In this article:
- Breastfed or formula-fed baby?
- Signs of constipation
- How to mitigate constipation
- How often does a baby poop
- Call the Doctor if…
Babies that won’t poop the way we parents would expect, are extremely common. Before I became a mom, it never crossed my mind how much time I would spend worrying about my children’s bowel movements. But I sure did. A lot happens during the first year, and a baby’s bowel movements will change a lot as the baby grows and his or her diet changes.
One of the more surprising things that happen, is babies that stop pooping completely for several days. It is easy and completely rational to believe this to be constipation. And it can be. But it also doesn’t have to be. If your younger baby (still not on solid foods) doesn’t poop as frequently as you would expect, this article will walk you through when this can be considered completely normal and what are the signs of constipation in babies. We also talk about remedies and when to be enough worried to call the Doctor.
For older babies, that have been introduced to baby food, you can find many discussions on their bowel movements here.
Breastfed or formula-fed baby?
There’s a major difference in the risk of constipation between breastfed babies and those on formula. If you are breastfeeding and if your baby has had normal breast milk poop earlier, chances are that he or she is only going through a growth period and therefore actually absorbs pretty much everything he eats. Also, at around 4 weeks of age, a baby’s digestive system begins to mature and the number of bowel movement usually decreases, especially if the baby is breastfed. If your baby seems completely happy and eats and urinates just as usual, there is probably nothing you have to do. The poop will come.
If your baby is formula-fed, the risk of constipation is higher. Formula-fed babies are more prone to become constipated, because the formula is much harder to digest than breast milk. Also, the formula can’t be as fully digested as breast milk, so formula fed babies, regarding of age, should have quite regular bowel movements. A formula fed babies should not go several days between pooping; for them, it can be a sign of constipation.
It is also important to know when your baby started having constipation problems and if he or she passed meconium in the first 36 hours of his or her life.
If the meconium passage was delayed and your baby has been having constipation since birth, one of the possible reasons for the constipation might be Hirschsprung’s disease. This is a condition caused by the absence of neural ganglia in the terminal bowel regions. The absence of the ganglia leads to decreased bowel movement and hence constipation. The condition is usually screened for by performing a rectal exam in a constipated child during a routine paediatric visit.
Signs of constipation
Here are some signs of constipation to look for:
- In a newborn, firm stools less than once a day with straining and difficulty passing them
- In older babies, firm stools less often than 7 days for breast-fed babies and 4 days for bottle-fed babies
- Dry, hard stools and pain on passing them
- Hard, pebble-like stools passed by a baby who strains during a bowel movement
- Signs of blood along the outside of the poop
- Belly pain along with hard, infrequent stools
How to mitigate constipation
While it is normal for babies will strain from time to time to move the stool along through the intestines, crying hard is not. If you want to do something to help your baby while straining, try holding his or her knees against his or her chest to help your baby “squat”. This is also very effective for tummy pain to release gas.
If your baby is bottle-fed you can experiment with different types of formula to find the one that has the least tendency to result in constipation. For some babies soy based formulas work better. For others, a hydrolysate formula, such as Nutramigen (link to Amazon) can make a real difference.
You can also feed your baby smaller amounts of formula more frequently, to help the intestines cope with the formula. Twice as often is a rule of thumb.
Make sure that you don’t add too much formula powder when preparing the formula. Take care not to overfill or tightly pack the scoop.
You can also try offering your baby some extra water – about 1 oz once or twice a day.
If you breastfeed at all, you can try to increase the share of breast milk you baby gets. Breast milk is a great laxative.
There are also baby laxatives or glycerin suppositories available, but don’t use them more than as a last resort. It is much better to try to change what your baby eats than to use short-term solutions, like these are.
Another short-term option, that can be used once in a while, is to insert a q-tip very gently into your baby’s anus. Sometimes that is enough to trigger the bowel movement. Just don’t make it a habit; the baby needs to learn how to poop without your help.
