Constipation: 0-12 Months

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It is normal for an infant to have lots of dirty diapers during the first 1‐2 months.

  • f you’re breastfeeding: poop can be light yellow, soft, or even runny, and they often contain small pieces that look like seeds. Breastfed babies may have a dirty diaper with every breastfeeding.
  • If your baby is formula-fed: poop can be yellow to tan and about as firm as peanut butter.
  • A greenish tinge is normal. If your baby is feeding and growing normally, you should not be concerned.  
  • Whether you breastfeed or formula-feed your baby, it’s normal to have less dirty diapers as your baby grows
  • Poop should not be whitish and clay-like, watery and filled with mucus, or hard and dry. They should also not be black or bloody. If they are, call your doctor.

Signs of Constipation

Each baby will have its own schedule. During times of growth, baby may go several days to a week without a dirty diaper; this is not constipation if the poop is soft when it comes out.

Constipation can look different for breastfed babies. A breastfed baby may poop once per day or once with each feeding.

Watch for these potential signs of constipation:

  • 4‐5 days between dirty diapers
  • Having dramatically more or fewer bowel movements than before
  • Signs of pain and discomfort when filling diaper (It is normal for your infant to grunt or turn red in the face.)
  • Poop may be formed and hard like small pebbles or marbles, or contain blood
  • Infant’s belly can become swollen with gas
  • Excessively fussy
  • Spitting up more than usual

Potential Causes of Constipation

  • Drinking cow’s milk
  • Not enough breastmilk or formula 
  • Formula not mixed correctly
  • Switching from breastmilk to formula
  • Giving baby food or table foods before the infant is ready. See section on Signs of Readiness.
  • Certain medications
  • Excessive fluid loss due to vomiting or fever
  • Lack of movement or activity

Please note: Iron is NOT the cause of constipation in infants, so do not replace their regular formula with low iron formula to treat constipation! Do not give your infant mineral oil, honey, or syrup.  Do not give laxatives or suppositories unless ordered by your doctor.

What Parents Can Do

  • Breastfeed for at least 1 year. If problems with breastfeeding or milk supply occur contact your local WIC office for lactation help right away.
  • Do cycling with infant’s legs or give a gentle tummy massage.
  • If using formula, make sure it is mixed correctly.
  • Keep from giving baby food or table foods until showing signs of readiness around 6 months of age.
  • If your infant is 6 months or older and already on baby food or soft table food, increase the amount of high fiber cereals (oatmeal, barley), vegetables (peas), and fruit (plums, prunes).
  • Each infant is different. Parents and caregivers should become familiar with their normal pattern of dirty diapers and look at the usual size, consistency, and how often.
  • Take with your healthcare provider before giving a laxative or other type of stool-softening medication.

This post was last updated on December 17th, 2019 at 11:16 AM

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