Babies and Constipation

Parents are often concerned about babies and constipation. When a child is constipated, the stool has backed up more than it should leaving baby irritable.

Question

Dr. Greene, my 7-week-old son hasn’t pooped in three days. All he gets is breast milk. Is this normal? Is he constipated? I’ve heard both. If he is constipated, what should I do? Sometimes he acts like he’s about to poop, his face gets red and he strains, but nothing comes out. Otherwise he’s fine — including his nursing. Thanks in advance.

Dr. Greene’s Answer:

As long as your son is in diapers, every single poop will be right there for you to see when the diaper is changed. During these years, the stools undergo several changes. The first poops are the thick, sticky, tarry meconium stools that consist partly of old skin cells that are shed and then swallowed while the baby is still inside you.

During the first week these give way, in breast-fed babies, to soft, yellow, breast-milk stools. These usually look like yellow mustard with little seeds.

How Often Should Babies Have a Dirty Diaper?

By the time a baby is one week old, he has an average of 8 to 10 of these pleasant (as stools go) stools each day.

You can imagine that if these were 8 to 10 stinky stools, or if even the pleasant (as stools go) stools kept up at this pace, changing diapers would get real old real fast.

For most breast-fed babies, the number drops to about 4 per day by 4 weeks old (although many kids have a different pattern).

Formula-fed babies usually stool less often at this age, and the stools do not change much with time until solid foods are introduced (because unlike breast milk, formula doesn’t change over time). Formula-fed stools are often tan or yellow at this stage, and a little firmer than breast-milk stools.

For any baby, tan, yellow, green, or brown stools can all be normal.

By 8 weeks old, the average drops to 1 per day. Most formula-fed babies will not go less often than daily, but many breast-fed kids will poop even less often than this. I know many babies who only go every three days.

If a happy formula-fed baby goes 4 days, or a breast-fed baby goes 7 days without a stool, I recommend that he or she be checked once by a pediatrician. If the child seems to be in pain, has vomiting, or has blood in the stool, he should be seen by the pediatrician immediately. Otherwise, it can be completely normal to go only once every eight days — as long as the stool is soft when it comes out. Breast milk is an amazing food that leaves very little in the way of waste.

Is Straining Normal for a Baby

Babies will strain from time to time to move the stool along through the intestines. If you want to do something when babies grunt, push, or strain, try picking them up to get gravity to help them in their efforts, or try holding the knees against the chest to help them “squat” — the natural poop position. Straining is usually normal. Crying while straining may be a sign of constipation.

Hard Stool: When to Contact Your Doctor

When a child is constipated, the stool in the intestines has backed up more than it should. What “more than it should” means varies depending on the age of the child and the diet. The longer stool sits in the colon, the more water is absorbed back into the body. When a child is constipated the stool tends to be hard, and passing it tends to be painful.

Stool that is hard (firmer than peanut butter) or foul smelling (you’ll know) in a child who has not yet had solid foods may represent something as simple as needing more to drink (especially during hot weather), but it may also be the sign of a disease. Contact your pediatrician to discuss the situation. If the baby is otherwise healthy, one teaspoon of pure maple syrup in 4 ounces of water will often get things back on track. Also, contact your pediatrician if the baby is less than a month old and hasn’t gone for 4 days. When kids begin to take baby food, the stools change once again. They may be either softer or firmer, but they will likely smell worse (kids also smile and laugh more at this age, more than making up for the unpleasantness). Most children’s intestines are very responsive to the foods they eat.

Babies and Constipation: Foods that Do, Foods that Don’t

Foods that tend to produce firmer stool:

  • Bananas
  • Rice cereal
  • Applesauce
  • Carrots and squash are constipating for some babies.

Foods that tend to produce softer stool:

  • Pears
  • Peaches
  • Plums
  • Apricots
  • Peas
  • Prunes

By balancing the diet, you can often keep the stools comfortably mid-range. If the stools are still too firm, juice is the gentlest medicine to soften them up. Two ounces of apple juice twice a day is a good bet. If this doesn’t work, prune juice is even better. Also, when your son is straining you might want to put him in a tub of warm water. This will relax his muscles and make the stool easier to pass.

