A guide to help manage your baby’s constipation

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A guide to help manage your baby’s constipation

Toddler sitting on the floor

Trying to pass hard poos can be painful and uncomfortable for babies, just like it is for adults. Constipation in babies is common, with around 15% of babies occasionally becoming constipated. A baby’s digestive system is undergoing dramatic changes as they grow and it’s not unusual for them to occasionally experience an episode of constipation. The cause is typically dietary but may also be due to the immaturity of your baby’s growing digestive system. So, if your little one is finding it hard to poo, don’t worry too much – the symptoms of constipation are usually easy to spot and manage without medicines.

 

A crash course in poo consistency

A good way to tell if your baby is constipated is to check the consistency of their poo. Ideally, poo shouldn’t be too hard or too soft. It should be well formed and easy for your baby to pass without straining or discomfort. Check the chart below – if your baby’s poo is Type 1 or Type 2, it could be causing them pain or discomfort when they try to pass it.

Poo, Separate hard lumps, like nuts (hard to pass)

Type 1
Separate hard lumps, like nuts
(hard to pass)

Poo, Sausage-shaped but lumpy

Type 2
Sausage-shaped but lump

Poo, Like a sausage but with cracks on the surface (ideal)

Type 3
Like a sausage but with cracks on the surface

Poo, Like a sausage or snake, smooth and soft (ideal)

Type 4
Like a sausage or snake, smooth and soft

Type 5
Soft blobs with clear-cut edges
(passed easily)

Type 6
Fluffy pieces with ragged edges, a mushy stool

Type 7
Watery, no solid pieces, entirely liquid

Check the colour

The colour of your baby’s poo will change as their digestive system and diet changes. Although the colour can vary from child to child, here’s a general guide of what to expect:*

  • Breastfeeding – yellow/yellow-green
  • Breastfeeding + formula feeding – yellow/yellow-green
  • Formula feeding – Dark yellow/brown
  • Solid foods – Dark yellow/brown

 

How often should babies poo?

There’s no set number of poos that babies should do each day. Some babies poo a surprising number of times a day while others poo much less often. Infrequent pooing doesn’t automatically mean constipation. Your baby may go several days without a poo before easily passing a well-formed poo. As a general guide:

Icon of a newborn
Icon of a toddler

0–3 months
~ 6 poos/day

3–5 months
~ 4 poos/day

6+ months
~ every 1-3 days

Symptoms to look for

Apart from checking the consistency and colour of your baby’s poo, there are other signs that could indicate constipation:

  • Crying or looking distressed before doing a poo
  • The poo or wind smells particularly bad
  • Your baby starts to feed or eat less
  • Their belly feels hard

 

How to help a constipated baby

If your baby is having problems with painful, hard poos, these practical suggestions might help:

  • Don’t give your baby any medicines for constipation unless they’ve been prescribed or recommended by a healthcare professional.
  • If you’re breast feeding, try feeding your baby more often.
  • If you’re formula feeding, check that you’re making up the formula correctly and that you’re not adding too much powder or too little water. You can also speak to your healthcare professional about suitable specialist formulas for the dietary management of constipation.
  • If your baby is on solids, offer extra water between meals. You can also try incorporating more pureed fruit and vegetables – stewed prunes and apricots can help.
  • Try gently moving your baby’s legs in a cycling motion or massaging their tummy.

 

For more information, check out our 5 top tips to help manage constipation.

 

REMEMBER: If you have any concerns about your baby’s poo or questions about constipation, please speak to a healthcare professional, like a Pharmacist, GP or Maternal Child Health Nurse.

 

* from 5 days old and up

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