All About Newborn Constipation

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Published On
19 Dec, 2023
Read Time
4 minutes

Bringing a newborn home can be an exciting and overwhelming experience for new parents, and one of the most common concerns that parents have is about their baby's bowel movements, especially if they become constipated.

Newborn constipation is fairly common but can understandably be worrying for parents. In this post, we'll talk you through the causes and symptoms of constipation in newborn babies.

We'll also share some practical tips to help ease your baby's discomfort and ensure that they have a healthy bowel movement.

Is my newborn constipated?

If your baby's poos are larger than usual or look like firm pellets that are dry and hard, they may be constipated.

You may also notice that they:

  • have to strain to poop
  • 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 consult a pediatrician.

How often should my newborn poo?

From the age of four days to around six weeks old, breastfed babies tend to poop at least twice a day. Breast milk contains a natural laxative, and babies who're fed breast milk will usually have poops that are soft, loose, and yellow or green. 

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

What is considered constipation in newborns?

If your baby shows 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 they may be constipated.

How to help a constipated newborn

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

Massage them

Massaging a baby can be an effective way to help with constipation. Make sure that your hands are clean and warm, then lay your baby on their back and gently rub their tummy in a circular clockwise motion with your fingertips.

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 them to poop if they've got constipation.

Give them a bath

Bathing a baby can be a great way to help with constipation. Warm water can help relax the muscles and stimulate the bowels. After the bath, make sure to wrap your baby in a warm towel and cuddle them for some extra comfort.

What can you give newborns for constipation?

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

What causes newborn constipation?

Changes to their feeds

Some babies become constipated when they transition from breast milk to infant formula, although this usually resolves once their body adapts to their new diet. If your baby is formula-fed, you should always follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully to avoid constipation.

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


A lack of fluids can make a baby's poop harder and more difficult to push out, and this can lead to constipation. Therefore parents should keep a close eye on their baby's fluid intake to avoid dehydration and potential constipation.

When to see a pediatrician 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