About Newborn Constipation

By Beth Greenwood
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When you’re a new parent, it’s easy to get caught up in watching your baby’s every move and then worrying about whether what’s happening is normal. One of those issues, for many parents, is whether your child is constipated. The answer to that question depends on several factors, such as diet. In the first month of life, most physicians recommend you contact your doctor if you think your baby is constipated.

Defining Normal

Newborns don’t necessarily have a bowel movement every day. It depends on how much she’s eating and whether she’s on formula or being breastfed. Babies on formula do usually have a bowel movement daily. Breastfed babies typically have two to five bowel movements a day after the first few days of life, according to La Leche League International. Normal is different for each baby, though, and your child may only have two bowel movements a day. However, a newborn who has less than one stool a day may be constipated, according to pediatrician William Sears.

The First Few Days

In the first few days after birth, a baby’s stools will usually be dark as she clears the substance called meconium out of her intestines. Breastfed babies respond to increased milk production, as the mother’s milk comes in shortly after delivery. Once she begins to drink breast milk, her stools change to a yellow, green or tan color, according to LLLI. Whether she’s being breastfed or on formula, however, a normal stool is usually soft and may even be a little runny.

Watching for Signs

It can be hard to tell if your baby is constipated just by watching her have a bowel movement. The American Academy of Pediatrics notes that babies normally strain, get red in the face and may cry when they have a bowel movement, even when they’re not constipated. If she has plenty of wet diapers, that indicates she’s getting enough fluid and not becoming dehydrated. If your baby’s stools are dry and hard, though, it may indicate constipation.

Other Concerns

Although it’s not common, there are some medical conditions that can cause constipation in newborns. Sometimes a baby will become constipated on a particular formula, and needs only a change of formula to improve the problem. The strategies that could be used on an older baby, such as encouraging fruit juice and extra fluids, or using glycerin suppositories, aren’t appropriate for a newborn with constipation. If you have any concerns about your baby’s bowel movements, contact your family doctor or pediatrician.

About the Author

Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.