Baby Constipation Remedies: How To Help a Newborn Poop

Most babies who appear to have newborn constipation have functional constipation.1 This is temporary constipation caused by a change in diet, a growth spurt, or just being a newborn. Babies are born with weak stomach muscles and undeveloped sphincters, so it can be normal to struggle to poop, especially if they have soft stools after a few minutes of straining.2 Organic constipation is caused by a medical problem such as a disease or deformity.3

Baby constipation is common, with 3%-5% of doctor visits for children related to constipation issues.1 As a parent, you should be aware of your baby’s bowel patterns (BM) to notice changes. Then, monitor the changes to see if you need to contact your provider. Most parents worry about newborn constipation issues, but it’s usually workable, and you can treat it at home.1

How do you know if your baby is constipated? There are a few signs to look out for:2,3,4,5

  • Smaller number of bowel movements than usual
  • Stool that is hard or shaped like pellets
  • Large, round stools or watery stools
  • They are more difficult than usual
  • Fidgeting or crying when the baby defecates, followed by hard stools
  • Swollen or swollen abdomen
  • Decreased intake/refusal to eat
  • Vomiting
  • Blood in the stool (often from the anal fissure)

Every baby develops bowel patterns when they consistently eat the same food, formula, or breast milk. So, you will notice if there is a difference in your baby’s pattern. Of course, their pattern can naturally change with age and the types of food introduced into their diet. For example, it’s normal for exclusively breastfed babies to have frequent bowel movements but only have bowel movements every four to seven days.5 However, some breastfed babies poop after every feed!

Most formula-fed babies have one to four BMs per day. Some babies will have BM with every feeding, while others may go every one to three days.3,6 Just know your baby’s BM pattern and watch the changes.

Infant constipation is most common when there is a change in the baby’s diet. This includes changes from breast milk to formula, from one formula to another, and when solid foods are introduced. If you notice a difference in your baby’s stool pattern, or if the stool (poop) is hard and difficult to pass, your baby may be constipated.4

Some other causes of newborn constipation can be:3,4,8

  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Low fiber in the diet
  • Immature digestive system in newborns
  • Abdominal muscles are weak in newborns
  • After illness
  • A medical disease or anatomical malformation, such as Hirschprung’s disease

Regardless of the cause of your baby’s constipation, if it doesn’t resolve after two weeks with home remedies, you should contact your provider.7

There are many ways to help your baby poop. One of the easiest ways to relieve baby constipation is a diet adjustment.2,4,5 Remember to experiment with the amount of food or liquid added. It is best to change only one item at a time and no more than one item per 24 hours. You don’t want to give your baby diarrhea. Also, always check with your doctor before adding water, juice, or cereal to your baby’s diet. Here are some simple ways to help your baby’s constipation:2,4,5

  • Add water to their daily routine: Start with 1-2 oz daily, but not at regular feeding times. This is not recommended for small babies because people often misunderstand and add too much water, resulting in hyponatremia.
  • Add 100% apple, pear, or prune juice for babies, which is good for constipation: You can start with 2 oz of juice, one to two times a day, but not at regular feeding times. Take it easy and follow your doctor’s orders.
  • Increase fiber in the diet: You can do this by adding wheat, oatmeal, or barley cereal. Avoid rice cereal, as it can cause constipation, and there are concerns that it contains inorganic arsenic.9 Limiting it is also important because it increases calories that are not particularly beneficial to growth.

There are also other ways to help with baby constipation that don’t include changing the diet to help your baby pass his stool (poop). For example, you can try body positions to help newborn poop, the tummy tuck trick, and rectal/anal stimulation:4,5

  • Give the baby a warm bath: It can relax them and make bowel movements easier.
  • Exercise baby’s legs as if riding a bicycle: It helps stimulate the bowels.
  • Position or push the baby’s knees up to the chest: It puts the body in a squatting position (even if they are lying down), which helps in the discharge of feces from the anus.
  • Gently massage or press the abdomen: Start at the lower right corner of the stomach. Move up in a straight line, then across the stomach at navel level to the left side and down to the left corner.
  • Use a rectal thermometer to stimulate the anus: Place the thermometer in the anus as if you were taking its temperature. You can also do this with a cotton swab by adding some Vaseline to the swab and inserting it into the anus — just insert the tip of the swab.

You should contact your provider if none of the above home remedies relieve your baby’s constipation. They may suggest using a baby glycerin suppository or enema.

If you decide to use a home remedy to help with your baby’s constipation, you should always follow your provider’s advice. If home remedies do not produce results after two weeks, contact your provider for further instructions. But if you see any of the following signs or symptoms in your baby, call your doctor right away:1,4

  • Blood in the stool, which can indicate an infection in babies
  • Black stools can mean that there is blood in the digestive system
  • Large bloated and distended abdomen, along with reluctance to feed and signs of constipation
  • Vomiting occurs after symptoms of constipation and bloating

Avoiding baby constipation is not the best way to look at the situation. You never know when your baby might have a bowel movement and need help with bowel movements. You should constantly monitor the stool for signs of constipation but you cannot prevent it. And if you try hard to avoid constipation, you may end up with the opposite problem – diarrhea.

The best way to prevent infant constipation is by following a proper diet, following your provider’s instructions about infant diet, and remembering how to treat infant constipation. Here is a list of some general guidelines you can follow to try and help prevent baby constipation:7

  • Ensure plenty of fluid intake: Make sure your baby is feeding the correct amount of times each day for their age. Your provider can provide you with this information.
  • Consume the right amount of fiber in the diet: Different baby foods contain different amounts of fiber. Pears, peaches, plums, and prunes (or any of their juices) contain high fiber.
  • Frequent monitoring of stools: It’s easy to keep track of your baby’s poop since you and your family are the ones changing diapers the most. If there are fewer dirty diapers than usual or the stool seems hard and pellet-like, that’s the time to help your baby with constipation.
  • Regular exercise and stomach: Exercise for babies includes tummy time. This is where you lay them on their stomach for several times a day, moving their legs in a circular motion like cycling. Do this while playing with them or while changing diapers, and some of the swings and bouncy chairs give your baby a chance to exercise.

As a pediatric registered nurse, over the years, I’ve heard many parents mention the quickest or most effective way to help their baby poop. Here are some of the “winners” of the “I got my baby to poop” category:2,4,5

  • If your newborn is passing gas but not pooping, they are about to poop. Gas indicates that the intestines are working and moving stool. Be patient.
  • The general rule for fruit juice is to give an infant 1 oz for each month of life. So, a 2-month-old can have 2 ounces of fruit juice per day.
  • Rectal stimulation using a rectal thermometer or cotton swab two to three times daily is one of the easiest and most effective home remedies for constipation.
  • Make sure the baby gets regular exercise and tummy time.
  • Never give a baby stool softener, laxative, or enema without checking with your provider.

All babies have their own systems and respond to home remedies for constipation. And because babies grow and change so quickly, you may find it frustrating to keep trying multiple remedies until you find the right one for your baby. This is normal. Try to be patient. You will know your baby’s BM pattern. Once familiar with their pattern, it will be easy to recognize the signs of constipation. You can easily help them with all the tips and tricks when that happens. Then you, like many other parents and caregivers, can start your baby on the road to smooth and easy BMs. Happy diaper changing!

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