Babies eat, drink and poop a lot. That’s basically all they do all day aside from sleeping and playing. But sometimes, a baby would just stop pooping, and as a parent, you can’t help but worry that it might be something serious.
For this, parents need to learn why babies don’t poop, how to know if they are constipated, and if they are – what may be safe remedies especially for young babies.
First of all, babies that won’t poop the way we parents would expect are extremely common. After giving birth, most parents wouldn’t even spend time worrying about their children’s bowel movements, especially new parents. A lot happens during a baby’s first year, and bowel movements will change a lot as the baby grows and his or her diet changes.
In fact, there are times when babies stop pooping completely for several days. In this case, it is easy and completely rational to believe this to be constipation. And it can be. But it also doesn’t have to be.
Breastfeed versus formula
There’s a big difference in the risk of constipation between breastfed babies and those on formula. If you are breastfeeding and if your baby has had normal breast milk poop earlier, chances are that he or she is only going through a growth period and therefore actually absorbs pretty much everything he eats. Also, at around 4 weeks of age, a baby’s digestive system begins to mature and the number of bowel movement usually decreases, especially if the baby is breastfed. If your baby seems completely happy and eats and urinates, just as usual, there is probably nothing you have to do. The poop will come.
If your baby is formula-fed, the risk of constipation is higher. Formula-fed babies are more prone to become constipated because the formula is much harder to digest than breast milk. Also, the formula can’t be as fully digested as breastmilk, so formula fed babies, regarding of age, should have quite regular bowel movements. A formula fed babies should not go several days between pooping; for them, it can be a sign of constipation.
How to know if your baby is constipated
Here are some signs of constipation to look for:
- In a newborn, firm stools less than once a day with straining and difficulty passing them
- In older babies, firm stools less often than 7 days for breast-fed babies and 4 days for bottle-fed babies
- Dry, hard stools and pain on passing them
- Hard, pebble-like stools passed by a baby who strains during a bowel movement
- Signs of blood along the outside of the poop
- Belly pain along with hard, infrequent stools
How to deal with constipation
While it is normal for babies will strain from time to time to move the stool along through the intestines, crying hard is not. If you want to do something to help your baby while straining, try holding his or her knees against his or her chestto help your baby “squat”. This is also very effective for tummy pain to release gas.
If your baby is bottle-fed you can experiment with different types of formula to find the one that has the least tendency to result in constipation. For some babies, soy-based formulas work better. For others, a hydrolysate formula can make a real difference.
You can also feed your baby smaller amounts of formula more frequently, to help the intestines cope with the formula. Twice as often is a rule of thumb. Make sure that you don’t add too much formula powder when preparing the formula. Take care not to overfill or tightly pack the scoop.
You can also try offering your baby some extra water – about 30 grams once or twice a day.
If you breastfeed at all, you can try to increase the share of breast milk you baby gets. Breast milk is a great laxative. There are also baby laxatives or glycerin suppositories available, but don’t use them more than as a last resort. It is much better to try to change what your baby eats than to use short-term solutions like these are.
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