Constipation in a baby

Constipation in a baby. Hard stool after formula

Constipation is one of the unpleasant manifestations of digestive problems that not only adults but also babies struggle with. Constipation in children is mostly from milk, and it is true that infants receiving food in the form of breast milk are less prone to such intestinal problems than babies raised on artificial milk formula. This difference is mainly caused by the easier digestibility of breast milk.

Published: 18.05.2023
Updated: 08.12.2023

In the following paragraphs, we will guide you through the possible causes and symptoms of constipation, while finally summarizing some practical tips and ways to relieve constipation. However, you will also find here the answer to the very often discussed question, how often should a baby poop on artificial milk, a baby raised on mother's milk, but also a baby getting used to the first solid foods.

Different stool frequency in a newborn on artificial milk and breast milk

The first stool in a newborn appears within 36 hours of birth, while most newborns will have a primary bowel movement within the first day after birth. The first weeks are spent in breastfed babies with an average of three stools a day. The word "average" is very important in this context, because it can mean that sometimes there will be a period when the baby poops after every meal, but at other times it will produce a stool only once in two or three days.

In connection with this fact, it is necessary to state that hard stools in a newborn are very unlikely, since the frequency of stool excretion is highly debatable and individual, while it largely depends on the sufficient intake of breast milk. Therefore, if your newborn does not poop at least once a day, it may mean that you are not giving him enough milk, which causes him to consume all the nutrients from it, and therefore has nothing to excrete from his body.

But how often should a baby poop on formula? This aspect is also very individual, as every child is different, but it should be an average of twice a day. However, every milk formula is different, so it is possible that the stool will appear less frequently and also be firmer in terms of consistency. This does not immediately mean that the baby is constipated.

The regularity of the stool should level off and stabilize in the 4th to 6th month, when the child begins to receive the first solid foods. Over time, the frequency of stool excretion in toddlers is reduced to two sittings on the toilet or the potty, while in children from 4 years old, this need appears only once a day with a healthy lifestyle. It must be remembered that in the case of constipation, the consistency and size aspect of the stool is much more important than the frequency, and all these factors must be constantly noticed and carefully monitored.

Stool frequency of the newborn

Why can't the baby poop?

In 90% of children, it is not possible to specify the cause of constipation, because it is a functional constipation rather than a pathological one. In the worst case, the diagnosis should be left to the doctor, who can distinguish the type of constipation in your child with the help of a proper examination. A very simple reason in the form of dehydration can be hidden behind constipation. New foods that you gradually introduce into the diet can also cause constipation in your 5-month-old baby. This is because it is a period in a child's life in which he gets used to new tastes and sources of nutrients, which he previously received only in the form of mother's or artificial milk.

Constipation can also be caused by the transition from breast milk to formula, i.e. gradual weaning of the baby from the breast. This is caused by the fact that mother's milk is easier for the child to digest, which cannot be said about it artificially. That is why it is good, if it is of course possible, to persist in giving breast milk as long as possible. The correct function of the intestines and the entire digestive tract is also helped by a sufficient supply of fiber and healthy movement, or sufficient physical activity of the child during the day. Preventatively, you can avoid constipation in your baby by including foods with a higher fiber content in his diet, but also by planning any type of physical activity for every day.

In children, the so-called chronic constipation, which can be caused, for example, by an allergy to gluten or lactose, but also by diseases of the thyroid gland or cystic fibrosis. The exact cause is difficult to determine, since babies' immunity is still being built up through their gradual development, which basically means that their digestive system is very sensitive to any change, which can manifest itself in the form of constipation. This does not mean that such a problem should be dismissed with the words "it is normal for children". It is definitely best to monitor the child's excretory processes, so that in case of major difficulties, you can provide the doctor with all the information necessary to establish the correct diagnosis.

Why can't the baby poop?

Psychological causes of constipation

Sometimes the cause of constipation in children is hidden behind a difficult stressful situation. In this case, we are talking about six-month-old and older children, who are already starting to perceive the world around them, and thus various events can affect them psychologically. Therefore, if a child becomes constipated due to a stressful situation, it may happen in the future that the same reaction (constipation) occurs at every other stressful moment in his life. It also works in the case of stress and nervousness in adults, which is often manifested by symptoms such as diarrhea or vomiting, but sometimes also in the form of hard stools.

Constipation in a month-old baby, but also in older children, can be caused by the child's fear of pain, which is sometimes accompanied by harder stools. Intuition then suggests to them to forcefully avoid excreting completely, which, however, places an extreme burden on the intestines and the entire digestive system, resulting in constipation. Early sitting on the potty can also cause the child's fear and subsequent constipation, while experts recommend strengthening this habit only in 18-month-old children. As with other introduced habits, it is important that you never pressure the child and do not force him to do this under any circumstances.

How constipation manifests itself in infants

From the emotional manifestations, it is mainly tearfulness and dissatisfaction, while from the physiological manifestations, constipation is mainly reflected in the dryness and disproportionate size of the stool. Sometimes it happens to be too small, while in other cases it can be excessively large. It is the size and dryness of the stool that makes it difficult for the baby to expel it without any problems and is often even painful for him, which causes him to suppress this need in himself. Thus, the period of constipation worsens and lengthens. Constipation in infants has the same symptoms as in adults. Aversion to food, smelly stools and worse sleep caused by the fact that the baby farts but does not poop.

