If you’re worried about newborn constipation, you should feel relieved to know that your newborn is most likely not constipated. According to the Mayo Clinic (reference page below), it is very uncommon for a newborn baby to be constipated and most often fussiness and lack of bowel movements are due to these other causes:
- Still developing digestive tract
- Gas and or colic
- If baby is breastfed
This post is not intended to provide medical recommendations and you should consult a healthcare professional if you are concerned about your baby’s health. This post is intended to offer information gathered through research and personal experience to help you make informed decisions regarding your baby’s health.
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Newborn poop – what’s normal
Is my newborn constipated or something else?
If your baby is still considered a newborn, so under 3 months old, you are probably dealing with one of the 3 other scenarios mentioned above. In which case there are several things you can do to help. But first, you do need to eliminate the possibility that your newborn is in fact constipated, as that could be a medical emergency.
How to know if your newborn is constipated
A constipated newborn baby, whether breastfed or formula fed, will have pellet-sized stools that are hard and obviously uncomfortable to pass. If this is true for your newborn, it is important to consult with a healthcare provider as this could mean there is a more serious condition going on. *Note that this warning is for babies under 3 months.
On the other hand, if your baby’s last bowel movement was a pasty, mushy or wet stool, and it’s been less than 7 days since they had a bowel movement, then it is unlikely that they are constipated. Instead, the following situations are likely the cause for your baby not going #2 or being fussy, squirmy and maybe even unable to sleep well.
*If your baby is over 3 months, then they are really referred to as an infant and constipation is much more common in babies as they get older and their stools begin to firm up. Skip ahead to the section, How to Relieve Infant Constipation Naturally.
Breastfed newborns and poop
In the first 6 weeks of your newborn’s life they are going to be breastfeeding at all hours of the day and night. And they usually, but not always, will also be pooping all the time as well. In those first 6 weeks, it is very unlikely that you’ll deal with constipation at all. Instead you’ll be dealing with gas, gas, gas. And a fussy baby at times as their digestive muscles develop.
You see, those muscles haven’t been working at all in the last 9 months. And now your baby is dealing with gravity, new nourishment and all that comes with being their own individual human. So it’s going to take a couple of months for those muscles (including the muscles of the jaw, throat and belly) to grow and establish enough tone to do their job efficiently.
So if your baby seems squirmy, and fusses as if in pain, rest assured that their little body is just working through this stage of development. There are a few things you can do to ease discomfort, relieve the awful gas and help them move their soft stools along.
How to relieve newborn gas and help baby poop
First thing first, if your newborn is breastfed, your rule #1 should be to feed on demand – whenever baby cues by licking lips, hands to mouth or sharp outcries. Newborns cannot overeat and in fact they must be brought to your breast every time they signal to you in order for your body to respond and provide the quality and quantity of milk they need.
From birth to 6 weeks, you’re going to deal a lot with cluster feeding. This is when your baby nurses all the time and can’t seem to get enough milk, but that’s not actually the reason they’re cluster nursing. Cluster feeding serves so many purposes that I cover in this post and it is a critical part of early breastfeeding. Lactation experts even say that if you try to stop cluster feeding during the newborn weeks, you may end up having a hard time continuing to breastfeed.
That being said, if you’re feeding your baby on demand and your baby still seems fussy and squirmy, even at the breast, then they may be fighting gas pains. Again, because of their immature digestive system, newborns commonly suffer from gas. These gas pains, and the cries and squirming that come with it, can lead parents to think their newborn is constipated when they’re not.
One easy solution that I used with both of my kids when they were newborns is gas drops. (the ones linked are free of parabens, dyes, dairy, soy and other toxins and allergens) They can be given safely to newborns and they work well for newborn gas relief. Gas drops work best after baby has eaten and can be given up to 12 times a day.
Bicycle method for newborn gas pain relief
In addition to gas drops, you can use the bicycle technique to help move the gas and stool along and out of their body. My husband was the first of us to find the research on this technique for newborn gas pain relief. To do this method, lay baby on their back on a soft bed, couch or padded surface. Take their ankles in your hands and slowly, gently move their legs in the motion of pushing pedals on a bike. Their feet should come up then down and backward slightly.
Continue doing the bicycle technique, very gently, until baby passes gas, has a bowel movement or is no longer fussy and squirmy. Usually takes no longer than 3-5 minutes. Repeat this technique as needed for the next several weeks.
Gripe water for gas, colic and fussiness
Another remedy for newborn gas and colic that works really well is gripe water. It is also made without parabens, soy, dairy, and harmful chemicals. Gripe water is made of natural ingredients like ginger root and fennel seed. Think of gripe water as a step up from gas drops, for very fussy newborns over 2 weeks.
There is also a nighttime version of gripe water and you can buy this brand just about anywhere!
When it comes to newborn constipation, odds are in your favor that your newborn baby is not actually constipated, but dealing with another of life’s discomforts. Fortunately, there’s some things you can do right now to relieve your baby.
How to Relieve Infant Constipation Naturally
Infant constipation is much more common than newborn constipation and there are natural remedies you can turn to for relief for your baby. But, remember, breastfed babies can either have bowel movements every day or as spaced out as once a week. As long as the stools don’t seem painful to pass or feel hard, your infant is pooping normal.
But if your infant is over 3 months and is having oddly firm stools and is clearly in pain when passing them, your baby may be constipated.
Signs of infant constipation
- Straining during bowel movements with their face turning red
- Taking longer than a couple minutes to pass stool once they begin to push
- Crying when passing stool
- Blood passing with stool
- A noticeable tear of skin around anus with the symptoms above (please seek medical attention)
Infant constipation can be heart breaking and if your baby is dealing with this I know you need a hug too. This is so hard to watch your baby go through, but you can help them!
