A common concern I hear from parents is about pooping. How much? How often? Consistency? Your baby’s poop can depend age and diet.
What is normal pooping for a baby?
Formula fed infants generally stool once a day. For breastfed babies I have a “rule of sevens.” Studies tell us that some breastfed babies go seven times in one day while others go one time every seven days – this is all considered normal. It is highly dependent on mom’s diet.
Formula stools can appear more yellow or brown and pasty; whereas breast milk stools are yellow, seedy (imagine cottage cheese and mustard).
In the first few weeks to months of life, babies often appear to be straining when having a bowel movement. This isn’t necessarily the case. It may sound silly, but infants have to learn the coordination of having a bowel movement and parents often perceive this as discomfort. Just imagine babies have to be able to recognize a foreign, somewhat uncomfortable sensation and realize they need to relax certain muscles while exerting others – all without being alarmed!
When to worry
- Is baby thriving? A change in growth patterns is always a red flag.
- If baby is “spitty” or seems constantly fussy
- Straining for prolonged periods (more than 10 minutes) without actually passing a bowel movement
- Extreme flatulence
- A big change in the stooling pattern (more of less often without changing the diet)
- Blood or mucous in the poop
Any of these can be worrisome signs or signs of actual constipation – your baby should be examined.
Treating infant constipation
For babies older than 1 to 2 months, fruit juice is nature’s laxative. Try giving your baby prune, pear or apple juice twice daily. The sugars in juice aren’t digested well and this draws fluid into the colon to help loosen stools. A good rule is to give 1 ounce a day for every month of life up to about 4 months (example: a 3-month-old baby would get 3 ounces).
For older babies, try feeding pureed or strained foods that are high in fiber. Just remember the five“Ps”: Prunes, peaches, pears, plums and peas. Other high fiber foods might include cereals, apricots, beans or spinach.
For formula-fed babies, some studies suggest switching to soy formula can result in looser stools (in general, cutting back on dairy). You can help soothe rectal pain by placing baby in a warm bath to relax the anus muscle. You can also try rectal stimulation. This includes placing a warm compress to anus and moving it or gently taking a rectal temperature.
What not to do
Avoid using enemas or suppositories without input from your doctor. These can backfire and create stool holding. They can also be quite painful, if not administered correctly. Never give a baby a laxative without being directed to by your doctor.
If you ever feel like the above suggestions are not working, or your child seems to be in severe abdominal pain, it’s time to call the doctor or bring baby in to your clinic.