When a baby can’t poop on her own – without stimulation – why is this and what can be done about the situation?

Let’s take a look at possible reasons and remedies here.

baby can't poop on her ownPin

Mom’s question:
My 4.5-month-old baby can’t poop on her own. She is breastfed and eats oatmeal pablum with some pears or prunes. Since she was 3 weeks old she hasn’t pooped regularly on her own. We have tried every advice given to us – from prune juice and water to stopping solids, more water, no water, apple juice – you name it, we’ve tried it.

Nothing helps her to by herself. I have tried leaving her to on her own for 3 days and by then she is not happy and her stomach is large.

We help her with a Q-tip and Vaseline, this always gets her started, and then she’s fine to finish going after that, it’s always soft and quite a lot too.

I’m worried that doing this is going to hurt her or has made her lazy. My doctor is also confused as to why she needs help to get started. She’s healthy and thriving, she sleeps through the night – since she was 3 weeks old – and she’s not uncomfortable until that 3rd day.

I’m not sure what else to do, I’m ready to take her to a children’s hospital, would that be necessary?



Baby Can’t Poop on Her Own: Reasons and Remedies

Just as you say, your baby should not need help every time she has a bowel movement. I can totally understand that you want to help her after three days, but what happens if you don’t?

Breastfed babies can go even up to 14 days without a bowel movement and it is still considered completely normal. This is because breast milk is so easy to digest.

Unless your baby is in severe pain, I really think you should just let nature decide when she poops. As long as the poop is soft, as you say, and again she is not in a lot of pain, she is likely to poop eventually.

There are, however, some medical reasons why a baby can’t pass soft stools:

  • One medical reason that a baby can’t poop is anal stenosis, which means the anus is too small to pass stools. This can be treated.
  • Another reason may actually an enlarged rectum, that makes the stools pack up.
  • Rectal fissures may make pooping painful and make the baby hold it.
  • There is also a disease called Hirschsprung’s disease, which is something a baby is born with. The disease results in nerve-ends being missing in parts of the baby’s colon. Hence the baby has difficulties pooping. In severe cases, the baby can’t poop at all, which is of course discovered when they are newborn. For older babies, symptoms may be a swollen abdomen, difficulties pooping, constipation, and poor weight gain. This disease is cured by operation.

If your baby hasn’t been examined by a pediatric gastroenterologist, that is something you should definitely require to rule out any illness.

If this has already been done, and nothing is wrong with your baby, I would suggest waiting to see how long it takes for her to poop. Helping her by providing some extra prunes and apple juice, doing some tummy massage and warm baths during these days is probably a good idea.

If you are scared to try the waiting strategy, then certainly discuss it with her doctor. Just make sure you talk to a doctor who really knows something about breastfeed babies and bowel movements.

Babies often grunt, strain, or turn red or purple when having a bowel movement. This is usually normal, and if the stool is soft, this does not mean the baby is constipated. Being gassy and somewhat swollen is normal too. Pressing the baby’s knees gently towards the tummy to release gas and also help her do bicycle movements can help.

Other things to try are to eliminate any dairy and soy products from your diet and rice and dairy products from her diet (if she gets any). These products can cause constipation, and for breastfed babies the can make the poop travel slowly enough for the baby to find pooping uncomfortable even if the stools are soft. Unripe bananas can also have this effect.

You can read in this thread about many babies that have pooping problems even with soft stools.

I hope this helps,


More Babies Not Pooping

Find comments to this question below.

Comments for “Baby Won’t Poop By Herself”

Mar 09, 2010 CELIAC DISEASEby: Anonymous

My daughter was the same and was on medication for constipation her entire infancy.
She was recently diagnosed with Celiac Disease ( An intolerance in her gut to Gluten)

Mar 17, 2010 my baby is the same exact wayby: roberta

Wow! This is just how my baby is to. I also help him with Vaseline to get started then he goes just fine! he dont cry about it when going,but he does seem relieved. I usually can tell when its time because he makes a grindy noise like he is trying to push. I have him starting with a specialist and they recommended him fiber. So I am giving him some fiber in his bottle hopefully it works. I also have him going in for a mri. If you figure out what this could be before me please let me know.Good Luck

Jun 02, 2010 Chronic constipationby: kiran

My daughter is 3 years old and she has this problem at the age of 1.my doctor advised her medication movicol every day .i am giving regularly .if i stopped giving her this medicine then her condition gets worse.she faces very bad stomach pain bom pain.she jumps.after 6 or 7days when she does poo she is fine.i am worried abot her.whetehr she will always depend on movicol.if someone got answer plz give me soloution.thanks

Jun 02, 2010 Milk?
by: Baby Help Line – Paula

Have you tried eliminating all milk products from her diet? A mom I recently talked to tried that with their 3 year old with the same symptoms and the constipation completely disappeared.Just a thought…Paula

Jun 13, 2010 my son is exactly the sameby: KC

My son is 5 weeks old and since he was 2 1/2 weeks old, I have had to stimulate him also. He is on Alimentum and I am no longer breastfeeding him. I am also very concerned about this, I don’t think it is normal for this to be happening. I am going to talk to the dr about this in more length. I hope there is’nt anything wrong with his bowels.