Babies and Constipation: When Diet Doesn’t Do the Trick

Glycerin suppositories can be very helpful if diet and juice don’t work, but constipation that is stubborn enough to make these optimal should be discussed with your pediatrician. The same holds true for baby laxatives (hint: if your pediatrician does recommend a laxative, unprocessed bran, 1/2 teaspoon mixed with food twice a day is much cheaper than Maltsupex, and about as effective).

For most breast-fed babies, a 3-day break from dirty diapers is a reason to celebrate, not a cause for alarm. It’s nature’s reminder that breast milk is the perfect food for babies — or more broadly, that giving of yourself is a perfect gift for your child. This normal poop-pause is also a little foretaste of what life will be like when there are no more dirty diapers!

 

Medical Review on: January 02, 2016
About the Author
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Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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Hi Doctor my baby tries like four times a day to pass stools she sweats and still nothing sometimes she even cries. she has had this problem since birth now she is 18 months

What have you tried? Have you talked to her doctor about the possibility of a milk intolerance?

Dr.please my child is 6month old and she strain to pass stool and she hasn’t stool for 5 days…please help at this situation or what would you advice me

Hi my one month baby hasn’t pass stool for two days he only forcing but nothing happens what can be the problem?

Dr. Please my baby is 4weeks old and strain to pass out gas he cries every night and hasn’t pass out stool for 3days am worried

my baby is 9 months old. till 1st three months she was a colic baby.
thn in her 5th month she had bad dirrahoea and aftr 3 weeks she was fine and then she did black poops we tested her FOBT and results were fine.no blood in her poop. dr. said to stop gvng hr milk n food whch has milk in it and rhere black poop stoppd immediatly.but now from 6th month to 9th month she is badly constipated. no laxative is workng on her. i tried restrolax and lactoluse as advised by dr. but unfortunatly it ddnt wrkd that much. she passes stool but wth extremly diffklty. pain and cryng.
dr. askd hr ti chnge hr formula mik. i gve hr soya milk but still constipation is there she said baby is allergic to milk and gve hr soya milk. i tried enfamil. similac and soya but still constipation is there.
what to do i need yr hlp dr.?

My 5 months old baby takes maize cereal and bottle feeds he has not popped for 4 days now ,I’ve given him 2ound of water to try and help him but now he can’t stop crying pls help m worried.

Hi doctor my 7 weeks old baby girl is crying when i pick her up and her hands are up when she cries i don’t know WHY especially when i pick her up and hold her on the arm on left side what can it be

I don’t know if this helps. I put a little bit of aciete de manzanilla in my palm and rub it on my baby’s tummy. He didn’t have the problem of farting any more. He even fart more in his sleep. And be sure to not expose your baby’s tummy in air especially if you’re living in cold areas.

Hy my newborn baby his on formula and am worried cause his 5 days not pooping why

I have a 2 1/2 yr old son who has been constipated for the past week nothing is working on him, i tried the suppositories, fleet, prune juice, chewables for children….i dont know what to give him took him to urgent care couple of days ago dr. said give him water, fruits and vegetables…but he is at the point now where he doesnt want to eat or drink anything

I have a 1 month old daughter, doin to be 2 months on January 28, 2017. She goes pass 3 days without having a bowel movement. She gets real fussy especially when trying to pass gas. I have been using Karo syrup in her infamil liquid milk but not helping. I have bought the gripe water and the little remedies gas relief and that’s also not helping.

