Poop isn’t a topic most of us like to think about too much, let alone talk about. But when you’ve got a newborn, that changes. It’s all too easy to worry about your baby’s bowel movements
Is your little one pooping too much?
Not often enough?
Is the poop too runny, and is it supposed to be that color?
For first-time parents in particular, diaper-changing can be worry-inducing. And if your baby won’t poop at all, it’s especially easy to stress about their health.
Good news: your baby is probably just fine. Breastfed babies can go for days – or longer – without pooping. In fact, that’s normal. Keep reading to learn more about how often your baby should poop, how you can tell if your baby is constipated, and when you should contact your baby’s pediatrician.
- How often should a baby poop?
- Risk of constipation for breastfed and formula-fed babies
- Signs of constipation
- How to help your constipated baby
- When should you contact a doctor?
How Often Should a Baby Poop?
There’s no single answer to the question of how often a baby should poop. It depends on how old your baby is.
Newborns generally need a lot of diaper changes – in fact, they may poop every time they’re fed. Some newborns have dirty diapers ten times a day! When babies are first born, their stools are dark greenish-black, thick, and sticky. This substance is called meconium. During your baby’s first week, their poop will change in both color and texture, becoming first greenish and then yellow. The stool should be soft or paste-like. Hard or pebble-like stools indicate constipation, no matter how old your baby is.
Generally, babies under the age of one month need to poop frequently. If they don’t, there may be a problem. Call your baby’s pediatrician if they don’t have a bowel movement for 24 hours or so.
Once your baby gets a little older, the frequency of their bowel movements will probably decrease (and you’ll get a reprieve from changing so many diapers). By the time your baby is six to eight weeks old, they may be pooping only once every day. Keep in mind that all babies have different elimination habits, so it’s fine if your baby continues to have bowel movements several times a day at this age.
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Babies grow very quickly as they get older. As a baby’s digestive system matures, they become better able to extract the maximum possible nutritional value from their food, especially if they’re drinking breast milk. By the three-month mark, many breastfed babies stop pooping every day – or even every week. It’s easy to be alarmed as a parent when your baby hasn’t pooped, but it’s actually completely normal! Your baby is absorbing every drop of nutrition, so there’s nothing left to poop out. As long as your little one seems happy and continues to pee normally, you don’t need to worry or do anything differently.
What about formula-fed babies?
That’s a little different. Formula can’t be absorbed as easily as breast milk, so a baby who drinks formula should continue pooping on a fairly regular schedule. It’s still okay if your baby goes a couple of days in between bowel movements, but going any longer than that could indicate constipation.
Once your baby starts eating solid foods, around the age of six to eight months, their bowel movements should become more regular. The texture and smell will also change.
Risk of Constipation for Breastfed and Formula-Fed Babies
For exclusively breastfed babies, there is virtually no risk of constipation. That’s because breast milk contains a compound that is a natural laxative. If your breastfed baby hasn’t pooped, you can rest assured that they’re just having a growth spurt.
Babies who eat formula are more likely to get constipated. That’s because the formula is harder to digest than breast milk, and it tends to produce firmer stools. If your baby is formula-fed, be extra alert to potential signs of constipation.
Signs Your Baby Is Constipated
One of the most obvious signs of constipation is that your baby hasn’t pooped. As we’ve seen, though, that’s not enough to determine whether a baby is actually constipated. Here are some other signs of constipation you should be on the lookout for.
- Your baby’s poop is dry, firm, or looks like little pellets.
- Your baby strains or seems to be in pain while having a bowel movement.
- Your baby’s belly seems swollen and tender.
- Your baby seems especially fussy or unhappy.
- You find small streaks of blood in your baby’s stool.
How to Help Your Constipated Baby?
So your baby didn’t poop today, and you suspect they may be constipated. What should you do now? Constipation isn’t usually a serious issue, so don’t call up your baby’s pediatrician just yet. Try these simple tricks to get your baby’s digestion moving again.
- Try a different brand of formula. Some babies have trouble digesting certain formulas.
- Massage your baby’s stomach gently to stimulate their intestines.
- If your baby is at least two months old, ask their pediatrician if you can give them an ounce of water or prune juice to help their digestion. Never give your baby any liquids except formula or breast milk without checking with a doctor first – too much excess fluid can be dangerous for babies.
- If your baby is old enough to eat solid food, try giving them some pureed fruit or vegetables. The fiber will help them poop.
- Help your baby exercise. Encourage them to crawl around, or, if they’re not crawling yet, pump their legs.
- Gently press on your baby’s rectum with a q-tip or a rectal thermometer. Sometimes this can help stimulate a bowel movement.
- As a last resort, consider using an over-the-counter infant laxative. Always consult a pediatrician before you do this, though.
When Should You Contact a Doctor?
Sometimes, not pooping can be a sign that your baby has a more serious problem. Take your baby to a medical professional right away if you notice any of the following symptoms.
- Your baby has blood in their stool.
- Your baby doesn’t want to eat.
- Your baby is losing weight.
- Your baby is in pain, and nothing you do helps them poop.
- Your baby has a fever.
- Your baby is under one month old and hasn’t pooped in 24 hours.