What if a baby is straining to poop at night? The baby in this Q&A wakes up in discomfort needing to poop.

Why does this happen, and what can be done to help a baby that wakes up trying to poop?

baby straining to poop at nightPin

Mom’s Question:

My six-month-old has been waking up at 3 AM, needing to poop since birth. He poops at least half a dozen times every 24 hours, so it’s not that he’s constipated, and he’s barely eating solids, so it isn’t that.

It just clearly is uncomfortable for him starting around three am, and he lies there and moans, and sometimes he poops within an hour or so, but sometimes he doesn’t do it until six or seven, and we’re all exhausted.

He also has a perianal abscess; could that be related?

Baby Needs to Poop at Night and Wakes up Straining

It sounds as if you all are having a tough time!

At six months and only breastfed, it is completely normal for a baby to poop several times per day, but the pain at night does not seem quite right. Same if he is formula-fed. (You don’t mention if he is on breast milk or formula.)

Newborn babies often build up gas at night and have built up enough to become really uncomfortable at around 4 am. By that time, the newborn starts making sounds that make it impossible for anyone to sleep. When my babies did this, I used to press their knees towards their bellies gently and wriggle left and right until the gas was released. Your baby is older now, but if such a movement doesn’t wake your baby up, certainly try it!

Have you considered lactose intolerance or some kind of allergy; milk allergy or soy allergy, for example? Since he’s had these problems from the start, you should discuss the situation with a pediatrician.

Other things you could do is baby massage and try to reduce the amount of feeding in the evening if possible. (But I realize with a six-month-old mainly breastfeeding or formula, that can be hard. They need their nutrition!)

His perianal abscess can certainly make the pooping painful but probably not affect the frequency of his bowel movements. A perianal abscess may come from an anal fissure (common in babies), which in turn can lead to painful bowel movements. So treating your baby’s abscess and possible fissure may very well take away some of the pain.

You can find several more explanations for trapped gas in babies, as well as remedies, in this article.

I really wish you good luck!


More Babies With Gas And Pain

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This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. Isabelle

    My girl also has this problem. I was shown how to stimulate her bowls before by using a glove and using Vaseline and just putting the tip of my finger up as if taking her temperature, and she goes right away. My doctor said this to me to help her when she was going too long between bowel movements as it stimulates the bowel and in 5 or ten minutes after stimulating her bowels, she goes.

    Lately, she has been staying up to poop; if it is going on for a long time, I will stimulate her bowels.

    If you want to try this, get your doctor to show u how. It is much better than using a suppository as it does not cause bowel dependence. Maybe this will help. I think its the teething lately that is causing her to swallow a lot of salivae and causing her to poop more, and disrupting her sleeping.

  2. Kayra’s Mom

    I, too, have a son…which, by the way, seems to be the connection we all have: BOYS…not one single post so far about baby girls with this straining to poop issue.

    He is 3 months old now, and for the past 2 and half months, it’s the same schedule…comes 2-3 in the morning, the pain and the straining starts and nothing will help until daylight comes around 6-7 in the morning and he wakes up and poops. We’ve tried massages, hot compress…nothing seems to work. I was told by our doctor that he is colicky and can feel his bowel movements, the reason for which he has pain and strains so much. He DOESN’T behave like a colicky baby at all, never cries….I have no clue what this is but was hoping he would grow out of it by now, or 6 months at the latest. Seeing your posts of much older babies going through the same freaks me out. Will they EVER grow out of it?

  3. Gloria

    My 3 1/2-month-old wakes up constantly throughout the night, squirming in discomfort. Sometimes he goes back to sleep but other times, he can’t lay still, so I wake him up. Once he’s awake he normally poops but it can take anywhere from 5 minutes to 1 hour for him to poop. Lately, this has been happening twice a night, disrupting his sleep schedule. He only seems to sleep in spurts of 1-2 hours of during the day so a good night’s sleep is critical but isn’t happening. Consequently, I have a cranky baby…Is there anything I can do to help him?

  4. Jaxson’s Momma

    I have a wonderful 7 1/2 month son who has also had this problem since birth he will wake up to feed maybe once a night but he wakes up 2/3 more times a night just uncomfortable and cranky I have just in the last month or so started solids but he has constantly been constipated since birth we always are counting if we r on day 2,3,4 I’ve just started soy w/in the last day or s. Hoping this works!!! Strange how many boys are having this. I didn’t breastfeed, though. Formula, since birth, regret it but live and learn.