Jul 08, 2010 baby needs help poopingby: baby09

7 week old baby goes by himself sometimes, but other times he needs help (thermometer and vaseline)…then he goes right away. I have him on Alimentum and partially breast feeding. He is having major gastric pain and passing really loud gas and crying with it. Doc prescribed some drops several weeks ago, no help at all. Gripe water, no help at all. Going back to
Doc in am

Aug 05, 2010 baby who wont go poop by herselfby: ashlee

My son is 3 1/2 and he has had that issue since he was a baby. Karo syrup in his bottle helped when he was a baby, but now, not even exlax will get to him. he has had tests done, nothing was wrong, but he is still going through this…it is a tough world when you got to worry about your child pooping. i know how it is and i hope you find a cure before he gets older. im thinking of taking my son back and seeing if they can do a diferent test or something because it’s just not right.

Aug 22, 2010 4 month old baby boy wont poop
by: Anonymous

We have a 4 month old baby boy who has a twin sister. she is a poop factory.. however he wont poop on his own. like some of the other parents we have tried stool softner, gripe water, prune juice, oval drops, corn syrup, warm cloths on the bum and vaseline and q-tip to stimulate and bring on a poop. after many trips to the emergency department and endless doctors appointments for x-rays, ultra sounds, bi-opsy the conclusion is a milk alergy. he is now on PREGESTIMIL FORMULA and is able to poop on his own …but its very little and always runny. he also is being tested for acid reflux wich may be causing some of his symptoms. they also ruled out HIRCHSPRUNGS wich is a bowel disease. so in the mean time sometimes he eats, and has a good day. other times he screams in so much pain it breaks your heart. we will NOT stop going to the doctor and demanding specalist appointments until we figure out whats wrong. so all you parents out there with a baby suffering like ours does..make 500 appointments if you have to..and be firm in requesting a specialist in bowel disorders.. the only relief we could offer to our son is to give him gylicerin suppositorys every evening..to take some of the pressure off of his belly.. i hope that this might be of some help to someone ..
awake and thinking

Aug 24, 2010 Take baby to Chiropractor
by: JL

My chiropractor keeps my baby boy functioning great! He adjusts my baby’s pelvis and lower back whenever he is constipated and he has a bowel movement not long after the adjustment. The adjustment are mainly just lightly tapping his bones or holding a slight pressure to realign his bones and release pressure on his nervous system.

Sep 01, 2010 He won’t go poopby: ANDREA289

My boy is the same. I have tried everything I can think from prunes to dr prescribed laxatives. Nothing works except a q-tip and vaseline. Dr is just as puzzled as we are. He is on formula and in the beginning it was as hard as a rock then we switched to goat milk formula and it has softened it but he still normally won’t go by himself. He can go by himself because he has done a few poopies by himself. We’ve tried to wait it out but he still won’t go alone. I see I’m not the only parent with this problems. Has anyone has any positive results.

Sep 20, 2010 poopby: Anonymous

My 2 1/2 month old hasn’t pooped in 7 days it is Saturday and last pooped last Saterday 2 times really full diapers so much it was up his back both times and leaking everywhere but my son acts fine he coos and giggles most of the time and only cries when hungry I breast feed him and occasional formula that is all I give him but I was going to ask the doctor this Tues about it I also have weird long periods without bowl movements. I go about once a week. I see everyone freaking out over 3 days and wanting to try something but I feel as long as he doesnt seem in pain I will wait it out he is a happy baby but i will see what the doctor sais about this but I have seen people mess their kids up by starting treatment laxitives and such before even having it checked out I dont want to give my baby anything but breast milk really and like i said when he goes he goes like i do I cant even believe the big amount that comes out when I go its not painful either for me i just dont go very often but I do feel this must concern alot of people so know I dont feel normal….. lol.

Oct 03, 2010 Little girl is full of pooby: Anonymous

My little girl is nearly 2 she was taken in to hospital last week with possible inpactation as she had not been for a week and was screaming in pain she could not walk high & had a temp of 104 she was kept in over night. In the morning the doctor came round and gave the second enema sent us home with movicol plan I called that night to say she hadn’t passed urine as I was concerned they had let her out as she was in so much pain.
During that week we had to take her back a number of time’s for tests ect now a week later they had found a urine infection after sending me back to my GP surgery by this stage it was bad she was very confused but after looking it up this is very common with constipation. I called the hospital and told them my baby was getting worse and told them they had left her for too long in pain they asked me to bring her in again I asked to see another doctor at the hospital and for them to do a complete examination in case they had missed something by this stage she had no eaten for two weeks and was crying and weak. This doctor decides to x-ray her she was full of poo i’ve never seen anything like it right up to her ribs the doctor was just as shocked as me. She has now got a medication to clean her out called pixalax fingers crossed this will get it out as I think she has suffered enough and is traumatized of hospitals as she doesn’t understand and so am I also very concerned that it has taken this long and that they had missed it.

