I have a 4.5-month-old baby who 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?
Reasons Why A Breastfed Baby May Not Be Able To Poop
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 popping problems even with soft stools.
I hope this helps,
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