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Newborn Constipation

What to do when your newborn isn’t producing many soiled nappies.

In Newborn

    3-minutes read

    At a glance

    Contact a healthcare professional if you have any concerns about baby’s health

    No two babies are the same. Newborn poo is very different too

     

    Learn more about common baby feeding issues by taking our symptom checker

    Newborn constipation is usually caused by a change to baby’s diet. Seek medical advice if you’re concerned

    Tummy troubles are common in newborns, but constipation in babies is usually easily managed.

    How often should a newborn poo?

    You will soon get in to the rhythm of your babies bowel movements but here are some tips on what to look out for:

    • A breastfed baby may poo at each feed in the early weeks, then after about 6 weeks they may not have a poo for several days. This is completely normal.

    • Formula fed babies tend to poo either at least once a day or every other day. Some babies may even go longer between poos without being constipated.

    • As long as their poos are soft, they have plenty of wet nappies and are not distressed, your baby is not constipated.

    Symptoms of constipation in newborns

    Newborn baby crying

    It can be hard to tell why your little one is crying or uncomfortable, and tummy troubles are often the cause. It can be normal for babies to grunt when passing a poo. If you’re unsure, talk to a healthcare professional such as your GP, health visitor or public health nurse. The usual signs of constipation in newborns are:

    • Dry, hard stools that are either small and pellet-like or large and difficult to push out

    • Infrequent stools, less than 3 poos a week

    • Foul smelling stools or wind

    • Irritability or signs of distress

    • Straining and crying when pooing

    • Lack of energy

    • Loss of appetite

    • Your baby’s tummy may feel firmer than usual

    If you are still unsure, why not try our feeding issues symptom checker.

    What causes constipation in babies?

    • Dehydration: if your baby’s not getting enough fluids this can result in drier stools.

    • An underlying illness: a change in your baby’s poos could be a sign your baby is unwell, but as always, it’s best to talk to your GP if you’re in any way concerned.

    • Diet changes: Some babies may get constipated when they first move onto infant formula as their little digestive system learns to adjust to new things.

    • A reaction to a certain formula – formula-fed babies, in general, don’t poo as often, so there’s no need to worry if it’s been a few days. Talk to your GP if you’re concerned as they may recommend trying a different kind of formula. Specific hydrolysed formulas contain protein that is broken down into smaller pieces, so are easier for babies to digest.

    How to help a constipated baby

    Woman kissing newborn baby on the forehead

    Hopefully it will pass (literally) with time. If your infant's constipation continues and your baby is in pain then speak to your GP, health visitor or a public health nurse.

    Next steps

    • If your baby is constipated, you can try giving them a little boiled and cooled water between feeds. Speak to a healthcare professional to know how much you should be giving

    • Gently move your little one’s legs in a bicycle motion or massage their tummy in clockwise hand movements and slow downward strokes just below their belly button.

    • If you are bottle-feeding, make sure you always follow the preparation instructions on the label. Too much powder or too little water can make your baby constipated

    • If your babies symptoms do not improve talk to your GP, health visitor or public health nurse.

    • Need some help? Our Careline team are online to answer your questions.

    IMPORTANT NOTICE: The best way to feed a baby is to breastfeed, as breast milk provides the ideal balanced diet and protection against illness for your baby and also many non-nutritional benefits for both baby and mother. We recommend that you speak to your healthcare professional when deciding on your choice of feeding your baby. Professional guidance should also be sought on the preparation for and maintenance of breastfeeding. If you do choose to breastfeed, it's important to eat a healthy, balanced diet. Infant formula is intended to replace breast milk when mothers choose not to breastfeed or if for some reason they are unable to do so. A decision not to breastfeed, or to introduce partial bottle-feeding, will reduce the supply of breast milk. If for any reason you choose not to breastfeed, do remember that such a decision can be difficult to reverse. Using infant formula also has social and financial implications which must be considered. Infant formula should always be prepared, used and stored as instructed on the label, in order to avoid risks to a baby’s health.

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    Important advice to mothers

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life. SMA® Nutrition fully supports this and continued breastfeeding, along with the introduction of complementary foods as advised by your healthcare professional.