When A Baby Spits Up Blood

BabyWearingDucksWednesday night after our tiny funny-looking baby was born I slept badly. Though she passed a lot of meconium that day, she didn’t pee at all. I was in a haze of postpartum hormones—feeling both euphoric and totally vulnerable, terrified that the baby would stop breathing during the night, nervous about jostling her still-attached cord.

I checked her diaper. Dry. Forty-five minutes later I checked it again. Dry. Ten minutes after that I checked it a third time. Dry.

Oh god, I thought, her kidneys aren’t functioning properly. There’s something wrong with her digestive tract.

She was nursing lustily, latching on like a champ, but was she taking in enough liquid to sustain her or would she get severely dehydrated like my friend Michelle’s firstborn who had to be admitted to the hospital after he started peeing uric acid crystals?

Pee, baby, please pee.

After these silent prayers, I checked her diaper again and again and again. Dry. Dry. Dry.

Nursing her lying on my side, curled around her tiny body, I finally fell into a fitful sleep.

A retching sound woke me a few hours later.

I sat up and looked at the newborn whose life depended on me. She was spluttering and coughing as if something were stuck in her throat. Then she spit up—big gobs flecked with something brown.

“James, wake up,” I cried. “The baby just spat up blood.”

We looked at each other helplessly. This wasn’t our first baby. We weren’t supposed to feel this much fear. We were experienced parents, not the novices who rushed our first daughter to the ER because she was crying (the books said a high-pitched cry could be an indication of something serious) and called the doctor at 2:00 a.m. because she pooped six times in a row and we were sure it was diarrhea.

The baby had already gone back to sleep. She looked healthy: her color was rosy, her breathing regular.

I checked her diaper. Wet! It was wet!

“She peed!!!!”

We decided we’d be able to think better in the morning and we fell asleep for a few more fitful hours.

Weighing the baby on a borrowed scale

Weighing the baby on a borrowed scale

Late the next afternoon our “knowledgeable family friend” (the midwife who agreed to be on call at our birth if we needed her. Read more about that here) dropped a scale at our house so we could weigh the baby.

“She spat up something brown last night,” I said. “It may have been dried blood. Is that normal?”

R. asked me a bunch of questions, looked the baby over, and said it could have been meconium or blood or even something else (“gunk from the birth” may have been the scientific terms she used), and that one bout of perplexing spit-up was nothing to worry about. I exhaled the breath I’d been unconsciously holding since the night before.

The next day she started peeing copiously, wetting a diaper every half an hour. She hasn’t stopped since.

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14 thoughts on “When A Baby Spits Up Blood”

  1. Jennifer,

    This happened our baby’s first night, a few weeks ago, and since it never happened w/ any of our babies before I was really surprised. The thought was that she had swallowed amniotic fluid or blood during the birth. I was only worried she’d aspirate it but all was fine in the end.
    .-= Christine at OrigamiMommy´s last blog ..Welcoming Anna =-.

  2. Christine, that’s so interesting, because it’s exactly what happened to us. None of our others spit up blood so we were really thrown. And it was also only the first night. I think we are leading parallel lives (even though yours is in Japan!). Thanks for telling me that you had this experience too.

  3. Sorry for this scary episode, and so glad the baby is fine. If it’s any consolation, Maddie spit up blood many times as a newborn — it was my cracked nipples, she was actually drinking my blood! Ugh.

  4. I’m so glad the spitting up blood didn’t signal anything serious! It’s your daughter’s way of telling you, “Just because I’m your 4th, don’t think you can take me for granted!” I say this as a 4th child who was born butt first (legs wrapped around my neck) to my poor mom…

  5. You’re exactly right Caroline. This baby is teaching us not to take anything for granted and not to think we know what we’re doing. I’d love to hear your birth story sometime — maybe you’d like to do a guest blog for me? Or maybe you and your mom would like to together?! (For those who don’t know, Caroline is a senior editor at Literary Mama and a fantastic writer.)

  6. Oh, Jennifer, how can it be possible for me to forget how scary it can be with such a vulnerable (seemingly, anyway!) new life. . . Glad to hear she’s doing fine. . .

  7. Glad she’s ok. I didn’t know how to nurse correctly with my newborn, so the bad latch led to bleeding nipples. When my newborn spat up blood, I thought she was dying, but it was really MY BLOOD that she’d drank with the breast milk.
    .-= Alisa Bowman´s last blog ..How to Gain the Upper Hand =-.

  8. That sounds really painful Alisa, and scary. Ouch. I had cracked and bleeding nipples with my first (despite her having a good latch-on) but she never spit up blood. I think I would have been terrified if she had. We were so clueless that we overreacted to everything with our oldest.

  9. Personally, I think a bit of orange pee (uric acid crystals) is within the normal for first born male babies. My son had them and having already been through Pediatrician Hell we asked our LLL leader about them and she did mention we should work on our latch but since he was still fine and happy (seriously he was born smiling!) just to monitor him. It helps I’m a medical professional and I can asses hydration. 🙂
    .-= Lori´s last blog ..Pride Goeth Before A Fall =-.

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