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Wellness Topics for Infants 0-2 Years

How Can I Tell if My Baby Is Constipated?

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It seems like my baby has difficulty passing his stool. His face usually turns red and sometimes he grunts or makes other noises. He has bowel movements regularly, but I'm still concerned. Could he be constipated?
- Keisha

It's normal for infants to strain when passing a bowel movement (pooping). Going is more of a challenge for them because they are lying flat, and therefore don't have the forces of gravity to help move things along.

At first, breastfed babies tend go more often than formula-fed babies since breast milk is more easily digested. At around 3-6 weeks of age, though, breastfed babies may start having fewer bowel movements, sometimes only one or two a week. Formula-fed babies usually continue to have daily bowel movements.

As long as the stool remains soft (regardless of how frequent the bowel movements are or if there is straining), your baby probably is not constipated.

Babies who cry when passing a bowel movement or have hard or pebble-like stool might be constipated. If you think your baby's constipated, talk to your doctor, who may recommend giving your baby a little extra water or 100% fruit juice to soften hard stool. Never give a baby laxatives, suppositories, or enemas unless instructed to by a doctor.

If your baby's symptoms do not improve or if he has signs of illness like vomiting, fever, lethargy, lack of appetite, or blood in the stool, call your doctor right away.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: January 2014

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses and treatment, consult your doctor.

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