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The Lowdown on Baby Constipation

You’ve witnessed your little one’s every laugh, cry, and even burp. Unfortunately, it’s much harder to detect when they might be struggling with constipation. Read on to learn the facts about baby constipation and the proper steps to take.

A newborn having baby constipation

Signs of constipation in babies 

How do you know if you have a constipated baby? If more than a few days have gone by since their last bowel movement, it’s a strong possibility. However, baby constipation isn’t just about frequency. Keep an eye out for other signs of constipation in babies, including when they:

  • Appear to be straining while passing stools
  • Produce very hard, clay-like stools
  • Refuse to eat due to growing discomfort and a feeling of fullness
  • Produce bright red, bloody stools which indicate they’ve been pushing too hard
  • Exhibit symptoms of bloating which directly impact their appetite

How often should a breastfed newborn poop?

To better understand constipation in babies, it’s important to know what’s considered a healthy pattern of bowel movements.

For babies, it depends on whether they’re eating solids yet, as well as the type of milk and foods they’re consuming.

Bowel movements in breastfed babies also differ according to age. In their first month, for example, an infant who poops less than once a day might not be eating enough.

Between 3 and 6 weeks of age, some babies tend to have fewer bowel movements, sometimes only one to two per day. Fortunately, it’s because nearly all of the nutrients contained in breast milk are being absorbed by their body. Breast milk contains the ideal balance of protein and fat, and produces soft stools – making it less likely to cause baby constipation.

How often should a newborn poop on formula?

In contrast, baby constipation is significantly more common when formula is used. Interestingly enough, formula-fed infants can poop anywhere between three or four times a day to just once every few days.

If your child is on formula and you suspect they’re experiencing baby constipation, there could be a certain ingredient in the product that’s causing it. Every formula has a specific mixture of proteins which may affect digestion.

What causes newborn constipation?

In reality, the majority of babies suffer from newborn constipation. Possible root causes include:

  • Weak abdominal muscles that are unable to properly pass stools
  • Frequently being in a flat, lying down position (your baby is getting little to no assistance from the forces of gravity)
  • An underlying, though very rare, medical condition such as a metabolic disorder or hypothyroidism
Tummy time helps to relieve constipation in babies quickly

It’s perfectly normal for your infant to occasionally go a few days without having a bowel movement. In the event that they might actually be suffering from baby constipation, you can lend a helping hand. Here are a few of the most effective remedies:

  • Schedule tummy time: Did you know that tummy time encourages your newborn to expel gas and stimulates bowel movements? Simply place them flat on their tummy across your lap or on a clean, comfortable surface. Wait for at least 20 minutes to see if it gets things moving.
  • Switch formula brands: Once you’ve consulted your pediatrician, consider purchasing a new brand of formula. As previously mentioned, baby constipation is sometimes triggered by certain proteins in formula.
  • Give them a warm bath: A gentle, soothing bath can relax your baby’s abdominal muscles, relieving the pain and discomfort caused by constipation in the process.
  • Use OTC medication: Only after it’s been approved by your doctor, you may want to try using a stool softener to treat constipation in newborns.

Exercises for constipation in newborns

Tummy massage is proven baby constipation relief method

It’s no secret that physical activity has the power to speed up digestion. Whatever your baby is eating will move through their body more quickly. Begin incorporating these exercises for constipation in newborns into their daily routine:

  • “Bicycle” exercise: lay them on their back and gently move their legs, alternating sides, as if pedaling a bike.
  • Tummy massage: another proven baby constipation relief method involves applying mild pressure to the abdomen and using your fingers to spell the letters “I,” “L,” and “U” (or “I love you”). Do this while they’re lying on their back, and repeat a few times throughout the day.
  • Thumb circles: gently massage your baby’s hands and the soles of their feet by moving your thumbs in a circular motion. The practice has been known to soothe the digestive system and help alleviate constipation in newborns.

When to call a doctor

In most cases, constipation in newborns will clear up on its own, or with the use of the treatments listed above. However, consult your doctor if baby constipation is accompanied by vomiting or fever, or if it lasts longer than two weeks despite dietary changes.

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/expert-answers/infant-constipation/faq-20058519

https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/constipated.html

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/diapers-clothing/Pages/Infant-Constipation.aspx

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0020748909000108

https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003125.htm

https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/constipation-children

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