As we mentioned above, every parent should monitor their baby's excretion processes so that they can catch even the smallest change that could indicate a problem. In addition, when diagnosing digestive problems, it will certainly help the doctor if the parent has a detailed overview of the consistency, size and frequency of the child's stool.

How constipation manifests itself in infants

What helps with constipation?

Prevention is a better choice when it comes to constipation than crying over the consequences that are likely to occur sooner or later. A preventive measure is especially adjusting the diet right from the beginning, that is, even before any digestive problems occur in the baby. In particular, you should regulate the amount of cow's milk, fresh white bread, but also sweet juices, sweets, black tea or spicy foods. All these foods burden the digestive tract, which can be reflected in problems with emptying. There are also practical measures to help with pain and to induce bowel movement in constipated babies.

Establishing a change in the diet of a child suffering from constipation

In the case of hard stools after formula, it is ideal to replace the product used with formula containing beneficial probiotics that support digestion and restore the child's intestinal microflora. In connection with probiotics, it is possible to eliminate constipation in one-year-old children by serving yogurt and various milk drinks, which contain a digestive aid substance. A teaspoon of sauerkraut juice is also a good source of probiotics, and this ingredient should only be given to children older than one year.

In case of constipation, it is best to include several very beneficial ingredients in the diet, or foods that can positively affect the child's excretory system to a large extent. Fruit juices made from apples, plums or pears are the most suitable for babies who are already receiving solid foods, while it is possible to mix a teaspoon of olive oil into vegetable solid foods, which facilitates the passage of food through the digestive tract. Establishing a complex diet is also a way to induce stool in the child. It is advisable to eliminate bananas, boiled rice or carrots, as well as poppy seeds, cocoa, chocolate and hard cheeses from your baby's daily menu for bowel movement.

Just as in adults, constipation can also be warded off in children by a sufficient supply of liquids, among which we include especially water or diluted fruit juice for babies. For formula-fed babies, the regular supply of fluids is all the more important, so never forget the baby water, which must, of course, be boiled first and then allowed to cool.

Changing the diet for constipation

How to help a child poop at home?

Are you wondering what will be used for constipation in children in a quick and effective way? In the home environment, you can mainly eliminate or soften the pains that the child suffers from, which, however, combined with adjusting the diet, can gradually lead to bowel movements. Similar to adults, unpleasant abdominal pain in children can be positively affected by placing a warm substance, such as a diaper, directly on the abdomen. This method works on the principle of heat therapy, while a similar method is a warm bath, which can help support the proper function of the child's intestines. After that, it is a good idea to rub the baby's tummy and bottom with a pain-relieving cream.

In particular, mediated movement of the baby can help to relieve abdominal pain by taking him in your arms while sitting on a fit ball or putting him in a scarf for a while and walking around the house with him. A swinging movement on the hands in the prone position with the head supported is also helpful. The effective factor in this relaxation technique is precisely the human warmth, rocking movement and security that the baby feels near you during these activities.

However, gentle massages based on baby oil and graceful circular movements with the hands in a clockwise direction from the baby's navel outwards also have a soothing and relaxing effect. In many cases, exercise with the baby's legs in the style of a bicycle or gentle kicking also works to relieve intestinal blockages. Attention must be paid to delicacy, which plays an important role in these methods of getting rid of constipation, because the baby must like it first and foremost. Fast, sudden and strong movements can have the opposite effect, reflected in an unpleasant mood and intensification of abdominal pain.

Medicines may not always help

The application of rectal suppositories to induce stool is suitable only in case of constipation in older infants, which in terms of age horizon represents the 5th to 6th month of the child's age. It is clear that medicines, such as syrup to soften the stool for children and the mentioned suppositories, or antibiotics prescribed by a doctor, will help the baby, but they will not solve the cause of constipation. It is very important to find out about it as soon as possible, so that you can introduce the necessary and beneficial changes in the child's daily routine based on the identified causes.


According to mothers, constipation is most often the result of switching from breast milk to formula, or the use of breast milk that did not fit the child. They recommend changing milk, probiotics, plenty of water and abdominal exercises. Constipation can also be caused by side dishes containing carrots, rice or bananas. Apples, pears and plums were helpful, and for older children, sour milk yogurts.

The most frequent questions - FAQ

Are you also interested in other aspects related to the issue of stomach and intestinal problems, which include constipation in babies? Can you think of other questions that were not answered in the text of the article or in the question and answer section? Feel free to put them in the comments below the article. We will try to answer them as soon as possible.

Breastfed babies have much softer stools compared to formula-fed babies, so it's quite likely that you'll notice some changes as you transition to formula. in the consistency of the secretions of the child's digestive system.

Yes, infant milk or artificial milk must always be prepared for the child based on the prescribed instructions. It's usually one scoop per 30 milliliters of water, with more powder making the milk an overly concentrated diet. She wouldn't please even an adult, so the dissatisfaction of a small baby's tummy will definitely manifest itself in some way.

If your child suffers from an aversion to food, or if the primary constipation is accompanied by fever, vomiting, blood in the stool, weight loss or pain during bowel movements, it is good seek medical attention. However, the most important thing is to see a doctor if the infant's constipation persists for several months. Long-lasting constipation can be caused by chronic problems, such as celiac disease or other congenital disorders of the digestive tract.

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