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      Constipation in babies and newborns

      What is baby constipation?

      If your little one is pooing less than three times a week, and has poos that are either large, hard and difficult to push out, or small, hard and pellet-like, they may be constipated1. Around 15% of babies experience constipation by their first birthday2, although babies that are exclusively breast-fed are less likely to experience constipation.

      Read on to learn about the signs and symptoms to look out for, what to expect from your baby’s nappies, what causes constipation, and tips on how to manage constipation.

      Signs and symptoms of constipation in babies

      Look out for two or three of these symptoms1:

      • Poos that are small, hard and pellet- like or large, hard and difficult to push out.
      • Less than three poos a week.
      • Foul-smelling wind and poo.
      • Excessive gas.
      • Straining and crying when pooing (you’ll come to know your baby’s ‘pooing face’ and this will change if they become constipated).
      • A tummy that is firm to the touch (your baby’s tummy should be soft and squishy).
      • A poor appetite (if your baby is constipated, they won’t have any room for more food).
      • Your baby is irritable and tearful.
      • You baby seems low on energy.

      Still unsure? Head over to our Baby Symptom Checker. If you have any concerns about your baby’s symptoms, speak to your health visitor.

      What causes constipation?

      Here are some of the things thought to contribute to constipation4:

      How much your baby drinks

      If your baby isn’t drinking enough, dehydration can lead to constipation.

      A change to their diet

      If they’ve recently moved from breast to formula milk, or if they’ve started solids.

      Their developing digestive system

      Getting used to new foods can take time.

      Withholding poos

      This could be for many reasons. They may simply not like the sensation of having a poo, or pooing could be painful for some reason. In this case, it’s best to see your GP to get them checked out.

      How to help your constipated baby

      It can be very stressful watching your little one struggle to poo. Here’s a few things you can do to help your baby5.

      • Make sure they have plenty to drink
        If you’re breastfeeding, offer plenty of feeds. If you’re formula-feeding, check you’re using the right amount of powder. Formula-fed babies can also have drinks of cooled, boiled water between feeds.
      • Try baby massage
        Try rubbing their tummy in a clockwise direction using smooth, circular motions. Or lay your baby on their back and gently move their legs in a cycling motion.
      • Run a nice warm bath
        Not only is this very relaxing for an unsettled baby, the warmth can be very effective at soothing an achy tummy. Make sure it’s not too hot, or it could have the opposite effect. Below 38oC is ideal.
      • Offer some fruit
        If your baby is over six months old, fruits like apples, pears or prunes can help get things on the move.

      What to expect from your baby’s nappies

      Your baby’s nappies will change depending on their age and diet3. Remember, every baby’s different and nappies change from baby to baby – you’ll quickly come to understand what’s normal for your baby.

      Breastfed babies

      In the early days, breastfed babies may poo frequently as breast milk is easy to digest. Once your baby is between 3 and 6 weeks old, they may only do one large, soft poo a week. This is completely normal.

      Formula-fed babies

      Formula-fed babies tend to poo more often than breastfed babies3 – at least once a day or every other day. Some formula-fed babies may go longer between poos without being constipated.

      Before weaning

      Your baby’s poo should be soft, almost like the consistency of peanut butter or even looser. Hard baby poo prior to starting solid food is the most obvious sign that your baby may be constipated.

      During weaning

      Once you introduce solid foods to their diet, your baby may be more likely to experience constipation.

      Want to know more? Check out our baby poo guide.

      When to see your doctor about your baby's constipation

      While constipation is usually nothing to worry about, it’s good to get your baby back to their bouncing, happy selves as soon as you can. If you have any concerns, talk to your Health Visitor or GP, especially if your baby6:

      • Is not improving

      • Is regularly constipated or bloated

      • Has blood in their poo

      • Has suddenly lost weight

      • Is tired and lethargic

      If in doubt, take a look at our Baby Symptom Checker.

      Taking care of you: Happy parent, happy baby

      It can be stressful seeing your baby in distress when they’re constipated. Remember that constipation is common in babies and there’s plenty you can do to help ease their discomfort. If you have any concerns about your baby's pooing habits, don’t hesitate to contact your Health Visitor or GP to put your mind at ease.

      You can also contact our dedicated Careline team for one-to-one support whenever you need it.

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