If you buy something through a link on this site, I may receive a small commission at no cost to you. (Disclosure policy).

pooping is difficult for preemiesPin
Mom’s Question:
Is it common that pooping is difficult for preemies? I have a 3-month-old baby premature at 28 weeks. Technically 2 weeks, she is having problems pushing her poop out, she is not constipated because her stool is very loose.I’ve been helping her with a Q-tip and it seems to help. When she pushes she gets very tense.

What else can I do so she can start going on her own again? She is on formula lactose intolerance.

Thanks in advance,

Easy Baby Life:

Pooping Issues When Preemie and Newborn

When Pooping is Difficult for Preemies – Normal or Not?

I’m actually wondering if your baby is having problems pushing out her poop at all – or if what you’re seeing is just normal infant behavior.

Newborn babies (preemie or not) tend to strong>make a lot of noise when they poop, with all sorts of grunts and straining sounds. They may even go quite red in the face. This is quite normal – and the fact that your baby’s stools are loose when she passes them really makes me think she’s not experiencing any real ‘problem’.

That said, it is true that preemies are more prone to constipation than full-term babies. There are a few reasons for this, such as getting special high-calorie formula with iron, reduced muscle tone, and infections. The formula is not relevant in your case, I guess, but somewhat reduced muscle tone could be the case, resulting in that she needs to work harder to push the poop out.

Some signs of constipation are hard pebble-like stools and blood on the outside of the poop. You can find more signs of constipation in babies in this post. Since your daughter’s poop is loose, she in definitely not constipated!

In addition to actual constipation, babies can have medical reasons for pooping difficulties, such as anal stenosis and Hirschsprung’s disease. Anal stenosis is a too narrow anal opening and Hirschsprung’s is a case of missing nerve cells in the muscles of the baby’s colon. Both these conditions make it more difficult for the baby to poop. Depending on severity, there are different treatments, including surgery.

What happens if you DON’T use a Q-tip? Does it seem to you that she can’t poop at all unless you help her? If your baby really can’t poop on her own, and especially if this is the case despite the stools being soft, have her examined by a doctor and mention these conditions. Hirschsprung’s disease is in most cases discovered already within 48 hours of birth because these babies do not even pass meconium.

What to do When Preemie Has Difficulties Pooping

If your preemie can poop, but strains and have difficulties, I would personally not intervene with a Q-tip at least not on a regular basis. If she cries or seems overly distressed, then, of course, you can help her once in a while.

It takes a while for babies’ intestines to mature and for their bodies to figure out how to poop; for some babies, it takes longer than for others. A preemie obviously may take longer than a full-term baby. “Helping them”, which is very natural to do as a parent, may very well delay the learning process. Instead of intervening, you can try clockwise tummy massage and a warm bath.

An efficient “exercise” for your baby to help her poop is to lay her down on her back, lift her legs up and shake then a little bit. After that, bend her knees and push her knees towards her tummy. This really helps for releasing gas and also poop. Take the opportunity to make eye contact, and talk or sing to your daughter!

Being carried either belly down on your arm or in an upright position in a baby carrier or baby sling can also help.

There are not exactly a whole lot of best-selling (or any) books on baby poop to recommend. I have added a few to check out here below.

I hope this helps,

Helpful Resources on Baby Poop

If you want more in-depth information and tips on baby poop issues, here are a few books to check out. (Links to Amazon)

More Babies With Pooping Difficulties

Image by: Seth


Feb 18, 2018infant poopingby: Anonymous

My 1 month old son had the same problems when he did go it was soft/runny like any infant on formula. He is on the Similac sensitive soy. I took him to the pediatrician’s and they told me when babies are born their bodies do everything for them until they are capable of controling it. When he was 1 day to 3 weeks old his body would go potty on its own. But when he was a month old his little muscles in his bottom was not letting him go. The dr. told me not to do suppositories but just stimulate around the anus to let him know he had to work those muscles or more or less to wake them up. It was like a bubble in there shutting everything off. When I did give him a supository at the beginning it was like it was opening the door to let it come out. He was very fussy and wasn’t going for 5 days so that is why I tried the suppositories. When I found out that constipation wasn’t the problem the dr.’s more or less told me NOT to help him go let him figure it out on his own. If you continue to do it for him he will rely on you for it.
He figured it out in about a week to a week and a half. He still only goes about every 3rd day but no longer fussy. Now we are hanging in there through colic. Hopefully it is only the 6wk colic. To all you moms out there have a great day!

Apr 07, 2018Same problem
by: Anonymous

I’m experiencing the same thing with my boy. He was born at nearly 28 weeks (now technically 5 weeks old) and he strains for a really long time to poo. He is breastfed and his stools are loose but I need to lift his legs to help him. This normally helps but can still take a long time- sometimes up to an hour. I have asked nurses and they say it is normal but it breaks my heart to see him struggling so much. Any advice is much appreciated.

Jul 07, 2018my 31weeks premature no poop for 3days
by: miraclebaby

Had my baby at 31 weeks she is now 36 weeks had not pooped for 3 days she is breastfed, what do I do?
Answer by Paula @Easybabylife Since your daughter is breastfed, her pooping frequency is completely normal! Don’t do anything. She is just digesting everything she eats and she is probably growing quickly. You can learn more about when it is normal and not for a baby not to poop here.

Mar 12, 2019q-tip best tip
by: Anonymous

My son is 7 weeks pre and is a minute younger than his sister. He had difficulty pooping so I tried the q-tip idea, except I wet the tips with warm water, got results instantly, now he is very happy that he got to poop finally. His poop was also loose. The doctor says that most newborns will hold back a poop sometimes and that there is nothing to worry about. So no panicking new parents. :-)

Mar 27, 2019my baby has three days without pooping!
by: Anonymous
My baby is two months now, she’s experiencing difficulty when coming to poo. I hate seeing her like this cz now it’s three days without pooping Her stomach is getting bigger and bigger. I tried warm water still doesn’t help, also. I tried to massage her belly still nothing. Mommies out there, plz help me!

Add your own comments below or return to Baby Poop Q&A.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Nath Carty

    My baby was 2 months premature and she came home on Monday which she was 2 weeks and 6 days old and ever since Monday she has only opened her bowels twice and she is on formula milk, she does try and squeeze and makes herself go dark red and she lifts her legs up to her tummy as she’s tenses but it seems like she is struggling to open her bowels

    1. Paula @easybabylife

      Hi Nath, how is it going with your daughter? What you describe can be just normal newborn behavior or she is a little bit constipated. What type of formula is she on? And when she does poop, is it firm at all? Formula poop is typically firmer – like peanut butter – than breast milk poop, and therefore might be a bit tougher to push out. But being so young, her situation is worth double-checking with her doctor. Let me know how things go!

Comments are closed.