How often does a baby poop
How often the average baby will poop depends on his or her age as well as on if breastfed or formula fed.
A newborn baby, from day 5 or 6 of living, may poop after every feeding. At 1 month old, the average is still some 4 times per day. By the time your baby is 2 months old, the average has dropped to 1 time per day.
At 3 months, a fully breastfed baby may go for up to 10 or 14 days without pooping. They grow rapidly and digest practically everything they consume. This can continue until the baby is introduced to solid baby food. This is not true for formula-fed babies, who really should continue pooping more or less every day.
Remember that the variation can be quite large and your baby is not likely to be constipated unless you notice some of the symptoms described above.
Two of my kids had periods at around 3 months old, when they pooped every 10-14 days. Very convenient… However, they were both completely breastfed and showed no signs of constipation or illness.
Call the Doctor if…
If your baby is a few days old and has not pooped regular breast milk or formula poop, definitely call a doctor, to rule out any blockage and make sure your baby eats enough.
For a newborn baby that has pooped and then stopped, I would contact a pediatrician if it has been a couple of days since your baby pooped, regardsless of it the baby is breastfed or formulafed. This is to get advice on possible treatment for constipation and to make sure that your baby is completely healthy.
For older babies, if they are in pain (regardless of it the poop is hard or not), a doctor should assess the situation.
Blood in poop, beyond some streaks should also be assessed. (You’ll find more guidelines on blood in your baby’s poop here.
Finally, if your baby continues to be constipated despite your efforts to adjust his or her diet, this is another good reason to discuss the situation with a pediatrician. Your baby may be allergic to milk protein or lactose intolerant, for example, and need a new type of formula. (Read more about milk protein allergy and different formulas here.
Don’t use baby laxatives or glycerin suppositories without consulting a doctor first. It may be completely unnecessary.
I wish you and your baby good luck!
(Answer approved by our Medical Reference Team)
More On Constipation In Babies
Just continue breastfeeding. The poop will come and everything will go back to normal over the next couple of days. Breast milk is an excellent laxative for infants.
My baby has started about 3 weeks ago only pooping with a suppository. The first time we waiting 7 days of not pooping to give him one the next day and still more poop came. We then visited the doctor who told us only once every 7 days. We waited 6 before giving him one and now were going on day 6 again.
He gets upset and looks to be in pain. The doctor told us something that if we continue to give him a suppository every 6 days that he’ll become lazy and not poop on his own.
Does anyone know if this lazy stool thing is true? Has anyone experienced this before?
I had read comments about total breadfed babies not pooing for days are common, but I am still worried.
Cos since my baby is back from hospital, he has no poo for 3 days, after which we went to visit a paediatrician and he inserted a gel into my baby’s anus which helped him to pass motion that day. After that he stopped passing motion again for the next 4 days, and we inserted the gel again on the 5th day. He pooed again. But now it had been 3 days and still no poo from him.
I am on total breastfeeding for my baby. Drank lots of fluid and even had prune juice hoping it will pass on from the milk to him, but it dont seem to work. We can hear him passing wind, but still no poo. What should we do??
He is BF so I don’t think he’s constipated but nonetheless I am very concerned. The doctor didn’t seem worried at all so I’ll just wait and see.
I mean 2 weeks without a bowel movement seems like a long time to me and we are getting closer to that two week mark.
She does not seem in any distress. She is peeing like normal and is still passing gas.
I agree that 11 days is quite a long time for such a little baby. However, as long as she has been pooping normal breast milk poop earlier, is content, eating, and peeing she is most likely simply digesting all she eats.
6 weeks old is growth spurt, so that might be one of the reasons.
If you are worried, why not give a call to her nurse? But most likely, the poop will come within a couple of days.
You can also try doing some baby massage to stimulate her intestines.
Congratulations on your little girl!
My son Pete is 4 weeks old on Friday. He is formula fed and is on Enfamil. He has a very good appetite especially since 3 weeks and I think he is in a growth spurt.
