How to Help Your Constipated Baby


Just as with adults, constipation can also affect children from time to time, and rarely, babies, too. Though it’s normal for babies to sometimes have fewer bowel movements than you may expect, many parents wonder whether their baby is constipated when poops are less frequent. Discover some of the telltale signs of constipation and learn how to help your baby if they're constipated.

What Is Constipation in Babies?

To understand baby constipation, it’s important to know what stools are like for infants. Although every baby is different, and there’s a broad range of what’s normal when it comes to pooping, many babies will poop after each feeding in the first weeks of life. Then, after about 3 to 6 weeks of age, some breastfed babies will poop less often, even as little as once a week. That's because breast milk creates almost no solid waste that has to be eliminated from the digestive system. Formula-fed babies tend to poop once a day or once every other day.

In terms of consistency, your baby’s stools should be soft when everything is normal and regular. Your baby may be constipated if they produce hard, dry bowel movements, which can be difficult or even painful to pass. And, if your baby’s constipated, their bowel movements may be more infrequent than what’s typical or normal for them.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Infant Constipation?

The following signs may indicate your baby is constipated:

  • Your baby has hard bowel movements that look like round, ball-shaped pellets

  • Your baby may arch their back or cry when having difficulty passing a bowel movement. Keep in mind that it’s common for infants to strain when pooping—your baby will most likely be pooping while lying on their back, which isn’t that easy to do. If your baby passes a soft bowel movement after straining, they are probably not constipated

  • Your baby's bowel movements are happening less frequently than normal.

How Can You Tell if Your Baby Is Constipated?

If you suspect your baby may be constipated, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is my baby more fussy than usual?

  • Are they spitting up more often?

  • Is my little one having significantly fewer bowel movements than at other times?

  • Are their stools harder than usual, and/or are they bloody?

  • Does my baby strain for longer than 10 minutes when they need to poop but still not pass anything?

Your little one might be constipated if you answered “yes” to any of these.

What Can Cause Infant Constipation?

Constipation is rare in young babies, particularly those not yet eating solid foods. It’s more likely to occur once you introduce solids. Your baby’s pattern of bowel movements will vary depending on their age and what they've eaten recently.

In very rare cases, your baby’s constipation may be caused by an underlying condition, such as Hirschsprung's disease, hypothyroidism, or cystic fibrosis. Contact their healthcare provider if you think your baby has constipation due to any of these conditions, or if you have any questions about your baby's symptoms.

How Long Can Your Baby Go Without Pooping?

The frequency of your baby’s bowel movements can vary from day to day, and every baby is different. A baby consuming formula tends to poop at least once per day, but it’s possible for an infant not to poop for a day or two without necessarily being constipated.

In the early weeks, breastfed babies may poop more often since breast milk is easily digested, but at around 3 to 6 weeks old, breastfed babies may start having fewer bowel movements, with as little as one or two per week, but still not be constipated.

What Are Some Home Remedies for Baby Constipation?

If your baby becomes constipated once he’s started on solid foods, check in with your healthcare provider, who may recommend any of the following changes or additions their diet to help relieve constipation:

  • Water. If your baby is over 6 months old (the age from when it’s OK for him to drink water), offer a little water in a sippy cup with their meals. This shouldn’t replace breast milk or formula, however.

  • Fruit juice. A few ounces of 100 percent fruit juice, such as apple, pear, or prune, can also help your baby. These juices contain sorbitol, which works like a natural laxative.

  • Certain fruits and vegetables. Once your baby is eating solid foods, give them pureed foods such as prunes, pears, peaches, and peas. These can help with constipation since they contain more fiber than other fruits and vegetables.

  • Infant cereals. Try feeding him whole-wheat, barley, or multigrain infant cereal once he is eating solid foods. These three types contain more fiber than rice cereal and may help get things moving.

If the above dietary changes haven’t given your baby relief, contact his healthcare provider again for guidance.

What Can You Give Your Baby for Constipation?

If dietary changes haven’t relieved their constipation, your baby’s healthcare provider might recommend an infant glycerin suppository, which is placed in your baby’s rectum. These types of suppositories are meant to be used only occasionally and shouldn’t be overused. Do not use mineral oil, enemas, constipation medicine, or any stimulating laxatives to treat your baby’s constipation. Always follow your healthcare provider’s advice.

When Should You Contact Your Baby’s Healthcare Provider?

You may be asking yourself, “When should I worry about my baby’s constipation?” There are certain signs and symptoms to look out for that can indicate more urgent medical care may be required. If you notice the following, contact your baby’s healthcare provider right away so your little one can get checked out:

  • Vomiting

  • Fever

  • Tiredness or weakness

  • Loss of appetite

  • A swollen belly

  • Blood in your baby’s poop.

The Bottom Line

Constipation is more likely to happen after your baby starts eating solid foods for the first time at around 6 months of age). It takes time to adjust to new foods, which can lead to constipation from time to time. Otherwise, constipation in babies is fairly uncommon, so it could just be that your baby is going a few days without a bowel movement and isn’t actually constipated. Knowing what symptoms to look out for, such as pellet-like poop, can be of great help in determining the situation. Although constipation can be uncomfortable for your baby, especially when they're straining to poop, a simple treatment may do the trick. Subtle changes in diet can help relieve constipation, like adding fiber-rich foods or offering a little water. If these dietary changes don’t help, contact your baby’s healthcare provider, who may recommend using suppositories or another form of treatment.

How We Wrote This Article The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.

About Christopher B. Peltier

Dr. Chris Peltier is an expert in pediatrics and medical education, and currently practices as a general pediatrician at Pediatric Associates of Mount Carmel, Inc., where he’s served his community for over two decades. Dr. Peltier currently serves as...

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