There a technique I learned when my first child was born that helps tremendously but you have to very exact with it and if you do it too often it might trick their body into relying on it later in their childhood…..baby belly massage
1. Start at the right side of your babys belly, on the inside of the top of hip and take your first and middle finger and press gently but firmly, guide your finger straight up to right below the rib cage….stop but do not remove your fingers from babys belly unless you are repeating the step.(you may do this one to three times, count the times you do this and repeat each move the same amount..)2. From the end of step 1 move your pattern to the other side of babys belly right below their left rib cage and stop…repeat this movement the exact amount of times you did step one..3. From the end of step 2 move down toward the inside of babys hip and repeat the exact amount of times you did with step 1 &2….Please keep in mind not to do this too often as babys body will come to expect and demand it in order to relieve gas and fesus later…(I learned that the hard way with my second child) I had to rub his belly constently in order for him to not be highly uncomfortable…Once maybe twice a month relying on this techniques has defin. Helped for my other two youngest also. If done properly it should look like you were drawing the top and sides of a square but not the bottom…you can help guide the bubbles out of their tummy and help their body learn quickly to do it for themselves…P.S you may test this on yourself also I was afraid with my first one, even though I learned it at the hospital…so I tried it out b4 several times tomake sure it wouldnt do any harm to my lil angel.

Shardareyette,

Have you discussed a possible milk intolerance with her pediatrician? Switching to a non-cow milk formula, such as soy, can help some kids. It can take several switches to find the right match for a baby.

I hope that helps.
Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

Hi Dr. My 7week baby hasn’t poop its 4days now.should i be worried? I tried to give her gripe water and Philips but it didn’t work.she only fart instead of poop.

Hi Lindiwe,
Thanks for writing in! Dr. Greene says in the article, “If a happy formula-fed baby goes 4 days, or a breast-fed baby goes 7 days without a stool, I recommend that he or she be checked once by a pediatrician. If the child seems to be in pain, has vomiting, or has blood in the stool, he should be seen by the pediatrician immediately. Otherwise, it can be completely normal to go only once every eight days — as long as the stool is soft when it comes out.”
Hope that helps!
Alexandra (caring helper at drgreene.com, not a doctor)

My baby is 2 month old boy, he have Hernia, Doctor told me to wait till his weight gain to 5 kg, but as a parent feel worry, what to do in this case ? what is the remedy ? is he need to surgical operation ? is it ok for 2 month old boy ?

My son is 2 month old, he is completely breastfeed baby, after one week of his birth his poop is irregular,sometimes one week, then start using Glycerine suppositor every after 3 days, then he poops, is it normal ? whats the reason ? what measure should be taken ?

Hi…Dr.Greene….I have a 3yr old baby gal…known with sturge weber syndrome plus….anyway she are having trouble pooing at the moment she have the flu but no fever which means no infection …since yesterday she been crying more like nagging and this morning she did not want to drink or eat I kinda force her because I need her to stay hydrated….she have not slept much but since 7h15am she been on and off sleeping …she on seizure meds I gave laxative to see if it will help but nothing yet…I gave yogurt and water and even 4spoons of mashed butternut….she haven’t pee’d yet either and I try my best to give liquids ….dayhosp let’s us sit there without help and big Hosp don’t see us unless she gets a seizure…..clinic is closed….if her chest is tight I put her on a NEP…for pain I administer pain meds…please what else can I do..

Hi Dr Greene, my baby is 7 months old and has been passing really hard stool since he turned 6 months. He strains and cries before he passes each stool and when it does come out it is really hard and foul smelling. He doesn’t like water, I’ve tried fruits, diluted juice, all sorts but it hasn’t helped. Please HELP, what do I do???

I came across both your article and this blog http://mammaeblog.blogspot.co.uk/2016/12/should-my-breastfed-baby-poo-every-day.html
while looking for help re my 5 month old not having pooped in 3 days and am now rather confused whether I should be doing something to help my little one and taking her to the doctor tomorrow or if I should be enjoying the break from dirty nappies!

The article mentions pure maple syrup in 4 oz of water to get things back on track for a breastfed baby. Does the mother drink this or the baby?

Hi Cherie,

That is for baby, but depends a bit on how old the baby is. How old is your baby?