On Tuesday evening he was straining and crying obviously trying to pass stool. He hadn’t pooped since Sunday morning so I was happy. When I looked in his diaper the poop was hard, green and cream colored (like the color of formula) and did not stick to his diaper. He started to push out more and it was the hardest thing to watch. He has done that again yesterday and then today he has been straining and crying all day.
I have spoken with his Doctor’s nurse and she suggested 3 oz water with 1 tsp of brown sugar.
It seemed to work a little yesterday but now when he passed a small stool it was hard again. She also suggested changing his formula as she has had a lot of other Mom’s saying that the Enfamil is causing hard poops. Not all, but some babies seem to not digest it well.
I’m just wondering if I should take him to the doctor early or just try to wait it out? Is this something that he needs medical attention for? I am just so worried about him. Any input would be so appreciated.
We tried water and sugar, and apple juice to no avail, then i gently inserted a cotton bud (Q tip) dipped in vaseline into his rectum just enough to stimulate him to push hard enough for him to start the pooh, he just lays they strains and giggles relieved of the release of gases and poo, continue stimulating the rectum with the cotton bud, (you should only loose sight of the cotton bud head and no further)my grandson poops about a days worth of poop and we only do it when he is despair and uncomfortable, but in my days it was the only way my son would poop, he never ever produced a naturally dirty napppy and he now is a healthy 25 yo. Hope this help you all.
If I don’t have Vaseline, can I use Lanolin on a Q-Tip to put in her rectum in hopes to loosen things up for her? I just want her to be comfortable again – it’s breaking my heart to see her so uncomfortable.
I have been attempting to only breastfeed the past 24 hours, but it’s a bit hard since my milk production is not as free flowing and I need to feed her when she gets hungry. Is ther a better formula I could or should be using?
Any advice or help is greatly appreciated!!!!
We tried formula but it made our child more constipdated.
We noticed that even though she would go to the bathroom there were times when soft balls of stool would form that would hard for her to pass out. So we gave her an enema with distilled water. We put half cups (small cup) of water into the enmea held and let it sit for a one minute than pushed her knees to her chest and she pushed these soft yellow lumpy stools out.
The enemas work but when you give them the enema you should give the child bifido infantis bacteria afterwards to replace the bacteris that you might have expelled. You can mix this in her milk
Oh and as far as glucose syrup, brown sugar, anything sweet etc. Don’t give this to your child it can cause tooth decay. In the UK we are strictly told never ever feed your child glucose or sugar in water.
Please remember… These are your babies! Would you trust a stranger in the streets advice or a qualified doctor?
I wish you good luck! If you find solutions for your baby, please coem back and let other moms know what you did.
Good luck, Paula
My boy is 5 months old, He has not pooed for the past 5 days and I feel very concerned. He has been crying much more in the day and has started to wake up crying for no apparent reason in the night. I am assuming this is because he is constipated.
He is predominantly breastfed, with a formula feed given to him during the night. We started him on solids about 3 weeks ago. He normally poo’s on a daily basis.
What should I do? Please help.
I wish to let nature take its course.
Since he is so young and hasn’t pooped for 18 hours he does sound constipated. It is possible that the formula should be changed, but again, being a preemie, I think you should talk to his doctor to get advice rather than experiment yourself. Constipation isn’t dangerous, but can be painful for your little one.
Go ahead and get a doctor’s or midwife appointment asap and discuss how to proceed.
My breastfed 4 month old son did not poop for more almost 3 weeks. I saw his doctor and she said that is perfectly normal. I thought babies should go at least once a day everyday but that’s not the case.
If he does not poop alternate days whatever milk he drinks (breast fed) he spits up.
Making him poop with Q-tip alternate days now, but im really worried how long it will take for himself to poop coz using Q-tip should not become a habit.
3-day-old girl pooped fine at maternity ward (from colostrum milk), but Mum has moved on to normal milk and I haven’t seen a poop in close to 24 hours. Would be fine, base on what I’ve seen above, but she keeps on feeding and is otherwise completely inconsolable. Mum is exhausted and Dad can only figure there is some terrible indigestion going on.
