Why is My Child’s Poop Black (or Red, Green, Yellow…)?

Hi everyone, Nurse Kim here. Let’s talk about kid poop. 💩  Green poop, yellow poop, orange poop, purple poop. Everybody poops. 

Some poop looks abnormal, but can be totally fine. Have you ever seen a poop that looks wormy? 🐛 It was probably from the banana you fed your baby last night 🍌. Think banana bread. There. Now stop endlessly googling worm poop! 

And I don’t care about green poop, or the rainbow poop your kid may have the day after his first birthday (frosting anyone?) 🌈🎂 We also don’t need to see a sample of last night’s brown poop or squishy yellow poop. We know corn 🌽  comes out whole, and so do seeds and berries.

So when should we worry about poop?

In kids, we really care most about white poop, red poop or black poop.

Black Stools in Children

Now black poop has to be black. Think black crayon 🖍. If it looks like coffee ☕️  grounds, we should talk. Dark poop means that there can be bleeding in your digestive tract. The darker it is, the higher up the in the GI tract the bleeding was likely to occur. 

If you noticed poop looking like black tar, coffee grounds, or black spots or specs then it’s time to discuss this with a medical provider. If you ate blueberries as a snack or black beans for dinner, then take a deep breath and look again the next time they poop. If you still think the poop is black and it isn’t from particles of food, then bring that babe 👶🏼  in and we can test the poop… This time, save the sample! You can put the sample in a small tupperware or keep it in the diaper—most providers just need a small smear to check for blood. If specific tests are needed, you may be sent home with specific instructions and containers.

Kids and Constipation

Kids love milk 🥛 and cheese 🧀. Dairy food can cause constipation, especially if you eat or drink excessive amounts. Lots of hard, large poops that are tough to push out can cause kids to get little tears around their bum. These are called anal fissures and are common in constipated preschool and toddler aged children. When a child has an anal fissure we can sometimes see little streaks of blood in their poop. Blood in the poop can be very scary. Take a deep breath and take a look around. If you see a little crack (on their bum hole) and you know their poops have been hard, this is likely the source of blood. Changing their diet by introducing more fruits and fiber, while giving them less dairy, can help immensely to soften up poops.

To soften stools in children, think “P” fruits—peaches 🍑, pears, plums, and prunes. A little Aquaphor or Vaseline applied topically can help soften up the skin, too. If you do these things and still see blood after a day or two, have someone check this out at your doctor’s office. If it’s just chunks of tomato skin 🍅, no worries. We won’t judge.

If you see a lot of blood (like blood filling the toilet bowl or diaper, or dripping blood), or your child also develops a fever or vomiting, you should be seen by your medical provider right away. 🚑

Red Stools in Children

Red jelly poop and a cranky baby can be serious. Did you drop a glob of raspberry jelly on the diaper? Yes? Phew. Then relax! 🤣  Does your baby cry off and on all day, seem uncomfortable, not herself, or did you notice a jelly-like reddish poop? Then it’s time to head on over to see your doctor or go to the emergency room.

Poop that looks like jelly can indicate that your baby has intussusception, which is basically one part of your intestine telescoping into another and causing a blockage. It’s very rare but is most common between the ages of six months and three years. The pain usually comes and goes. If this is what you are seeing, then get that cranky kid looked at. 😫

Speaking of cranky babies…

Have you noticed red specks or blood in your newborn baby’s poop? She isn’t that happy little bundle you once imagined snuggling up on you? Your sweet smelling little human is spitting up and now smells like Swiss cheese? First, remember that “all babies cry”. You can always put that babe down in her crib while you take a few deep cleansing breaths or a quick break, even if she is crying. Remember, never shake a baby. Call a friend! Friends love holding babies! Ok, back to poop!!!

Your newborn baby has red specks in her poop. Newborns don’t eat skittles so I think it’s time for a visit with your primary care provider. Your baby might have a milk protein allergy or sensitivity to whatever they are drinking. If you are breastfeeding, it’s possible you will need to change your diet. Formula or breastmilk should be the only drinks you give your newborn. Fed is best. So feed that baby, but let’s also get her pooped checked. Bring a poop sample, or simply wait five minutes—you know that newborn is about to poop again! Your provider can test the poop for blood and figure out what’s making your baby such a sad mess.

White Stools in Children—Why It’s a Problem

Lastly, let’s talk about white poop. The liver makes a dark-colored digestive aid called bile, which helps give poop its brownish color. 💩 White poop can indicate that this bile isn’t being made, or isn’t reaching the poop. Problems with the liver, small intestine and gallbladder can cause the poop to look white and needs to be addressed by a medical provider right away. But first, let’s take a closer look at the poop. Is the poop really white? Or just light brown or yellow? Did your child drink massive amounts of milk yesterday 🥛? Could it be the new antibiotic she is on or the antacid he just started? Don’t panic, worrisome white poop isn’t common. If it really looks white (think white crayon), call your provider and be sure to save that poop.

Whatever you do, don’t search on Google for poop.

Ask a nurse first—just snap a pic and show us! Nurse-1-1- can help answer your questions about kids’ stool colors, and a range of other health issues, as well. You can instantly chat with a nurse from your smartphone or computer. Seriously, our average response time is under 8 seconds.

You know your child best. If you are worried that something is wrong, it’s ok to get checked out at your pediatrician’s office! You are the parent after all. You’ve got this! You are doing a great job. One day you will miss talking about their poop! 💩

The opinions expressed in Nurse-1-1 Health Center Blogs are solely opinions of the writer. Other than information received directly by you from your personal provider, the health center blog should not be considered medical advice. Read more.