How to Help Constipation in Newborns

Article By
Published On
19 Dec, 2023
Read Time
4 minutes

It's not uncommon for newborn babies to become constipated – especially while their digestive system is developing – and as a new parent, it's natural to have concerns about your newborn's bowel movements!

That's why we've created this guide to help you understand the causes and symptoms of constipation in newborn infants. We'll also provide you with some helpful tips to alleviate the discomfort your baby may experience if they're constipated.

Newborn constipation symptoms

Your baby's poos may be larger than usual or look like firm pellets that are dry and hard if they're constipated.

You may also notice that they:

  • have to strain to poo
  • haven't pooed for more than three days
  • have wind that’s smellier than usual
  • have a bloated tummy that feels firmer than usual
  • pull their legs up to their tummy when they cry
  • seem uncomfortable or cry more than usual
  • refuse to feed 

The frequency and consistency of a little one's bowel movements can vary from baby to baby as they grow, but if you have any concerns about your newborn's bowel movements or are worried that they may be constipated, it's always a good idea to speak to your GP to their opinion.

How often should my newborn poo?

Breastfed babies tend to poop at least twice a day from four days old to around six weeks old. Breast milk contains a natural laxative, and a baby who's fed breast milk should typically have poos that are soft, loose, and yellow or green. 

If your baby is formula-fed, you may notice that their poos are firm, but they should still be easy to pass. Formula-fed babies typically poo less than little ones who have breast milk and usually have at least one poo a day that's yellowish-brown in colour.

What is considered constipation in newborns?

If you notice any of the symptoms we covered earlier – such as having trouble pooping or doing less than three bowel movements in a week – it's possible that your baby may be constipated.

How to relieve constipation in newborns

Although being constipated can be uncomfortable for babies, there are several things that parents can do to help their little one get back to pooping regularly.

Massage them

If your baby is experiencing constipation, gently massaging their tummy in a clockwise direction can help stimulate bowel movements.

Make sure that your hands are clean and warm, then lay your baby on their back and gently rub their tummy. You can also try gently bending their knees towards their chest and holding for a few seconds before releasing. This can help to relieve gas and stimulate bowel movements. It's important to be gentle and not apply too much pressure as babies are delicate and their tummies are sensitive.

Move their legs

Gently moving a baby's legs back and forth in a cycling motion while they lie on their back – a technique known as "bicycling" – can help relieve trapped gas, alleviate discomfort, and hopefully make it easier for your baby to poop if they're constipated.

Give them a bath

A relaxing warm bath can give a baby relief from stomach pains and make it easier for them to poop.

What can you give newborns for constipation?

You shouldn’t give your baby laxatives to treat constipation unless they've been recommended and prescribed by a GP. The most effective way to prevent constipation is to ensure that your baby is receiving sufficient fluids from their breast milk or formula feeds.

What causes newborn constipation?

Diet changes

Some babies experience constipation if they transition from breast milk to infant formula, although this should resolve once their body adapts to their new diet. If their baby is formula-fed, parents should always adhere to the manufacturer's instructions closely to avoid constipation.

If they're breastfed, changes in their parent’s diet can sometimes impact a baby's bowel movements.


Parents should keep a close eye on their baby’s fluid intake to avoid dehydration because a lack of fluids can make a baby's poo harder and more difficult to push out, and this can lead to constipation.

When to see a doctor for newborn constipation

As with all aspects of baby healthcare, you should always trust your parenting instinct if you're concerned that your baby may be constipated, and you should speak to your medical care team as soon as possible if your baby:

  • hasn’t passed any meconium 48 hours after birth
  • is losing weight
  • appears particularly fatigued
  • has blood in their poop