I haven’t found anyone talking about someone so young above. Should I be taking this to the midwives?
Congratulations on your baby! I am sorry to hear, though, that things are a bit shaky. (But you’re certainly not alone with that!)
Is you daughter breastfed or formula fed? If she is breastfeeding, mom’s milk is just now starting to flow abundantly and it is not strange if it takes a couple of days before the real breast milk poop comes. If she is formula fed, though, she might constipated and it may be worth talking to the midwife about it. Actually, talk to you midwife anyway. Being a first time parent is a big thing and they are there to help with all questions, big and small.
Regarding your wife, yes, she is likely to be completely exhausted and her hormones are also all over the place after giving birth and even more so if she is now starting to breastfeed.
Within a few days, when her milk supply is up, both her and particularly your baby is likely to be more content. But remember that it may take a couple of weeks or more before the breastfeeding works smoothly. It can be quite painful in the beginning and frustrating too before everything works. (Who said becoming a parents would be easy…?)
How wonderful that you are reaching out and trying to help! Just continue to try to help your wife and if she is too exhausted, do take the initiative to talk to your midwife.
Your baby is so young; everything will better soon, I promise!
I have twins (boy and girl) and they are 2months old. It is always a problem that they poo after three-four days and that too hard. It is not smooth. I am breast feeding them and even though they are not poo’ing easily.
They vomit very often and feel dull to some extent. i feel improper pooing may be the reason for all this.
so please help me and suggest me some tips for their easy pooing.
My 4 month old has just started eating baby food and i’m still breast feeding her but she has not had a good poop in 4 days and is waking up in the night screaming and she used to sleep all night, but in the day she is happy should i what can i do for her?
I took her to the ped, fam doctor and to the er and no one has answers…
I have also been given her cranberry juice..today she had a poop on her own..still grunting but no pain..
So I am wondering if removing the milk from her is what the problem was..
I did not breast feed I used formula powder and liquid and changed a few times because we didn’t know what was wrong..so all and all I have tried everything oh mineral oil and prune, I mean lots of prune and the child still didn’t poop, so if there is anyone out there that knows why or how taking milk out of her diet and she seems to be doing better. does that mean she is allergic, I know she can’t have egg whites, she broke out in hives etc..thanks
My daughter is breast fed and formula fed. We use the formula to supplement her. Her last bowel movement was 5 days ago. But the only reason she went was because we were taking her temperature rectally and I guess it made her go. She passes gas all the time, is that any indicator that she is fine? Or should I be worried? (she is on Enfamil 0-12mo and will get 4oz twice a day) Please let me know. Thank you!
I wish there was an answer for such a young age as they need the formula and milk, but it is so much better now that I have her off milk..at his point I am looking into finding out what she needs for calcium intake as it is important for there growth and bones..and SHE IS EATING BETTER..LOT BETTER..seemed before she didn’t have any appetite..now hungry..
In any case, have a chat with you midwife to ease your mind and get help if your baby does seem to be constipated.
Hope this helps,
At first everything was fine she would poop & pee about six or more times a day for the first three days that I was in the hospital till the first week we were home. Once the formula that was given to me from the hospital was gone I switched her to another formula called parent choice which is a walmart store brand. Because I had ran out of the Good Start brand and the parent choice was the only one I had left till I went out & bought some more of the Good Start. Now I put her back on the Good Start again. Also I only pump once or twice a day & all I’d get is an once. The rest is formula but I don’t mix them I let her finish one before giving her the other. Now for these pass five days she’s been very fuzzy, gassy, & has been crying more the usual. Because she can’t poop unless I put a q-tip with some petroleum jelly in her bottom to help her poop. It works but I usually have to do it like 3-4 times a day (every time I see that she’s trying to poop)because it won’t come out on it’s own even when she tries pushing. But she pees just fine. The wired part about her poop is that it’s not hard it’s pastety at first then it goes to liquidy. & the color is green like grass with yellow dots in it. So my question is (after this long text) could this be another sign of constipation or something more serious then that? & could this have happened all because I switched her milk three times?
