Constipation: Is my baby’s poop normal?
Parents often worry that their baby is not pooping as they should. Constipation is a common problem in children of all ages. Every baby is different. Babies who are constipated typically have bowel movements (poops) that look hard or pellet-like, cry a lot while trying to poop, and sometimes don’t have as many poops as they used to. When checking to see if your baby poops enough, you should consider the following:
- The effort it takes for them to poop
- How often are they pooping?
- Texture (consistency)
- Color of their poop
Effort: How difficult is it for a baby to poop?
It is common for babies to strain during a poop. Sometimes their face will turn red. Young babies have a hard time coordinating all the muscles involved in pooping. Pooping can be a major event for a baby, and their face may show it! If a baby is really fussy or straining for more than 10 minutes to poop, they may be constipated.
Frequency: How often does a “normal” baby poop?
Some babies go several times a day, while others may skip a day or two between poops. Babies’ poop habits change as their digestive systems mature and their diets change.
Formula-fed babies usually have a bowel movement at least once most days, but may go 1 to 2 days between poops.
Breastfed babies usually poop more than formula-fed babies. After they are a few months old, they may still have poops after each feeding or they may go a few days between poops.
The frequency of bowel movements alone does not determine if a baby is constipated. You should consider what is normal for your baby. The frequency of poops along with the texture, color, size, and ease of passing stool are all important factors when determining if there is a problem.
Texture: What stool texture/consistency is “normal?”
There isn’t a “normal” consistency for poop. Each baby’s individual digestive system and current diet will affect the texture. In general:
- Formula-fed babies have soft, mushy stools.
- Breastfed babies or babies fed formulas that have prebiotics can have loose, seedy stools.
- Babies eating solid foods will have more solid stools.
- Hard, dry, pellet-like stools are a common sign of constipation.
- Watery stools lasting for 24 hours could be diarrhea, and you should contact your baby’s doctor.
Color: What colors of stool are “normal”?
A wide range of colors can be considered normal- from bright green to yellow to dark brown. Just like the texture of poop, the color of stool depends on a baby’s diet and their particular digestive system. When babies start eating solid foods, you might see purple in their poop after blueberries or red after beets.
If your baby has black, tarry, red-streaked, or white colored poop, call your baby’s doctor.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests asking yourself the following questions:
- Is my baby really fussy?
- Is my baby spitting up more than usual?
- Is my baby having a lot more or fewer poops than before?
- Are my baby’s stools unusually hard, or do they have blood related to hard stools?
- Does my baby strain for more than 10 minutes without success?
If your baby shows these signs, they may be constipated. Call your baby’s doctor to report these signs and ask what you can do to help your baby.
What can parents do?
Just like constipated adults, your baby may need a change in physical activity or diet.
- Bicycling legs- Move your baby’s legs up and down as if they are riding a bicycle
- Squats- During bath time, hold your baby in a tub of warm water with his knees pulled up to his chest in a squatting position.
- Massage- Give your baby a tummy massage, moving your hands in a clockwise motion to help stool travel through their digestive system. Ask your baby’s doctor or physical therapist to show you this massage to make sure you are doing it correctly.
- If your baby is one month old, you can try giving them a little fruit juice to help soften their stool (one month after their due date if your baby was premature).
- Start by giving 1 ounce of prune, apple, or pear juice a day. The sugars in these fruit juices aren’t digested very well, so they draw fluid into the intestines and help loosen stool.
- Once your baby starts eating foods, offer them fruits like prunes, pears, plums, and apricots.
Your well-meaning family and friends may offer suggestions on how to help your baby poop. Some of the typical remedies include giving your baby Karo syrup, performing rectal stimulation, or giving glycerin suppositories or over-the-counter laxatives. Each of these remedies could be harmful to your baby.
DO NOT give your baby Karo syrup, glycerin suppositories, laxatives, or stimulate their rectum unless your doctor has instructed you to do so.
Always talk to your baby’s doctor FIRST before you do anything different with your infant.