The bowel movements of an infant are an important measure of their overall health. The regularity with which a baby poops could indicate the quality of their nutrition and overall health. As a result, it’s understandable if you’re concerned in situations where your baby does not poop but passes gas.
Inconsistent bowel motions in infants could be caused by various factors, ranging from benign (harmless) disorders to underlying illnesses. Read on to learn more about normal pooping patterns in babies, what causes infrequent pooping, and when to be concerned about it.
How Often Should A Baby Poop?
- The baby will poop their first stool called meconium, which is olive green in color and odorless. About 99% of newborns pass the stool within 24 hours (3). Most babies eventually pass meconium within 48 hours.
- Once the meconium passes, the baby will begin pooping actual stool.
- Babies usually poop one to two times a day during their first week.
- The pooping frequency may increase to five to ten times a day from the second week and stay that way for the first month. Some babies may poop after each feeding session.
- After the first month, the frequency of pooping begins to drop.
- By the second month, the frequency of pooping may significantly reduce with some babies pooping once in two days.
The frequency of pooping usually becomes less predictable and greatly varied as the baby grows older and their digestive system matures. Breastfed babies tend to poop more often when compared to formula-fed babies.
Once your baby is older than six months and consumes solids, there could be significant variation in their pooping frequency, depending on the type of solid food they eat and the frequency of eating.
Is It Normal For A Breastfed Baby To Not Poop For Days?
Yes, it is okay for a breastfed or even formula-fed baby to not poop for a couple of days. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it is normal for some babies to be slow poopers and have one poop every few days (4).
Experts state that more than the frequency of pooping, parents must focus on the type of stool. If the baby’s stool is hard, contains blood, or is white in color, it could indicate an underlying problem.
What Can Cause Your Baby To Not Poop?
If your baby did not poop in a day, wait for a couple of days. Be watchful of the color and consistency of the stool. You may also check if the baby is getting enough feeds since inadequate feeding could cause the baby to not poop much.
A baby may continue to not poop for many days due to the following reasons.
- Strain for ten minutes at a time to poop but with no excretion.
- Excrete dry, hard, and pellet-shaped stool, which is visibly devoid of fluid.
- Often act fussy, especially while straining.
- Act fussy and cry while rubbing their tummies.
In severe cases, the baby may have a bloated, distended abdomen, which is hard to touch.
There are various reasons for constipation in babies, ranging from a change in formula milk to gastrointestinal ailments. Newborns may develop meconium constipation due to underlying conditions, such as meconium plug syndrome or gastrointestinal anomalies (3). You may read more about constipation in babies and its causes here.
2. Changes in diet
The following notable changes in the baby’s diet could affect the frequency of pooping (7).
- Formula-fed babies may require changes in their formula as they grow older. A baby may poop less frequently during the transition.
- Babies who switch from breast milk to formula may develop constipation for a few days.
- Introduction of solid food may temporarily cause constipation.
- Decreased milk output from mother. If the baby is not passing stools and the frequency of urination of the baby is also less than four times a day, it may be because of decreased amount of feed.
3. Food allergies and intolerances
Some babies may not poop frequently due to food allergies and intolerances (8) (9). It is likely to be more common among older babies who consume a variety of solid food items. Newborns could be allergic to substances in the formula milk.
Babies with lactose intolerance may develop gastrointestinal problems, including constipation, even when fed breast milk. In such cases, the baby is also likely to display poor growth and lethargy due to inadequate nourishment.
When To See A Doctor?
Consult a doctor if the baby displays the following conditions (7).
- No meconium excretion for over three days
- Decreased oral acceptance or baby is refusing feeds
- Baby is less active/lethargic
- Lack of pooping for over three days
- Consistent excretion of hard, pellet-like or lumpy stool
- Stool contains streaks of blood or is white in color
- Abdomen appears stiff and hard to touch
- Increased size of abdomen
- Baby cries when the abdomen is touched
- Constipation is accompanied by vomiting or fever
If your baby is younger than three months, see a doctor for any concerns related to the frequency of pooping, even if the baby is otherwise healthy. Do not try any home remedy or treatment without first consulting a pediatrician.
Treatment For Infrequent Pooping In Babies
The treatment will depend on the underlying cause. The doctor may order tests, such as blood tests and X-rays, and ask about the baby’s medical history. Treatment would be recommended based on the diagnosis.
The treatment may include the following.
- Oral medications may help relieve constipation in some babies.
- Severe cases of constipation due to pathologies may require fecal disimpaction through suppositories or enemas. Subsequent treatment of the cause might be required.
- Changes in diet may help babies who consume solid food. The pediatrician may refer you to a pediatric dietician who would chart a diet for healthy bowel movements and adequate nutrition.
- Babies with allergies and intolerances could benefit from changes in formula and other dietary changes to avoid the allergen.
Most cases of constipation and erratic bowel movements in babies can be addressed with appropriate home care.
Home Remedies For Infrequent Pooping
Consult a doctor before trying any home remedies. You may try the following home remedies to alleviate constipation and improve the frequency of pooping in babies (10).
- Check if the baby is feeding adequately. If your baby is exclusively breastfed, increase the frequency of feeds. You can add two to three extra feeding sessions for a few days and check for the baby’s bowel movements.
