Melena In Babies: What To Look Out For & What To Do

  • Learn about the condition, melena, and how to spot it in babies 
  • Find out what the stool of a baby with melena often looks like 
  • Know the common causes of melena in babies, and how to treat it 
  • Plus, know when to worry and when to take your baby to a doctor

Have you noticed any change in your baby’s poop of late?

Are you worried that the change in the poop could mean some health issue that your baby is facing?

Is your baby showing any other signs of discomfort or any changes overall that are making you worried?

Sometimes, it can be difficult for parents to spot signs of health conditions in babies, especially if the symptoms are not very regular or known. Today, we talk about why it is important to check your baby’s poop and what any change than what you notice on a regular basis could mean. We are talking about melena and what could cause it in babies, as well as how to identify whether or not your baby has it. We also talk about whether this is a serious issue and when you need to get your baby to the doctor.

What is melena?

  • Melena is a condition that affects the stool mainly in its appearance.
  • In a person who has melena, the stool will look black in colour or may almost look like tar.
  • In case of melena, you may notice some specks or spots of blood that has been partly digested, that will look kind of dark blackish red.
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    The reason why there may be blood in the poop could either be due to some amount of internal bleeding or because of swallowing blood in some way.
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    Also, in case of melena, the stool could be stickier than usual.

Does melena occur often in babies?

Melena does not occur often in babies. In the cases when it does affect babies, it often usually occurs if the babies have swallowed blood at the time of the delivery.

What does the poop of a baby with melena look like?

If your baby has melena, make sure to take a look at the poop each time to see if you notice any of the following signs and symptoms:

1. Changes in the color and consistency of stool:

  • If your baby is suffering from melena, you will notice that your baby’s poop is very dark in colour, something like a tar black or a very dark black and maroon mix.
  • The poop will definitely not look like the normal healthy yellow or brown poop.
  • Also, for babies who have melena, the poop will be stickier than the regular times and can also be a little difficult to clean up.

2. Changes in the smell of the stool:

  • This is something that may or may not be present in your baby’s stool.
  • In some of the cases of melena, the stool can have a very strong smell to it.
  • In some of the cases, it can also have a very foul stench to it.
  • The foul stench generally happens due to the chemical reactions that are taking place with the blood, which gives the stool its smell, colour and texture.

What causes melena in babies?

While melena is not very common in babies, it can still be possible for babies to suffer from melena. Here are some of the reasons that could cause melena in babies:

melena stool baby symptoms
  • 1
    Some internal bleeding: One of the first and most common reasons that often causes melena in babies is some amount of bleeding that is taking place internally. Most of the time, this bleeding takes place in the baby’s oesophagus, stomach, or in the first part of the baby’s small intestine, and gives the reddish and dark black colour to the baby’s stool.
  • 2
    Tear in the oesophagus: In some cases, the baby may develop tears in the oesophagus that is usually caused due a lot of violent vomiting. This condition is also sometimes referred to in the medical world as Mallory Weiss tear.
  • 3
    Stomach inflammation: Some babies can develop inflammation in the lining of the stomach, a condition which is also referred to as gastritis.
  • 4
    Stomach ulcer: Some babies could also develop ulcers in the stomach, and when that happens, it can sometimes lead to bleeding. This can also give the stool the dark black and maroon colour that is the melena stool.
  • 5
    Problems in the blood vessel: If the baby’s blood vessels are not properly developed or for some reason are not working the way they need to, that could also lead to internal bleeding or problems related to blood, and cause the melena stool.
  • 6
    Problems in the blood supply: In some cases, it happens that in a baby, the blood supply that is supposed to reach to some parts of the intestines gets cut off, and as a result the baby’s stool can look like the melena stool.
  • 7
    Some form of trauma: While this is not always the likeliest of causes, it is possible that a baby suffers from melena due to some form of trauma or due to some form of attack by a foreign body.
  • 8
    Problem with the digestive organ: It is also possible in some serious causes that there is some damage or under-development in the digestive organs. It could be that there is more than required widening in the oesophagus or in the stomach area, or there are varices, which are overgrown veins, present in the oesophagus or in the stomach area. As a result, the baby could suffer from melena.

Few ways to help baby

Make sure that your baby is always well hydrated by offering other fluids such as water if your baby is more than 6 months old.

Add healthy and fibrous foods to your baby’s diet such as legumes, green vegetables, fresh fruits and more.

Is melena something that you should immediately be worried about?

It is but natural that if you notice any blood in your baby’s stool, it is bound to make you immensely worried. However, while not all spotting may be due to a case of melena, it is important that you keep checking your baby’s stool to know when to take your baby to the doctor. If you notice any of the following or see any of this in your baby, make sure to immediately speak to your baby’s pediatrician and get an appointment done soon.

blood in stool in infants

Call your baby’s doctor if:

  • Your baby is feeling dizzy or is not active as usual
  • Your baby’s breathing is coming in faster breaths than usual, or your baby is starting to imitate a gasping motion
  • Your baby’s skin feels cool or clammy and has a pale tinge
  • Your baby’s pulse is getting faster
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    The pupils in your baby’s eyes are looking larger
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    Your baby seems to be in discomfort or is looking anxious or not happy about something
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    Your baby is showing signs of weakness or has vomited

Get your baby immediate medical attention if:

  • You have noticed that the blood in your baby’s stool has not stopped and is the amount of blood you can spot is growing larger.
  • Your baby is crying out in pain or discomfort and has some problem in the abdomen area.

You should immediately get your baby medical and professional help in case you suspect your baby does have melena, even if you have noticed a very tiny amount of blood in the stool.



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