Best, @MsGreene
Co-founder & Executive Producer DrGreene.com, Mom
Note: Not Dr. Greene, not a doctor. Keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

Hi my baby is 50% breast fed & 50% formula fed. From last 32 hours she didn’t through any stool. She is only 8 days old. kindly advise me that is it normal or not. What can I do if it is not normal. Please advise asap.

Hello Arif,

I went through the same situation a couple months back. My baby was 50% breast fed and 50% formula fed. When this happened to me when he was born, The Doctor told me to wait 3-4 days if no stools then to call the doctor office, and he ended up going on the third day.
I hope this helps
Best Regards,

Ana

Hi my baby is fully formula fed since day 1 and used to pass motions every three days offlate this has changed and she sometimes goes without poop for seven days and which is when our pd recommended a glycerin suppository. After using a suppository she passed stool which was not very thick (the usual consistency) with some dark mustard seeds like bit. She is otherwise a very happy baby but has again not passed motion since five days. What do I do,plz help

hi,my baby is a month old and each time he wants to pee,poop or fart he cries a lot,pls what should i do because its becoming uncomfortable

My boy is 1 month old and did not poop for 2 days,he makes grunting noises like his having cramps ,l tried telament colic drops and telament gripe water nothing is helping

My daughter is 2 months old turning 3 months on august 31,,she didnt poops for 2 days what should i do?she is formula milk.

my daughter is six week, old pass gas a lot but takes a day without any poop if shes does poop its only once in the morning or night .im worried because I was introducing formula when the was a sudden change now im still breastfeeding but no change.she is not crying bt grunt a lot.

My babay is eight month old and she didnt poo for five days even she dont feel urge to do poo she is playing normaly as before i am worried what to do???

We recently introduced our daughter to cow’s milk and now she is constipated. She is not eating well and was drinking 1.200ml of milk so the doctor suggested that we reduce her milk intake to encourage her to eat. She’s only had cows milk for 2 days. Not sure if I should stop giving cows milk and go back to Nan or give her skim milk. Because she’s a bit chubby the doctor said it was fine to give her fat free milk. Please can you advice me on how I should proceed.

My son is six weeks old he is breastfeeding only but he seems to be constipated I know it was cause by coffee that I drank but what can I do or give him to help him poop

My daughter is 10 years old. She face constipation problem sometimes. Kindly tell me any. medicine to solve her constipation problem.

You could try clycerin suppository or prune juice my daughter was constipated at that age and younger it worked for her! I’m also a baby nurse

I have a 4 month old. He is formula and breast fed. The reason for this is because I work; therfore, he is formula-fed during the day while at the babysitter and then breastfed when I get home from work. But where I’m getting is that he can go 4 days without a dirty diaper. Last time he has a dirty diaper his pooped was hard. Is that normal? What should I do? We did tried juice, but he had an allergic reaction so his pediatrician did no more juiced for him until further notice. And I don’t feel save using suppositories.

hello you should try kayro syrup is the best

My son is 6 week old and hasn’t pooped since yesterday morning I tryed brown sugar and boiled water and not working he is doing his wet nappies and feeding he just can’t go stool and is trying his best I don’t know Wat else I can do I done d legs and rubbing on stomach still no joy

Breast Fed baby – Our daughter is 12 weeks old and over the last week we have seen her go from pooping 5 to 10 times a day to going a day or 2 between pooping. Her stool has also changed from a creamy to almost like soft peanut butter. Yesterday she started crying uncontrollable about 11am and did this off and on until 10pm last night. We have been giving gas drops and a probiotic since she was about 2 weeks old. Does not have colic. Does often have gas. We took her to the pediatrician today and they stimulated a bowel movement. My wife has not changed her diet or anything. The pediatrician recommended giving 3 oz of water a few times a day to help with the constipation. We also do the exercising the legs laying on the floor and rubbing the belly pretty frequently. It is just a little alarming because of the uncontrollable crying that started yesterday. She sleep fine like she normally does from 9pm to about 6 am, but my wife said she started the crying again this morning. Any suggestions?

update – I called our regular pediatrician this morning and she recommended not giving water. The pediatrician we saw yesterday morning stimulated her and she had a stool. My wife gave her a pediatric glycerin suppository 1/2 dose and she went to the bathroom again yesterday afternoon. We thought this would provide some relief, but she was still fussy crying yesterday afternoon and crying uncontrollably last night. We put her in a warm bath and she didn’t cry, but after that she starting crying uncontrollably again until she nursed and then went to sleep. She slept fine during the night, but woke up this morning crying again.