- If the baby is formula-fed, speak to a doctor and increase the frequency of feeds if required. The doctor may even suggest switching to another formula.
- Babies older than one month can be given an ounce of fruit juice a day. Fruit juices contain sugars that are not digested adequately by the baby’s digestive system. The sugars draw water into the intestine and help ease constipation. The ounce of juice should be equal to the baby’s age in months. Thus, a two-month-old gets two ounces a day and so on. If juice does not improve constipation in three days, consult a doctor.
- Babies older than six months can be served homemade prunes puree for constipation. You may also serve prune juice. Prunes work the same way as other fruit juices in easing constipation.
- Babies who eat solids can be served extra water a day. Inadequate water intake may also lead to constipation. You can offer water every two to three hours to the baby. Do not force the baby to drink water if they do not wish to drink it.
- Babies who eat solids can be served pureed high-fiber fruits and vegetables. A few examples of high-fiber foods are beans, spinach, apricots, pears, plums, and peas. You can also switch to fiber-rich baby cereal. Serve them twice to thrice a day for optimum results.
- You may massage the baby’s belly when they are empty stomach. Use your fingers to gently massage around the baby’s belly button in circular motions. Apply very gentle pressure. You may massage for 30 seconds at a time once or twice a day, especially after a warm bath. Massage may help stimulate intestinal muscles and improve bowel movement.
- Let your baby get adequate exercise, including assisted exercise. Lay the baby on their back and gently move their legs in a bicycling or pedaling motion for 30 seconds to a minute. Your baby can also exercise by crawling and through tummy time. These exercises improve gastrointestinal muscle movement and may also aid in digestion.
Never give the baby over-the-counter laxatives, mineral oil, enema, suppositories, and alternative medicines for constipation without consulting a doctor.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can a baby be constipated and still fart?
Constipation and flatulence (passing gasses) may be seen in babies who are not exclusively breastfed. In most cases, constipation may resolve within a short time without interventions. Although it is not unusual for exclusively breastfed babies to poop less and pass gasses, they won’t be constipated.
2. How long can babies go without pooping?
It may depend on the age and diet of the baby. Babies older than eight weeks may not poop for four to five days. Exclusively breastfed babies can go two weeks without pooping at two to three months, which does not mean that they are constipated. There won’t be any discomfort or signs such as a full belly. Most babies who won’t poop are fine and often require little or no treatment (11). Babies meet their energy and nutritional needs from breastmilk, and there can be little waste product from breastmilk after digestion.
3. When to worry about a baby passing gas but not pooping?
There is no need to worry if an exclusively breastfed infant older than six weeks passes gas and does not poop for a few days. However, it is recommended to contact the pediatrician if the baby is not exclusively breastfed and not pooping for more than three days. In addition, you may inform the pediatrician if symptoms such as vomiting and irritability are present (12).
4. Does gas relief help babies poop?
Excess gas can cause changes in bowel movements. Some babies may have constipation due to gas formation, while others may have diarrhea. Constipation or difficulty pooping could be resolved once the gas is relieved. However, you may seek a pediatric consultation if it is a frequent issue.
5. What’s the difference between baby gas and colic?
Colic is crying in babies lasting more than three hours for at least three days a week. Gas can occur anytime and resolves spontaneously by burping or other techniques. Gas can also cause colic in babies if not resolved. Babies can pass gas through burping or flatulence. Colic can also be due to other conditions, such as food allergies. Visit a pediatrician if your baby is fussy, has discomfort, is unsure about the cause, or if home care measures are not providing relief.
A baby’s poop frequency will change as their digestive system becomes mature. This infrequent pooping pattern can be normal if they are due to diet changes. However, food or lactose intolerance could lead to irregular pooping patterns, which must be checked and treated. Consult your pediatrician if your baby hasn’t pooped for more than three days, expresses any discomfort, or has bloody stools. Introduce fiber into your baby’s diet gradually if they are older than six months. You may also seek a pediatric dietitian’s advice on adding fiber to your baby’s diet.
- If your baby is not pooping but constantly passing gas, the reasons could include constipation, food changes, and allergies.
- The frequency of passing stool varies in babies depending on the food type and eating frequencies.
- However, if your baby does not poop for more than three days, visit a doctor immediately.
2. Bowel Movements in Babies; C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital
3. Vera Loening-Baucke and Ken Kimura, Failure to Pass Meconium: Diagnosing Neonatal Intestinal Obstruction; American Family Physician
4. Pooping By the Numbers; American Academy of Pediatrics
5. Wendy S. Biggs and William H. Dery, Evaluation and Treatment of Constipation in Infants and Children; American Family Physician
6. Infant Constipation; American Academy of Pediatrics
7. Constipation in infants and children; U.S. National Library of Medicine
8. Ekaterini I Syrigou et al., Food allergy-related paediatric constipation; U.S. National Library of Medicine
9. Antonio Carroccio et al., Chronic constipation and food intolerance; U.S. National Library of Medicine
10. Constipation: Infant; Nationwide Children’s Hospital
11.How Long Can A Baby Go Without Pooping?; ChildrensMD; St. Louis Children’s Hospital
12.Constipation In Infants And Children; MedlinePlus; National Library of Medicine