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A Blog from Your Kaiser Permanente Pediatricians in Northern California

Baby crying

Infant Constipation

Parents often worry that their baby is constipated. How do you know when to take it seriously and give us a call?

In the first month of life, infrequent stools can mean a baby isn’t getting enough breast milk or formula. At this age, we expect at least one stool a day in breastfed babies and one every 1 to 2 days in formula-fed newborns. Regular visits to your pediatrician will help you know your baby is growing well regardless of their stooling pattern.

Babies make a big deal out of pooping! Grunting, crying out, and turning red in the face doesn’t mean much. Really. The way to think about this is to understand a baby is trying to poop when lying flat. Gravity isn’t helping them any; we all might have to grunt if we pooped while lying on our backs!

Some babies poop only every few days. This usually isn’t a problem. It just means they’re efficiently converting all the milk they drink into energy to grow. If their poops are soft, and your baby is happy, well, and gaining weight, there isn’t anything to worry about.

However, if you notice any of the following signs of constipation, see your pediatrician:

  • Stools that are hard or contain blood.
  • A recent or sudden change to fewer stools.
  • Poor appetite.
  • Fussiness or increased spitting up.
  • Straining for more than 10 minutes to have a stool.
  • A distended (swollen) or tender abdomen.

Your pediatrician may suggest the following advice to help with constipation:

  •  Offer your baby a bit of juice, if they’re over 2 months old. Give 2 to 4 ounces of grape, pear, apple, prune, or cherry juice 2 times a day. If that doesn’t help, it’s time to call your doctor.
  • Feed older babies who are already eating solid foods more fruits and veggies (prunes, peaches, apricots, pears, plums, beans, spinach, and peaswork well). Constipation is easier to treat this way.
  • Offer a sippy cup of water with each solid meal.

As parents, we worry about many things! Usually though, babies don’t become constipated enough to need any medicine or other treatment. Talk with your doctor if you’re concerned.

Find more resources for parents

My Doctor Online:
Constipation in Children
Constipation in Children: Treatments

American Academy of Pediatrics:
Infant Constipation

Disclaimer: If you have an emergency medical condition, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital. An emergency medical condition is any of the following: (1) a medical condition that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity (including severe pain) such that you could reasonably expect the absence of immediate medical attention to result in serious jeopardy to your health or body functions or organs; (2) active labor when there isn't enough time for safe transfer to a Plan hospital (or designated hospital) before delivery, or if transfer poses a threat to your (or your unborn child's) health and safety, or (3) a mental disorder that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity such that either you are an immediate danger to yourself or others, or you are not immediately able to provide for, or use, food, shelter, or clothing, due to the mental disorder. This information is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of specific medical advice or care you receive from your physician or other health care professional. If you have persistent health problems, or if you have additional questions, please consult with your doctor. If you have questions or need more information about your medication, please speak to your pharmacist. Kaiser Permanente does not endorse the medications or products mentioned. Any trade names listed are for easy identification only.