  5. Melissa

    My 8-week-old son has been straining to pooh all night since he was around 2 weeks old. He is formula-fed. All night he grunts & pushes even if he already had a bowel movement and at times wakes up crying. Nobody is getting any sleep because of this. Dr. thinks he may have reflux, so just started him on Zantac. I don’t have much hope that is the issue but will give it a try. Desperate to find out what the real problem is!

  6. Eve

    I have a 3-week-old baby boy. I am breastfeeding. He seems to be having a pooing issue, he keeps pushing and he goes bright red in the face and screams, no matter what I do, he grunts, moans, and screams loud, trying to get a poo out; I don’t know why he wants to try and force a poo out, I’ve tried Brauer colic meds, Infacol and now on Gripe Water, nothing seems to be working. He just needs help in the bowel area. I’ve been to the two different docs and they’ve all said, it’ll pas, which is easy, they don’t live in the household with a screaming baby every nite!
    This is exhausting me out. Can someone please help?

  7. Yulia

    My 8,5-month son and I have been living like this from birth, too. He is breastfed, we started experimenting/playing with solids at 6m.o. but now he is getting worse, and I don’t know what to blame now.

    He also has(had) a fissure and visible blood stricks in his poop at 4-6 months; we thought he was “colicky”.That subsided after (took few days to clear my milk, I thought)I completely eliminated all(!) dairy and soy from my diet.
    He still woke up few times a night but got back to sleep easily with a diaper change /feeding (we co-sleep). Overall my baby seemed a bit happier.

    A month ago I got cocky that “all is well” and gave him a few new foods in one day, as well as, very gradually though, got back on milk&cheese myself. And, for a while, I saw no changes. Until it all came over, like a big wave, a few weeks ago; and never left since. I now am, again, cheese-free; my baby doesn’t get ANY solids; tried teething gel, pills, colicky pills (all homeopathic though), Ovol, acetaminophen, camomile tea and-yes-massage.

    Our ped. is away and the cover-upper suggested acetaminophen “until baby learns to sleep through”.

    It is terrible.My baby is so cranky most of the time, day or night. Sleepy but restless. Moans and laughter change one another.

    My only hope, really, is that one of you, mothers, will write a “happy-end” story for the rest of us here.
    God bless.

  8. Alva

    My 4-month-old is having the exact same problem; sometimes it starts as early as 12 am or 1 am and goes on every hr all night, sometimes he poops by 6 or 7 am, and sometimes he does not. It seems as though the discomfort he feels comes and goes because he cries for a while, maybe relieves some gas here and there, then goes back to sleep for an hour, but always wakes awhile later with the same problem until he poops. I too am exhausted and hope it is soon resolved, however, my 4yr old son had the same problem and the frequent wakings when he was an infant became a bad sleep cycle and I ended up having to “Ferberize” him at about 11 months old (hope this does NOT happen this time around)

  9. Erin

    My 4-month-old baby has this problem too. He poos several times a day (which is perfectly normal for a breastfed baby!) and does not struggle, but at 4 am every morning, he wakes up struggling to poo. Sometimes he poos quickly, but sometimes it can take him a couple of hours. I, too, am exhausted! I asked my health visitor, and she said that that is just his time to poo which does not make sense to me as he poos at other times of the day and does not struggle. I was hoping that he would grow out of it or that it would stop when he goes on to solids. If you find an answer, I’d love to know what the cause is.

  10. Stephanie Malakie

    I have a 6 week old exclusively breast fed baby boy. He has been waking up at 4 am every few nights very uncomfortable scream-crying. Prior to this he won’t poop at all through the night, and at 4am he clearly has to go but can’t. I bicycle and push his legs which makes him pass gas, then he will blow up his diaper with very runny yellow poop. It blows up his back and out of this diaper so it’s pretty messy. After this he will go back to bed. The pediatricain has no answers. I’m really hoping this goes away as his system further develops but it makes me nervous to see many people in this thread having similar problems with older babies!!

  11. amanda

    Hello, my 51/2 month old has recently started pooing loads, 2/3 during the day and 3 at night and once have to change nappy is awake for 1hour + after each time, hope ends soon as only getting 4 hours sleep a night now! Cannot seem to get her to go before bed, this is a recent thing, usually just goes once in early hours and will wait till 6/7 before crying out. She also now has nappy rash! When will this end?!