My baby just turned 4 weeks old today and has gone anywhere between 6-9 days between poops. When we were in the hospital the first 2 days he pooped alot and it was the meconium stuff that you’d expect. Since bringing him home he has only pooped 3 times! Each time it has been the size of a dime or less and it’s red clay colored and the texture of play doh. The pediatrician finally took a look at him this week and insists that this is normal for an exclusive breast fed baby but is concerned because the baby has not gained any weight since his initial gaining back the birth weight the first week. We’ve been using gripe water for his gas but he has just gotten fussier and fussier and seems to be in pain and wanting to eat constantly. He has alot of wet diapers though which is why the pediatrician is saying the bowel movements are normal. What should I try to help my baby?

We’re also going through same stuff bowel movements got better but switched to soy formula witch made the bowel movements better. Just concerned cause our daughter Hailey Hembree, is still struggling with extreme gas and pain from it have tried gripe water, mylicon, prune juice, Apple juice, of course all the exercising and burping southing comforting her shoot anything. I was thinking that I would like to try and give her 2oz. Of Apple juice regularly only if it doesn’t make her worse? Please help! :)

9 week old baby doing fine on formula but seems to get constipated sometimes. dr recommended 1 tsp karo syrup in bottle every 2-3. it seemed to be helping for awhile but last 2 days he is not very interested in feedings and isn’t eating as much as before. he used to suck down 4-6 oz now eats 3-4. after 2 oz he acts like he doesn’t want it. also been alittle more fussy. don’t know if it sounds like formula issue or what. confused and worried

My baby is 8 weeks breastfeding and in the past weeks he have been bee and poop once or twice in a week but now he struggle a lot to poop. He is not cry but u can see him from his face. So what can I do to help him cause I feel lyk cryn on when I see him that way

Dineo,

Is your baby peeing a normal amount? I am not able to tell from your question. If he is not peeing, you need to see a doctor as he may be very dehydrated.

At 8 weeks, some breastfed babies do not poop frequently. That can be okay, but it sounds like he is uncomfortable and may need help.

Please respond with more details.

I’m so sorry you are both going through this.

@MsGreene

My baby is 1 month and 3 days old. She’s formula feed. Every night between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. she crying as if she is straining to fart or poop. She poops every 2-3 days but it is like clay. This has been happening since the first night in the hospital. Her Dr. says that is fine. Gave her Kayro syrup once and that was the best sleep she have had. How often can we give her Kayro syrup

My 2months old baby boy has always had a very healthy pooping since he was born,But I noticed that for the past one day he hadn’t pooped at all but he is eating really well and sleeping fine too..Am very worried and need some advice or help.

Hello, my baby is 8 weeks old and he didnt poop for 9 days already. He is breastfeeding, no fever, stomach is soft, no vomiting. He is ganing weight and pees very often. We tried everything: glycerin, gripe water, thermometer, prune juice -nothing helps. We have seen 3 pediatricians already who said that its fine, we just have to wait. However, all our relatives are very worried and pushing us to go to er and to do sanogram or xray. I am not excited to spend 9 hours in er with my baby, plus, bringing him under radiation… Please, advice me what to do. Should i really to be worried and run to er? Or should i wait few more days?

Greetings,

I can understand why your family would be concerned, but this can be perfectly fine. The important thing at this point is that he has been seen by a doctor. This on top of his gaining weight, feeding well, no fever, no vomiting, and a soft belly would not lead me to rush to the ER.

Sounds to me like you’re doing the right thing and he has a very efficient digestive system.

