Tips for treating constipation

The number of poopy diapers can indicate whether your newborn is getting enough to eat. But after the first month, there is no “normal” number of stools —every baby is different. Some babies will pass three or more stools a day, others will pass only one stool a day, and still others will pass as few as 1–3 stools a week. Once you learn your baby’s stool pattern, it will be easier to tell whether your baby is constipated. 

If you think your baby is constipated, consider your baby’s stool pattern. Are his bowel movements less frequent than normal? Has it been three or more days since his last poopy diaper? Is he visibly uncomfortable when pooping? Are his stools hard, dry, and difficult to pass?

If you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, the following tips may help relieve your baby’s constipation: 

  • Get your baby moving. If your baby is crawling, cruising or walking, encourage him to move. If not, try gently moving his legs back and forth in a bicycle-like motion. 
  • Give your baby a massage. Measure three finger-widths below his belly button and apply gentle pressure, until you feel a firmness, then release. Alternately, you can gently massage your baby’s tummy in a clockwise direction, moving your hand out and away from the center of your baby’s belly (learn more about baby massage here). 
  • Increase fluids. If you are breastfeeding, consider increasing the number of feedings temporarily; breast milk is a great laxative. If you are feeding your baby formula, consider discussing a change of formula with your baby’s health care provider.
  • Switch your baby’s diet. If your baby is 6 months or older and eating rice cereal, try switching to barley or oat cereal. Adding pureed fruits or vegetables may also help; favor prunes, apricots, or pears over bananas and carrots. 

If the problem persists, or if you notice tearing of the skin around the baby’s anus (the opening to the bowel), contact your baby’s health care provider. He may suggest a stool softener or a glycerin suppository. 

Additional information about infants and constipation is available from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Last updated August 8, 2017

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