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Babies and constipation

A baby's bowel movements may not be as regular as those in older children. Constipation is more common in formula fed babies than those who are breast-fed.

In rare cases, prolonged, severe constipation can have a medical cause, such as some sort of blockage.

Hard stools or poo are also possible.

Constipation defined

There is no medical harm in the stool staying in the body for a long time, and the frequency of your baby's bowel movements does not really define true constipation. True constipation occurs when the baby's stools cause significant difficulty and discomfort when being passed, because they are very dense and hard. This definition excludes the baby who has soft, easy-to-pass stools once a week, even if they seem to strain a lot in the process.

Tips for concerned parents

  • Try a different brand of formula if you're bottle-feeding. Constipation should never be considered a reason to discontinue breastfeeding.
  • Give some extra water between feeds, especially in hot weather. If you are using formula milk, do not dilute it - follow the directions given by the manufacturer.
  • Remember that most babies with infrequent bowel movements are not truly ‘constipated’ and nothing needs to be changed.

When to worry about baby's constipation

Seek medical advice if infrequent, hard stools seem to be causing significant discomfort for your baby. However, keep in mind that infrequent but soft, easy-to-pass stools are not constipation and rarely require intervention.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on February 12, 2018

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