Oct 29, 2010 9 DAYS SINCE LAST POO???
by: Anonymous

My baby boy is 10 weeks old and he normally goes every 5-7 days but today is day 9! im now thinking of taking him to see the doc but i don’t really want him messed about with because he seems happy still smiling etc? i really don’t no what to do??? please some1 help

Oct 29, 2010 Don’t worry!by: Baby Help Line – Paula

Hi, Anonymous with the baby who hasn’t pooped for 9 days!
Do you breastfeed? If you do, don’t worry! It can take 14 days between bowel movements for breastfed babies at your baby’s age. They grow very fast and simply make use of all the milk they get.So unless your baby is on formula or seems to be in pain, just wait. You can always try some baby massage to help the intestines.

Take care,


Jul 21, 2011 Baby Girl wont poo on her own
by: Anonymous

My daughter is 6 months old and has not pooped on her own since she was 4 months. Before that she had BM’s all day long. She is breastfed and is a very happy girl. We have not started solids yet, because we don’t want her to get any worse. Prune juice and pear juice do not work at all. The longest we wait is 7 days before we do a suppository, then she goes in about 5 mins, which is soft and normal color. She is growing well, but small for her age. Reading these posts is encouraging, there is a lot of stuff on the internet to make you worry. My latest concern is Chronic Intestinal Pseudo Obstruction, but is only diagnosed in 200 kids a year on average. We are going to the G.I. Doc next week. Praying and keeping our fingers crossed

Sep 09, 2011 baby can’t poo and screams constantlyby: Anonymous

My daughter is 7 weeks old and has not done a poo on her own for over 12 days now. shes on formula milk and is drinking like normal but we tried everything to get her to poo by herself but she just wont. the doctors gave us suppositories to help her they work but she still cant do it herself were getting really worried now as she she screams in pain. please give us some advice.

Sep 09, 2011 The doctor?by: Paula

If your daughter is in pain and the suppositories don’t work, go see a doctor. At least call and ask. It is not likely to be dangerous, but she might need more help.
Good luck,Paula


Jun 02, 2012 this is not constipationby: Anonymous

I went.to the doctor for this issue there is a name I just can not remember it. Put it this way everyone’s body has a natural process to Pooping. Digestion of food passage into the rectum till full then a signal is sent to the brain for the anus to open. Lots of babies brains can’t communicate this so it is hard for them to get it out.
Talk to your pediatrician about it they should know what they are talking about. Hope I have helped. I’ll post the name of the problem if I can find it again.

Sep 12, 2012 PLEASE PARENTS READ-by: Anonymous

If nursing – give up all dairy, soy, and gluten and see if symptoms improve. The add back one at a time.
WHERE DO I START?If your baby is having problems pooping, the first thing you should do is suspect food intolerances or alelrgies, even if strictly breastfed. The intestinal tract swells du to inflammation and this is why they cannot poop.

The testing of allergies is not always accurate. A non-invasive method is stool testing.

Based on my experience Doctors are mostly useless. That includes gatros, who put my daughter on Miralax, which was terrible and caused her worse pain, grunting, constipation, etc after initially working (however just a bandaid).

They prescribe drugs that don’t get to why the baby is having the problem – it is simply a dangerous bandaid to medicate without getting to the root of the problem – so much damage can be done to the intestinal tract.

So what to do:



Mar 15, 2013 poopingby: newmom

I had a similar problem after I used Q-tip to help him poop. I am not sure if he dependent on it or if his bowel movement pattern changed, he wouldn’t poop if I didn’t help him. Luckily, we had one of the best peditrician who told us to let the baby poop by his own as long as he is not in distress.
It took my baby 8 days before he decided to poop by his own. It was the longest 8 days of my life. If your baby is not fussy, crying in pain, and they fed well, let him decides when he needs to poop. Don’t rush to do any tests, give your babies time to show you what they are capable of. Good luck!

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Milly

    My baby is the same, but she’s formula fed so anyone got any idea what I can to? I really want her to go on her own

  2. malica agrawal

    My 2.5 month old baby has the similar issue. He is only on breast milk and passes soft poop but only on stimulation with thermometer… No one here has said what finally happened to their child… Kindly give a solution…

  3. Vicky

    My baby boy was 6 weeks premature . He has not been the toilet now for 6 weeks hospital said it was reflux give him gavaston for infants he pass really bad wind lots he’s been to hospital least once a week am not going to bed as he is trying to push all the time day and night even when he’s been

    1. Charles

      Try a enema the baby kind pedialax