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frequent bowel movements in babies

Frequent bowel movements in babies that have started with solid foods are often diet-related. Track the reasons and find out what to do here!

Mom’s Question:
My 10-month-old baby has frequent bowel movements: 5-6 times per day. He has no fever and appears happy. Is this normal?

I am afraid he is not gaining any weight because of the frequency in the bowel movement. Could that be the case?

New Mom

Easy Baby Life:

Frequent Bowel Movements in Babies

How Many Bowel Movements Are “Normal”?

It is not possible, just based on the number of bowel movements to say whether our baby’s pooping habits are problematic or not.

Actually, when a baby has frequent bowel movements, (5-6 bowel movements per day), and your baby is so “old”, it could be that something is not completely right, at least not if it is a sudden change compared to his usual bowel movement habits.

Are the stools hard or too soft?

How many times per day should a 10-month-old baby poop?

Well, there is no ONE correct answer to this, since it depends on how much solid food the baby eats, how much breastmilk, as well as simply personal variation.

A very rough guideline, though, is that a breastfed 10-month-old baby may very well poop after every feeding, while a formula-fed might poop once per day! Babies that eat high-fiber solid foods will have more frequent bowel movements.

So again, it is more the change than the actual frequency that may indicate that something is wrong.

Here are some possible reasons for sudden frequent bowel movements in babies and what to do about it.

Too much or too little fiber in baby’s foods

If your baby is not ill and the stools are very soft or semi-liquid, as you say, the most common reason that I know of is too much fiber in the foods.

It is very easy to give babies too much fiber-rich food because we all know that these are more healthy in general. But babies’ tummies can’t handle too much fiber, and instead, they get diarrhea or at least very soft and frequent bowel movements.

Is he getting whole-grain bread, cereal, or some other fiber-rich foods? In such a case, cut down completely on those foods, and you are likely to see an improvement within days.

If the poop is very hard and therefore frequent, he is, of course, more likely to be somewhat constipated, and instead, more fiber-rich foods will help him.

You can find many ideas on fiber-rich foods in this post.

Food Intolerance or Allergy

Another reason for his frequent bowel movements could be some food intolerance.

The baby may be allergic to certain milk proteins (think if you have introduced dairy recently?) or have a celiac disease, which is defined as wheat protein hypersensitivity (Have you introduced grains?).

Think back to when it started and see if you can find a connection with the introduction of some type of food. Then try excluding it from his diet and see if it helps.

You find symptoms of cow’s milk allergy here.

Teething and Pooping

Babies can also sometimes have frequent bowel movements while teething because they drool a lot and swallow the saliva, which works as a mild laxative for them. (For more baby teething symptoms, read this article.)

Illness causing Frequent Bowel Movements in Babies

Finally, our baby can, of course, be ill, like with a mild form of stomach bug, or if your baby was ill recently, his stomach can be a bit out of order. Baby probiotics can then be of great help. (Link to Amazon)

Sometimes, babies can also get diarrhea from a cold. You don’t say specifically that your baby has diarrhea, but I thought this was still worth mentioning.

If your baby is not gaining weight properly, often has respiratory infections and his stools are foul-smelling, checking him for cystic fibrosis may be a good idea. You can read more about cystic fibrosis in babies at Stanford Children’s Hospital here.

This is a very unlikely situation, especially since your child only presents with frequent stools, which may be caused by many other reasons, but since cystic fibrosis is a serious disease with vague symptoms, it is better to be sure. If he is gaining weight normally, you should not worry about this at all.

If nothing helps, you might want to contact his health care provider, to rule out any bacteria or similar.

Dehydration and Weight Gain

Regarding the risk of dehydration and not gaining weight; keep a track of his wet diapers. Frequent bowel movements in babies can, of course, lead to dehydration, but this is much likely if the baby really has diarrhea.

If he is peeing frequently, he is not likely to be dehydrated. Offer him some breastmilk, formula, or water often.

You find signs of dehydration here.

And if he is happy and full of energy, he is probably getting the nutrition he needs too; any person becomes quite cranky from getting too little food.

I hope this helps! Write back with more details if you want, and don’t hesitate to talk to your baby’s doctor about the situation!

Good luck,
(Answer approved by our Medical Reference Team)

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This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Hello, I seem to experience a similar issue as the other moms here. My 15 months old son has frequent bowel moments – from 4 to 7 a day. They are never watery.

    There is quite a bit of not digested food in his bowels, like green peas, corn, pieces of carrot, grapes, etc. Is that normal?

    Also, the frequency of his bowels worries me: is this normal? Is he getting all the nutrients he needs from his food, if it goes through his system that fast?

    His diet is quite varied and everything is home-made. I give him 5 spoons of baby-cereal in the morning with some banana, then at lunch rice with vegetables and a bit of chicken or some other meat, fruits and some cottage cheese and at dinner similar to lunch but different veggies and different meat and some cheddar or yogurt and fruits. He drinks about 4 bottles of 5 ounces of milk a day and some water. (I don’t offer him any juices at all) He has a healthy appetite and I wonder if his bowels are not simply due to his food intake… but it seems odd that they are so frequent. I have to constantly run after him to change him, as he gets diaper-rash easily too. Should I be worried?

    What can I change in his diet? Remove the milk – to test if he’s not lactose intolerant? But replace it with WHAT? He loves milk and all milk products (cheese, yogurt, etc).

    Remove rice/pasta to test if he’s gluten intolerant? But replace it with what that can be a good filler?
    Any pointer would be GREATLY welcome!!!