Best,
@MsGreene
Co-founder and Executive Producer, DrGreene.com (Note: I’m an experienced mom, but not a doctor.)

My son is 2 months old and is exclusively breastfeeding. Usually he has a bowel movement everyday about 2-3 times. The other night he had no poop, but then had a major one by 10 or 11. Last night the same thing, but all day no poop. He has been crying and clinging to me all day, I try to put him down and he just screams. The last couple feedings he ate but spit it back up almost immediately. What should I do?

My son is 8 months old and was also 6 weeks early. We started him on baby food at 6 months and he since then has only pooped every 4-5 days. 6 days being the longest stint. This concerns me because I don’t feel it is normal but at the same time he doesn’t seem to display any discomfort.

We have the same problem with my daughter. I feel so worried. :(

My 2 month old daughter hasn’t pooped for 2 days now. Is that normal or do I need to get her checked out???

My daughter is one month old but at 3 weeks her pooping changed. She is a formula and breast-fed baby. She can go for like 3 to 4 days without pooping. I give her little water, but still no change and am kind of worried. Is there anything I can use?

My son is formula and breastfed also and does the same thing. I’ve found that Mommys bliss helps him a lot when he goes a few days without pooping. By 5-6 hours after giving it to him he poops. It may work for your baby too

My baby is 8 weeks old and she usually poops like twice a day but she started going once every 2 days and right now today is 3 days and she hasn’t poop yet. She is a breast fed baby and she doesn’t poop hard even after two days. But she cries a lot when she passes gas. Is this normal?

My 9 month old daughter hasn’t gone pooping in 30 plus hours and when I feed her, she throws it up the past 12 hours, sometimes I mix the baby formula with some baby cereal. But, now she hasn’t pooped in hours can you help me

My son is 6 weeks old, he is breast and formula fed since birth. He has not pooped in 2 days, before he would poop daily. He is also throwing up every time he is fed formula now. Could he be constipated? Is there anything I can give him to get things going?
Should I stop the formula feeding due to him throwing up a slimy substance of milk after feeding?
Please help.

My son is three months now I used to breast feed him all these days but for past 4 days in night I feed him with formula.before feeding him he pooped once in a day but after feeding him formula for past 3 days he dint pooped. Please suggest what to do

Earlier Saturday i read on your web site that a constipated baby i month old could be given 1teaspoonof 100% pure maple syrup in 4ounces of water would help relieve his pooping issues.today Sunday i cannot find your response to this matter of constipation.i told my son what you said and he wants to see your response himself and i can’t find it.thank you…… my grandson is one month old and is being breast fed and has a pooping problem ………… not pooping. help me out here my son thinks i made it up.

Here is the article you’re looking for: Babies and Constipation.

my 9 week old baby girl was 6 week premature and is on sma formula bottle and can not poop on her own ive ried different milks held her legs up to belly pulled her check apart as was told by health visit but she simply do not poop on her own she can go 3-4 maybe 5 days without going till someone helps her

My one month premeture baby boy is on formula is not poop please help

My daughter has been having the same problem and i have her on Similac sensitive… my pediatrician said its normal but she hasn’t pooped since Tuesday… have you figured something out to make your daughter poop? I’ve tried more water, prune juice, pear juice… nothing seems to help.

My 2months old baby did not poop from 4 days. Does he constipated? I breastfeed him and also bottle, because i do not have enough milk supply, what can i do please reply.

Thankd

My 2 month old is breastfed and hasn’t pooped in 4 days. She is fussy and trys to strain I have put her legs to her chest but nothing comes out. I feel so bad for her please tell me what I can do to help her.

Try using cotton bud, dip the cottoned part fully inside petroleum jelly(vaseline). Insert the cottoned part into her anus, swipe it left and right, up and down to relax the muscles around the anus. Do it only when she is pressing to poo.

My baby is one month old and is constipated, she is very fussy and tries to push often but can’t get anything out. She is formula and breast fed as requested by our doctor two weeks ago. Is there anything we can do to help?