What is Constipation?

Baby Constipation

Many parents become concerned if their baby has not pooped for a couple of days.  And it’s easy to become anxious, especially when usual bowel habits change. As basic as it seems, regular bowel motions are a sign that our babies are healthy and thriving. When they don’t poop as we expect them to, or their poos aren’t as regular as usual, this can start a cycle of parental concern.

What is Constipation?

Constipation is when the baby passes a dry, hard poo. It is about the consistency of the poo, not how often the baby does a poo. This difference is important to understand to avoid unnecessary concern.

Constipated poop looks like small pellets rather than a ‘sausage’ or soft paste in the baby’s nappy.  Sometimes there is a small tear or fissure in the baby’s anus from trying to push hard poop out. Anal fissures cause the baby pain.  There may also be a speck of blood on the poo or on the baby’s nappy.

What Do I Need to Know About Baby Constipation?

Remember, constipation refers to the consistency of bowel motions, not the frequency. So even if your baby hasn’t pooped for a couple of days, this isn’t necessarily a sign that they are constipated.

  • Pooping infrequently is not always a sign of constipation and may just reflect an individual baby’s bowel pattern.
  • All babies are unique and their bowel habits are not exempt from differences. Some babies have loose poos and others are more firm.
  • Changes in feeding, routine and general behavior can influence the frequency of bowel motions.
  • Baby poops often bear a resemblance to what the baby has eaten. Food begins its digestion in the mouth and goes through a series of changes until most of the nutrients have been extracted. Whatever food isn’t used by the body becomes waste.
  • Babies who eat a lot tend to poop a lot. That’s just the way it is.

How Would I Know If My Baby is Constipated?

  • If there is a change from the frequency of their normal bowel habits.
  • If they are straining, going red in the face, becoming distressed and appearing to want to poop but nothing is happening.
  • If they pass dry, hard pebbles rather than soft poos.
  • If their tummy is hard and distended (bloated).
  • If there is a change in your baby’s feeding. Some babies don’t want to feed as much or as frequently if their tummy already feels full.
  • Unsettledness and more irritable behavior.

Breastfeeding and Constipation

Breastfed babies may poo every time they have a feed, or may not poop for a week or more. In the early couple of months most breastfed babies poop frequently, especially if they’re having plenty of breast milk.

It’s uncommon for breastfed babies to become constipated. Breast milk has a natural laxative which helps to keep their poop soft and more liquid than formula milk. The action of sucking at the breast starts a process called the gastrocolic reflex. This means that the baby's gastrointestinal tract starts moving and stimulates contractions in the large intestine. Many mothers prepare for a dirty nappy each time they sit down to breastfeed.

  • Newborn babies who are breastfed will often poop several times each day until they’re around six weeks old.
  • It’s quite common for breastfed babies who are a couple of months old to not poop for several days. They can pass very smelly wind in the meantime.
  • Infrequent poops in the first few weeks of life may be a sign that a breastfed baby isn’t getting enough milk.
  • Breastfed poop varies in color. They can be bright yellow to mustard and even bright green.
  • Breastfed poops may contain mucous and small white curds of fat.
  • Breastfed poop can be explosive and noisy.

Bottle Feeding and Constipation

Bottle fed babies may poo everyday, or have a poo every 2-3 days.  Their poo is generally firmer, more pasty and a different color to breastfed babies. 

  • Formula-fed babies tend to have poos which are smellier than breastfed poop.
  • Formula-fed babies may also have poo which is yellow-green with specks of darker green or khaki.
  • Iron in formula tends to cause bottle fed babies to have darker poos.

Extra drinks of cooled, boiled water between bottle feeds can help to soften firmer poops.

Make sure you are preparing your baby’s formula accurately. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions provided on the can.

Solid Food and Constipation

One of the first foods babies eat is rice cereal. Parents often find that the frequency of their baby’s poos slows down when they start having solids. Rice cereal, especially, can cause poop to become firm, especially in breastfed babies. 

Pureed fruits and vegetables which contain fiber help to keep poop soft enough so they can be passed without discomfort.

Important Tips about Baby Constipation

  • Every baby will have their own pattern when it comes to frequency of bowel motions. Some will poo every day and others every few days.
  • If your baby is not concerned, then try not to be worried yourself.
  • The first pool which newborns pass is called meconium. Seeing this in the nappy is a sign that the bowel is working as it should. When a newborn doesn’t pass meconium this does not mean they’re constipated. It is a sign that the baby may need to be checked.


Speak with your Child Health Nurse or doctor if you are concerned about your baby’s bowel habits. See your doctor if simple dietary changes aren’t helping or if your baby is distressed.