Fully breastfed as well as formula-fed babies sometimes stop pooping for several days. This can seem worrying and it can be.
If your baby is not pooping, here’s how to know if it is normal or due to constipation. And, of course, what to do about it!
Reasons & Remedies When Your Baby Isn’t Pooping
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 constipation.
If your younger baby (still not on solid foods) doesn’t poop as frequently as you would expect, this article will walk you through why babies sometimes don’t poop, when this can be considered completely normal and what are the signs of constipation in babies.
We also talk about safe remedies and when to be enough worried to call the Doctor.
There are also probably over a hundred parents that have commented on this post, so you are definitely not alone with a baby who is not pooping!
In this article…
How Often Does a Baby Poop
First of all, it is important to know how often the average baby will poop depends on his or her age as well as on if being 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.
Breastfed or formula-fed baby not pooping?
Breastfed baby not pooping
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, but your baby is not pooping now, 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 movements 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.
Formula-fed Baby Not Pooping
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 breastmilk, so formula-fed babies, regardless of age, should have quite regular bowel movements. A formula-fed baby should not go several days between pooping; for them, it can be a sign of constipation.
Newborn Baby Not Pooping
Regardless of if your baby is breastfed or formula-fed, 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 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 leads to constipation.
The condition is usually screened for by performing a rectal exam in a constipated child during a routine pediatric visit. (You can read more about Hirschsprung’s disease here at Mayo Clinic. (Opens in new window)
Constipation after Starting Solids
If your baby is not pooping and has started with solid baby food (including cereal), you can find additional, helpful tips in these posts:
- Foods to soften hard stools for baby
- Breastfed baby only eating a little bit of solid baby food, and still can’t poop
- 8-month-old baby refuses to poop
Especially breastfed babies are prone to constipation when introducing solids since their digestive system isn’t used to anything but the very easily digested breastmilk.
Signs of constipation (and not) in babies
Here are some signs of constipation to look for:
- In a newborn, firm stool 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 to strain from time to time to move the stool along through the intestines, crying hard when trying to poop 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 formula-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 your 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.
Baby Not Pooping – 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, regardless of if the baby is breastfed or formula-fed. 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 if 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.
Baby Not Pooping – Helpful Resources
If you want more in-depth information and tips on baby poop issues, here are a few books to check out. (Links to Amazon)
- Baby Poop: What Your Pediatrician May Not Tell You … about Colic, Reflux, Constipation, Green Stools, Food Allergies, and Your Child’s Immune Health.
- Eat, Sleep, Poop: A Common Sense Guide to Your Baby’s First Year.
- The Ins and Outs of Poop: A Guide to Treating Childhood Constipation.
- It’s No Accident: Breakthrough Solutions To Your Child’s Wetting, Constipation, UTIs, And Other Potty Problems.
I wish you and your baby good luck!
(Answer approved by our Medical Reference Team)
- What can I give my baby for constipation?
- Pooping in difficult for my preemie
- My 4-month-old has not pooped in 2 days
Who else has a baby that is not pooping? Add your own comments below!