How Can I Tell if My Baby Is Constipated?

It seems like my baby has difficulty passing his stool. His face usually turns red and sometimes he grunts or makes other noises. He has bowel movements regularly, but still I'm still concerned. Could he be constipated?

It's normal for infants to strain when passing a bowel movement. Going is more of a challenge for them because they are lying flat, and therefore don't have the forces of gravity to help "move" things along.

Breastfed babies tend go more often than formula-fed babies since breast milk is more easily digested. At around 3-6 weeks old, breastfed babies may start having fewer bowel movements, sometimes only one or two a week. Formula-fed babies usually have daily bowel movements. As long as the stool remains soft (regardless of how frequent the bowel movements are or if there is straining), your baby is probably not constipated. 

Babies who cry when passing a bowel movement or have hard or pebble-like stool might be constipated. If you think your baby's constipated, talk to your doctor, who may recommend giving your baby a little extra water to soften hard stool. Never give a baby laxatives, suppositories, or enemas.

If your baby's symptoms do not improve or if he has signs of illness like vomiting, fever, lethargy, lack of appetite, or blood in the stool, call your doctor right away.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: August 2009

Have a question? Email us.

Although we can't reply personally, you may see your question posted to this page in the future. If you're looking for medical advice, a diagnosis, or treatment, consult your doctor or other qualified medical professional. If this is an emergency, contact emergency services in your area.

Kids Health

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

© 1995-2016 The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth. All rights reserved.