    Thank you so much for your help!

  2. Avatar

    Ahhhh! I’ve been having this same problem w/my still breastfed (3X per day) 12-month-old. He is pooping 4 times per day.

    Gluten/milk allergies run in my family so that struck a chord with me and I may need to cut back on them.

    Here’s the thing…I’m an inexperienced mom/cook and I tend to fall back on easy foods. Since he eats A TON (seriously, it’s unreal!), mainly fruits and veggies aren’t cutting it. I need some filler foods. So I added organic whole grain brown rice. (Gluten-free, right?) It has 2g fiber per 1/4 cup which is about what he will eat in a serving. Is that a lot?
    My son’s main diet consists of fruit (His favorites are mango cantaloupe, bananas & grapes), veggies (peas, carrots, green beans, corn), scrambled eggs, brown rice, cheerios (possible culprit?), and Gerber or other snacks.

    So my question is if I take brown rice and cheerios out, what can I add in as healthy fillers? It’s hard to think of anything if I’m not going to be adding any other whole grains or cheeses (dairy)… He loves potatoes but aren’t those high in fiber also?

    1. Paula @ EasyBabyLife

      Hi Chelsea,
      If your 12-month-old poops 4 times per day, the poop is normal (not too hard, not too soft), he is happy and thriving and eats brown rice, I actually think he is completely fine! As you say, brown rice is in high in fiber, so that is likely to make him poop more often. But as long as he is fine, that doesn’t really matter!

      And since he is still breastfeeding (well done), this is likely a reason for his frequent pooping.

      If anything, cut down on snacks that contain added sugar – for example, check those Cheerios!

      Potato is also great foods to add to his diet, as well as sweet potatoes.

      Since you have milk protein allergy and celiac disease in your family, I would urge you to discuss foods containing these with your child’s doctor.

      It sounds like your son is doing great!

      You can find more ideas on finger foods here and a feeding schedule here.

      Good luck!

  3. Avatar

    I’m a nanny for an 18-month boy. He poops 4 to 6 times a day and they are never hard…always soft. Not to mention the smell and the amount is huge. I was wondering if this is normal. I’m worried about him.

    1. Paula @ EasyBabyLife

      Hi Nanny, I think the same goes for an 18 months old baby as the 10 months old baby above. Such frequent bowel movements may be due to too much fiber or some food intolerance; for example, lactose.

      Have you discussed this with the baby’s parents? Maybe it would be wise to try to change the diet slightly and see if you get any positive effects.

      If the baby’s weight gain is poor, then it might be wise to discuss the situation with a pediatrician to see if any testing is needed to rule out for example hypersensitivity to gluten.

      Good luck, Paula

  4. Avatar

    Hi, I have a ten month old baby and she poops 3-4 times, sometimes 2 and once a while 5 times a day, but she has always been like this. She is growing well (tall) but she is not putting so much weight.. She is 98% for her growth and 25% for her weight. She is very active, crawling since she was 7 month. But still i worry , so could you tell me what to look for

  5. Avatar

    My 21 mos old baby has an irregular bowel movement; sometimes 3 to 4 days after. Is this normal? He is ok to still active playing around. Plz advice what to do. Thank you!

    1. Paula @ EasyBabyLife

      Pooping every 3-4 days as a toddler is not that common unless the child is constipated. It doesn’t have to be a problem if your toddler is thriving, growing, and peeing, though.

      If the pooping is painful or the stools are very hard or difficult to push out, your baby is likely to be constipated and it would be good to take a look at his diet to see if anything should be adjusted to soften the stools.

      In general, white bread, cow’s milk, white rice, and rice cereal, unripe banana, carrots, and apple sauce are some common causes of constipation in toddlers. Try introducing some whole-grain alternatives, oatmeal porridge, lots of water, and prune or apricot puree if his stools are hard and see if it helps. Some toddlers are severely constipated due to milk protein allergy. That should be discussed with a doctor if you suspect it.

      Hope this helps,

  6. Avatar

    My little girl has had soft bowel movements every 5-6 times a day, she has had her immune shots just last month and she has also been sick within last month and finally getting over it now, is it still normal or do I need to change her diet or do I need to talk to her doctor?

    1. Paula @ EasyBabyLife

      Since your daughter has been ill, she might very well benefit from you taking away all dairy products (except full-fat, plain yogurt) for a while.

      It is quite common that children become temporarily lactose intolerant after an illness. It will pass but might pass faster if you take away dairy for a couple of weeks.

      Hope this helps, Paula

  7. Avatar

    Hi all, I have a 5.5 months old baby girl. She is having 40 to 50ml of breast milk every day. Her mum only produces that amount of breast milk daily. So my baby is supplement with formula milk.
    Earlier, she passed motion once or twice a day. However, after a few days ago, she passes motion each formula feed. She still drinks 50ml Breast milk per day. She got no fever, no sign of dehydration and happy.

    My baby poop is usually a mustardy yellow color, grainy in texture and quite runny and it still remains the same.

    Is this normal for my baby to pass motion 6 to 8 times per day after each feed?

    1. Paula @ EasyBabyLife

      Hi Alex,
      Since your baby’s bowel movements changed so drastically on a specific date, there might be something not completely right here. Have you changed her diet at all? Or could she be ill; a cold or a stomach bug?
      If you have changed her diet, try changing it back, and see if her bowel movements go back to normal again. If you haven’t changed anything or if she continues to poop after every feeding, I suggest you bring it up with her doctor or health nurse.

      Warm wishes,