Since your daughter isn’t constipated (no hard poop) and you are mainly breastfeeding, I think her straining is simply due to a normal newborn immature digestive system. The best you can do is to not use the q-tip, but her do the pooping herself, even if it takes a while for it to come out. She needs the practice. Instead, try warm baths and baby massage.. It can be quite effective to both press a little baby’s knees gently towards the tummy to release gas and to do bicycle movement with her legs, in addition to tummy massage. If you can, you can also try to cut back on the formula. But again, using the q-tip can become bad habit, so try not to use it. It isn’t dangerous to strain and be gassy as a newborn, it is very normal.
You can also invest in a baby sling or baby carrier, since the more upright position and movement when you move around can help your baby’s tummy.
Good luck and congratulations on your little daughter!
Any ideas? Much appreciated xx
It is of course better to avoid the Q-tip, to let her intestines get the pracitce they need to function, but to use it every now and then is probably no harm.
Is she wetting her diapers as usual? Otherwise the lack of pooping could be a sign that she isn’t eating as much as she should. But if she pees to wet 6-8 diapers per day and has her usual appetite, she is likely to be fine.
If, she continues to not poop for another day, though, I believe you should take her to the Dr to make sure there is no blockage or anything else involved that needs treatment.
But again, most likely nothing is wrong.
In a month or two, if she continues to be fully breastfed, she might only be pooping once per week or less, and it is completely normal. But at 1 month, most breastfed babies still poop several times per day.
I hope this helps,
In the hospital her poop seemed normal but by the time we went home (4 days later..c-section) she never went. When she did eventually go, it wasnt seedy anymore, instead it was really thick and tan and she pushed so hard she gave herself a hemorrhoid!
She was originally on Similac advanced. I called her ped and asked if I should switch her to the sensitive formula and they said to try it. So i switched her to sensitive thinking it would help. When she went for her two week checkup I brought it up again because it wasnt getting any better. Still going maybe once a day if at all. He said to switch her to soy.
She’s been on soy formula for about a week and a half and the poop hasnt gotten any softer. She still struggles to go, and was only consistent for maybe 3 or 4 days. Should I keep her on the soy? Will she have a hard time adjusting to milk when she gets off of formula if she stays on the soy? Does she even sound constipated???? I dont know if its my lack of sleep that is making everything seem more difficult this time around, but I just didnt feel like it is right and I am not getting a comforting response from the pediatrician no matter how many times I ask.
Please help! I dont want to do more harm by switching formulas again or trying things Ive read about like gripe water or giving water in between.
My question/worry is very similar to the last asked question. My baby girl suffered from severe cramps caused by gas, we kept going to the ped to see if there was any way of helping ease the discomfort and pain. On our last visit he prescribed active enzyme drops to help digest the lactose as he was convinced it’s the sugar in the lactose that she can’t properly digest. We were told to try it for a week or two and if she still experienced any discomfort we must change her over to a soy based formula. We tried the drops for 3 weeks and swopped her to a soy based formula 5 days ago.
She had one very small stool on the first day – nothing since then. The cramping has eased up but if the soy based formula is going to cause constipation is it really worth the change – I want to help her, not swap one problem for another. On the regular formula she had a dirty nappy everyday and it was very loose, light in color and with particles of undigested milk. The one stool she did pass since changing to soy was dark brown (with traces of the lactose formula) and firm.I am considering changing her on to a special formula for lactose sensitive babies- she is two months old. Could changing her to another formula again cause any harm?
Thank you for taking the time to answer my question.
I suggest you have another chat with your pediatrician about the situation. Hydrolysate formulas are expensive but can be covered by insurance in some cases if prescribed by a doctor.
I really wish you good luck! Please let us know how things go.
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