When my son struggled with infant constipation, his pediatrician said it was normal and there was nothing I could do. But my mama instinct told me the size of his stool was not normal (not even for a full grown adult) and there had to be something I could do! So if you haven’t received the support you need from the people you’ve turned to, you’ve come to the right place! Here are the tips and remedies you need to know about to relieve infant constipation.
How to relieve infant constipation naturally
First of all, I’m not experienced with formula fed infant constipation, so the advice I share here about that topic is limited. I’ve done extensive research on infant constipation in breastfed babies and I have personal experience to share as well. When in comes to formula fed babies and infant constipation, I have no personal experience. However, natural remedies are safe and have the potential to work well for either breastfed babies or formula fed babies with constipation.
*Side note on formula fed infant constipation: only begin with the following natural remedies for infant constipation if you are certain that the formula is not the cause. That would be the first thing your healthcare professional will do, to eliminate the formula as the cause. If you’ve recently changed formulas, then that is likely the cause of constipation. Please consult with a medical professional or look into how to start breastfeeding again.
Solids cause infant constipation most of the time
To relieve infant constipation, the first thing you should do is cut out all solids. The #1 reason a baby struggles with constipation under 1 year of age is that they’re eating solid foods.
It is exciting to reach that age when it’s considered safe to introduce solids, but doing so comes with a risk. That’s not always explained when parents are encouraged to give solid foods at 4 months. Even baby led weaning, while the theory and intention is natural and loving, isn’t without risk of infant constipation.
Other natural remedies for infant constipation
Whether you were giving your baby solids or not, the second best, natural thing you can do to stop infant constipation and help your baby poop normal, is to give a probiotic. Probiotics are almost an essential part of the human diet now. Why? Because of the rise of antibiotics being prescribed and the decline in nutrient dense foods available. (This effects breast milk too)
I cover in much more detail when to give babies and kids probiotics and how to choose the right one in this post and you should come back to it later. For now, let me explain how probiotics can naturally and quickly help infant constipation.
Probiotics for infant constipation
Your baby could benefit from probiotics if they
- were ever given antibiotics since they were born
- breastfeed and mom has taken antibiotics since baby was born
- is struggling with food allergies and mom is on elimination diet and breastfeeding
- has been sick recently and/or frequently
- has ever struggled with colic
- has irregular, unpredictable stools
All of these situations can disrupt the proper development and the sustainability of your baby’s gut biome. If you’re new to the topic of gut biome, please take some time to research it. This will be a topic you need to be familiar with now that you have a child. It’s not a crisis and it is not the worst thing you could be dealing with, but it is important to understand how the gut functions and why it’s so important to keep the gut healthy.
In short, probiotics replace the beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract that are needed to keep the gut healthy and bowel movements regular. So if you’re ever dealing with irregular infant bowel movements or abnormal baby poops, probiotics are an easy, affordable, natural remedy. This applies to toddlers, kids and adults as well.
There are a million probiotics to choose from, but make sure you get an infant probiotic that contains Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium together for infant constipation. Mary Ruth has an organic liquid probiotic for infants with these and other bacteria strains.
Probiotics usually work for infant constipation in less than 2 days. Give it every single day for at least 2 weeks. After 2 weeks, if bowel movements seem regular, you can try to give the probiotic every other day. Just be cautious, if you notice the early signs of infant constipation (straining, walking away without passing stool, straining again, turning red), then continue daily probiotics for at least a month.
Some infants need to be on probiotics daily for up to a year. This is true for babies that took an antibiotic, since even just one round can wipe out the beneficial gut bacteria. And it takes an entire year to replenish it. I highly recommend you come back and read this article to learn about the best probiotics for the whole family and when to take them.
Walking and crawling to naturally relieve infant constipation
Another great tip for infant constipation relief is to get your baby moving even more. Crawling and walking help move things along, whereas lying flat on their back or staying in a sitting position too long only makes matters worse. Get them out of the swing for more floor play, tummy time and movement. You can even do the bicycle method mentioned above if they are young infants.
If they are crawling, but not yet walking, hold their arms and let their feet touch the floor for some imitation walking. Do this as long as you think they can comfortably tolerate it as another way to let gravity work and get their tummy muscles in action.
Glycerin suppository for infant constipation
This remedy should be your last resort and you should get an okay from a healthcare professional first. That being said, when my son was around 8 months old he got so backed up from simple solid foods (only fruits and veggies) that he had gone nearly 10 days without a bowel movement. He had been trying to pass stool for a couple days. The pediatrician told me it was normal and there was really nothing I could do. He’d “eventually grow out of it.”
You can imagine my shock. But I was determined not to settle for that answer. That sort of a desperate situation will make a Mama out of you.
I did some research and talked to a mom of 5 who mentioned to me that a glycerin suppository was safe and might help, so I nervously gave it to my son. Within a few minutes he passed some slimy poop and he and I were both so relieved. So if you find yourself at the point of desperation and it’s been more than just a few days and you fear you’re running out of “safe” time, a glycerin suppository might be the next best thing.
If your baby’s last bowel movement was less than 7 days ago, you have time to let the probiotic work! Keep giving the infant probiotic daily. You’ll be surprised how quickly it works. If you do this for 2 days and don’t see improvement, you may need to resort to the suppository and change the probiotic to something “stronger” like this one.
After the constipation nightmare, I stopped all solids until my son reached 1. He was exclusively breastfed up until then and I gave him probiotics regularly. We never struggled with constipation again. So if you’re in that nightmare right now, hugs to you, and I hope this information has given you the knowledge and know how to overcome infant constipation. Leave your thoughts in the comments and share this with someone who needs it!
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