Babies poop a lot. They have many stools each day, most of the time soon after feeding. Breast fed babies are more likely to have looser and more frequent bowel movements than those on cow’s milk formula.  Stools are generally yellow, sometimes a bit seedy and pretty loose. All this is very healthy. But what about the baby or young child who does not have a frequent BM, but in fact has very few stools at all? Yes, constipation, or the lack of a regular bowel movement, does occur in babies. Here are some things to watch for and ideas for dealing with constipation.

Symptoms

  • No bowel movement for forty-eight hours
  • Straining as if to have a bowel movement but with no results
  • Hard, dry stool
  • Bloody streaks in the bowel movement due to hard dry stools
  • Distended abdomen with excess gas
  • Crying when having a bowel movement

Treatment

  • Moving a rectal thermometer gently back and forth in the rectum will often stimulate a bowel movement.
  • Increasing fluid intake by either encouraging more nursing or giving a supplement of water or, in the older child, fruit juices, is an effective strategy.
  • Adding a teaspoon of syrup to the bottle will help on rare occasions.
  • As long as there is no evident discomfort or distention, and the baby is otherwise well and feeding normally, nothing really needs to be done. A BM will happen eventually.

Call your Doctor if

  • A new baby is having no stool at all.
  • Blood is noted in the stool.
  • Large, hard and dry stools occur.
  • In the older child, stool holding, (refusing to have a BM) is observed.
  • Baby cries excessively when having a BM.

A new baby’s bowel movement is often black and is called meconium. At times, blood swallowed during labor may be seen. These are normal occurrences. If a baby is having no bowel movement, the doctor should check to make sure the anal opening is correct. Older children may hold stools if a hard bowel movement has caused pain. This can lead to significant constipation and help from the doctor may be needed.

Most babies and toddlers keep their diapers busy. When that does not occur, then refer to these tips and seek help if things become more severe.