Mama, is your baby having a difficult time pooping? Although common, signs of constipation in newborns can be a little tricky to spot. If you’re asking yourself the question ‘why is my newborn constipated?’ don’t worry, as we’ve created the ultimate guide to the signs, symptoms and changes to lookout for if you’re baby is struggling to poop.
Keep scrolling to discover what causes constipation in newborns and infants, how to treat it and how you can help ease your little one’s bowels so that their tummy feels happy, healthy and comfortable.
Why Is My Newborn Constipated?
As a Mama (or Dada), you’re constantly watching for clues about your baby’s health and wellbeing. Every laugh, cry and hiccup are all little signs to what your baby wants and needs at that moment in time. If you’ve noticed that your baby’s bowel movements have been more infrequent (and their nappy is surprisingly empty), this may be a sign that they’re constipated and struggling to poop.
Your baby’s bowel movements will change a lot as they grow and develop. Although it can be alarming, constipation in newborns and infants is very common and easily treated.
What Are The Signs That My Newborn Is Constipated?
Babies who exclusively consume breast milk rarely become constipated as breast milk is easy to digest, and is also considered a natural laxative. However, this doesn’t mean that your baby will never become constipated.
Babies who are fed formula, on the other hand, may have 3-4 bowel movements per day, or have one every few days. Every baby is different, and what’s normal for your baby might not be the same for someone else’s. It all depends on the type of milk they’re consuming, if solids have been introduced into their diet and if so, what foods they’re eating.
Signs and symptoms that your baby may be constipated include:
- A firm tummy: A firm, tight tummy could be a sign that your baby is constipated. They may also be bloated, which can make their stomach feel full or stiff and taught.
- Infrequent bowel movements: The number of poops that your baby has changes from day to day. But, if your little one goes more than a few days without pooping, and their stool is hard this could be a sign of constipation. Constipation is not only determined by how many bowel movements your baby has, but also the consistency (hard stools).
- Refusing to eat: If your baby is constipated, they may become full quickly and refuse to eat because their tummy is uncomfortable.
- Straining: Constipated babies often pass very hard, clay-like stools. These stools are a lot more difficult to pass, so your baby may try to push and strain more than usual and may be fussier/cry more than usual when trying to poop.
- Blood in their poop: If you notice bright red blood in your baby’s stool, then this is likely a sign that your little one is pushing very hard to try and have a bowel movement. This can cause tiny tears around your baby’s anal walls, resulting in blood appearing in their poop.
How To Treat Constipation In Newborns
Don’t worry, Mama! Treating your baby’s constipation doesn’t have to be intimidating and you can try the below methods to help relieve your little one’s tummy.
- Massage: Not only do baby massages help you bond with Baba and enjoy those precious skin-to-skin moments together, but gently massaging your baby’s tummy and lower-abdomen may help to stimulate a bowel movement. It is recommended that you do several of these throughout the day, until your little one passes a stool.
- Consider your milk choice: If your baby is bottle-fed, try switching to a different formula until their constipation is relieved, as they might be sensitive to certain ingredients. If your baby is breastfed, perhaps try adjusting your diet as your baby could be sensitive to something you’re eating. Although this is quite uncommon, this could be causing your baby’s constipation.
- Increase fluids: Water and milk are key for helping your baby stay hydrated, as proper hydration is essential for regular bowel movements. If your baby is over 6-months, consider prune or pear juice as this might help stimulate contractions in your little one’s colon. If it is too tangy or sweet for your baby to take, dilute it in some water. If your baby is under 6-months, its important that you speak with your doctor before giving them anything other than breast milk.
- Try solid foods: Some solids can help improve constipation including high-fibre foods such as broccoli, prunes, pears and peaches. Cooked grains such as oats, barley and wholegrain bread, crackers and cereals may help to relieve constipation too.
- Try pureed foods: If you’re little one is over 6-months but hasn’t started eating solids just yet, try the above foods, but pureed, to help add some bulk to their stool.
What Can I Give My Newborn For Constipation If These Changes Don’t Work?
Changing your baby’s diet will most likely help ease their constipation. However, if you’ve tried the above and you’re still asking yourself ‘why is my baby constipated?’ there are other methods available.
- Laxatives: If your baby is over 6-months, over-the-counter laxatives may be helpful if the above techniques don’t relieve their constipation. It’s very important that you speak with your doctor before giving laxatives to babies under 1 year.
- Glycerin suppository: If your little one has signs of an anal tear and has blood in their poop, a glycerin suppository might help to ease their bowel movements. These can be purchased over the counter. Again, if your child is under 2 years old it’s important that you speak with your doctor before using them.
In most circumstances your baby’s constipation will clear up on it’s own. However, if you’re at any point concerned it’s important that you speak to your doctor or paediatrician for help and advice, as they will be able to spot other signs and symptoms that might be a sign of something more serious.