies are teething, they drool in puddles.
Some drool more than others, and you might see them wearing those cute handkerchiefs or bibs to keep their clothes from getting soaked through.
What you see come out the front is only a small portion of the actual saliva their mouth produces while they are cutting teeth.
Your baby also swallows copious amounts of drool, which ends up in their stomach and, eventually, their diaper.
This extra saliva can prevent your baby’s intestines from absorbing properly, making them a little irritated or inflamed.
Other than the slight diaper rash that might be present, this is not harmful at all to your baby and will stop when they have finished teething.
2) Infection or Allergy
As mentioned above for blood in your baby’s stool, an infection or allergy can cause mucus to be in the stool as well.
Watch your baby’s reactions, take notes, and make an appointment with your pediatrician if something seems amiss.
Note from Dr. Leah Alexander, M.D., F.A.A.P.: “An upper respiratory infection is also a cause for mucous in the stool.
Clinically, I see this frequently and spend a good amount of time reassuring parents about it.
It occurs because infants and toddlers cannot blow their noses or cough/spit out mucus from post-nasal drip. Since they swallow it, the mucus is expelled via the stools.”
Wrapping It Up
Seeing blood and mucus in your baby’s diaper can be alarming, but there is usually no need for panic.
Some babies might have an intestinal condition that requires surgery or other medical care, but those cases are very rare.
If your baby is active, happy, and eating well, then a little blood or mucus in their diaper is most likely nothing to be concerned about and will pass within a few days.
Other than that, feel free to talk to your doctor about what you’re seeing for reassurance purposes.