Constipation

If your baby has infrequent bowel movements during her first few weeks of life, she may not be drinking enough milk.

After the age of 6 weeks, babies don’t absolutely have to have a bowel movement every 24 hours. Your baby may sometimes go several days without a bowel movement. If this is the case and her stools are soft, everything is normal and there is no cause for concern.

Does your baby strain and turn red during bowel movements? If her stools appear normal, there’s no need to worry, either.

However, if she is in pain and her stools are small, hard and dry, she is probably constipated.

Hard stools can cause anal fissures (small tears), which can further complicate the problem.

What to do?

If your baby appears to be suffering, try the following helpful tips.

Babies under 6 months who are exclusively milk-fed (breast milk or commercial infant formula)

  • Make sure your baby is drinking enough breast milk or commercial infant formula (see Is your baby drinking enough milk?).
  • If your baby is being fed with commercial infant formula, make sure you are diluting the formula with the proper amount of water, as recommended on the label.

See a doctor if you don’t think your baby is getting any relief.

Good to know...

Iron contained in commercial infant formula does not cause constipation.

Whether you are breast-feeding or using commercial infant formula, giving your baby water before the age of about 6 months is not recommended (see When to give your baby water).

Introducing food or juice before the age of 6 months or so does not prevent constipation.

Babies 6 months and older who are eating food

No single food causes constipation. It’s usually the lack of fibre in food that is responsible.

  • Give your child foods that are rich in fibre:
    • Fruits (including prunes, pears, and apples)
    • Vegetables
    • Whole grain products
    • Legumes
  • Give her water in addition to milk. This is especially important if you are giving her more fibre.

If the constipation persists, your baby vomits, has blood in her stools, or is not gaining enough weight, see a doctor. Never give your baby a laxative or commercial fibre supplement without medical advice.