How Long Can My Baby Go Without Pooping: What’s Normal and When to Worry
Are you worried that your precious new baby hasn’t pooped in 6 whole days? Does it seem like she is constantly straining and nothing is coming out?
With becoming a new mom, you quickly become obsessive about every little thing your baby does, including all of the dirty diapers. You notice right away if there is a difference in the frequency, color, texture, and even the smell of your baby’s poop.
While your baby’s bowel movements can tell a lot about your baby’s health and nutrition, the frequency can vary quite a bit from child to child, and will also depend on your baby’s age and whether she is formula fed or breastfed.
In this post, we will discuss how long breastfed, and formula fed babies can go without pooping, signs, causes, and treatment of constipation, and when you need to consult your pediatrician.
How Often Should My Baby Poop?
There is a wide range of normal for exclusively breastfed babies. Your baby could poop after every single feeding, or they could go days, or even a week or two without a single poop.
During the first 24 hours of life, your baby will poop out a black, tarry substance called meconium. On day 2 your baby should have two bowel movements, on day 3 she should have three, and from day 4 on, she should be having at least 3-4 bowel movements a day, and they should be about the size of a US quarter.
As your colostrum changes to mature milk, your baby’s stools will turn from black to greenish and then to yellow, seedy, and loose (source).
Colostrum acts as a natural laxative, so breastfed babies poop a lot more often during the early days. My breastfed girl would poop after every nursing session that first month. There were SO many dirty diapers.
Breastmilk was made perfect for the human body, and therefore, is so easily absorbed. There is very little “waste” that needs to be excreted from your baby’s body. Your baby is absorbing all those good nutrients from your milk to grow, leaving you with less poopy diapers to deal with.
Formula Fed Babies
Formula is a little more difficult and takes longer to digest than breastmilk. Because of this, it is typical for formula-fed babies to have fewer bowel movements than a breastfed baby during the first few months of life. Your formula fed newborn should be pooping around 3-5 times a day during this time.
After the first six weeks, formula-fed babies will typically have one bowel movement every day or every other day, where as breastfed babies can go up to a week without pooping. This is because less formula is absorbed by the body, leaving more left over in the intestinal tract to be excreted.
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What Causes Newborn Constipation?
There are a few possible causes why your newborn may be constipated:
- Powdered formula: Formula can often cause your baby’s stools to be firm and bulky, stopping your baby up, especially if you have the wrong ratio of powder to water, creating too much powder or clumps of powder in your baby’s bottle.
- Dietary changes from breastmilk to formula: A simple change from breastmilk to formula can disrupt your baby’s digestive system and regularity.
- Allergy/food intolerance: Your baby might have an allergy or intolerance to the milk-protein in your breastmilk or formula.
- Lack of fluid/dehydration: If your baby is dehydrated, her body will respond by absorbing all of the fluids that come into it, creating hard, dry stools that are difficult to pass.
- Physical abnormalities: Physical abnormalities, such as rectum position, tightness around the anus, or an obstruction in the bowel system could be the culprit of your newborn’s constipation.
- Illness or medical condition: Although rare, an underlying medical condition, such as hypothyroidism, botulism, or Hirschsprung’s disease (a condition caused during fetal development, affecting the function of the large intestine and making stools difficult to pass), could be the reason why your baby is backed up (source).
What are the Signs of Newborn Constipation?
As mentioned above, the frequency of bowel movements can be all over the map for what is considered normal. How often a baby poops varies from child to child and also changes as your baby grows. Therefore, the frequency of stools is not always a good indicator of constipation in infants. Listed below are 7 signs that your baby may, in fact, be constipated (source).
- Crying due to pain when the stool passes
- More spit-up than normal
- Fussiness due to stomach pain
- Poop is hard and comes out like rabbit droppings
- Constant straining coupled with a firm belly
- Your baby is eating less
How Can I Relieve My Baby’s Constipation?
If your baby hasn’t pooped in a while and seems unusually fussy, has a firm abdomen, and/or lost his appetite, he may be constipated and may need some extra help to relieve himself. Here are some ways to help get your baby’s bowels moving:
- Bicycle legs: Place your baby on his back and move his legs in a circular motion, mimicking the motion of pedaling on a bicycle. This should help relieve some belly pressure and get things moving.
- Warm water bath or warm washcloth on your baby’s belly: This will help relax your baby and help him release some of that tension and bowels.
- Try a different formula: Your baby may be reacting to certain ingredients in the formula. You may need to try a different brand or even a different kind of formula, such as a sensitive stomach, low-lactose, or even soy.
- Change your diet: If you are breastfeeding, your baby could be reacting to something in your diet, passing along to him in your milk. Try eliminating dairy from your diet to see if that helps.
- Tummy massage: With your baby on his back, place your hands on his tummy right by his navel and gently start massaging in a clockwise circular motion. It helps to use some baby lotion or oil, such as coconut oil, while you’re massaging your baby. Do this for about 3-5 minutes.
If the tips above didn’t help relieve your newborn’s constipation, talk with your baby’s doctor about trying the following:
- Take a rectal temperature
- Give your baby some prune, apple, or pear juice
- Use a glycerin rectal suppository
When Do I Need to Worry?
Be sure to visit your baby’s doctor as soon as possible if none of the previous tips worked or if you notice any of the following:
- Bloody or black stool
- Mucous in stool
- Stool is white/clay in color
- Persistent crying
- Baby is refusing to eat
- Signs of dehydration
- Baby is losing weight
- Bowel movements look like rabbit droppings
- Yellow/green spit up/vomit
Summing It Up
What’s considered normal for the frequency of bowel movements in a newborn is all over the map. It will vary from baby to baby and will depend on your baby’s age and if she if breastfed or formula fed.
If your baby seems painful, is having hard, pellet-like poops, or is constantly straining with no results, they may need some extra help from you to get things moving. You can try warm baths, tummy massages, bicycling their legs, or even giving them a bit of prune juice for some relief.
Always be sure to call your baby’s doctor if nothing is working, or if you notice any blood in the stool, signs of dehydration, or green/yellow vomit or spit-up.
If your baby is having fewer bowel movements but seems happy and healthy, just relax and enjoy the lack of poopy diapers.
How often does your baby poop? Have you ever had to help relieve your baby’s constipation? Share your experiences with us in the comments, and be sure to share this post with all of your new mommy friends.