You can now apprehensively claim the unwelcome title of professional poop watcher because like all newbie parents, your full-time job has become tracking your newborn’s every bowel movement. Parents will go through a lot of diapers in their children's early years and probably get a little bit too familiar with their infant's bathroom habits.
Though it’s certainly not the most glamorous of jobs in the world, a dirty diaper can reveal a lot about your infant’s overall health. Unfortunately, for all of us, but babies in particular, pooping isn’t always so smooth sailing. We understand that any changes to your little one's bathroom habits can be alarming. Luckily, this is not always a cause for concern, as their bowel movements can change due to age and diet.
Although, sometimes things get a bit backed up, but gas still manages to slide out. So when this happens, what does it mean, and should you be worried? We’ll answer this question and steer you in the right direction to help your newborn find some much-needed relief.
Newborn waste can tell you a lot about a baby's diet and health. A dirty diaper can help you monitor for signs of dehydration or constipation, and ensure that your little one is getting enough milk.
Your baby's poop frequency can differ largely based on what they are consuming, whether that be breast milk or formula. Breastfed babies will typically poop more frequently than formula-fed babies, but in both situations, you should expect several dirty diapers a day for the first month at least!
The first type of bowel movement to expect is the passing of a special kind of newborn poop known as meconium, which in healthy, full-term babies, happens during the first 24-48 hours after birth. Meconium is a substance found in the intestines of a developing fetus, and its release signals that your baby's intestines are healthy and intact. It is made of cells, proteins, fats, and intestinal secretions.
By the end of the first week, you should expect around 4-12 bowel movements each day for breastfed babies and 1-4 bowel movements for formula-fed babies. It is not uncommon for babies to poop after each feeding.
Although, by the end of the first month, the frequency may decrease as they begin to eat more. By the time they are 6 weeks, your little one may go a day or two without having a bowel movement.
To summarize, here's what kind of newborn poop you can expect in their first weeks:
• Days 1 - 3: The first stage is the passing of meconium, which will be dark green or black poop and sticky in consistency.
• Week 1 - Week 6: Expect anywhere between 4-12 bowel movements a day for breastfed babies, and between 1-4 if formula-fed. Colour can range from brown to green or yellow.
• Week 6+: Babies poop around every other day or every couple of days.
Signs of Normal Baby Poop
It is important to keep an eye out for signs that your newborn baby is having healthy bowel movements, although, healthy may look very different between formula-fed and breastfed babies.
It should also be noted that the first few days, weeks, and months of your little one's life will come with many changes, including various changes in the colour, texture, and frequency of your baby's poop.
Here are some general characteristics that indicate that your baby's poops are healthy:
Babies that are breastfed can pass stools that are seedy and mustard yellow in colour.
Babies that are formula-fed will pass stools that are yellow, green, or light brown.
Babies that are breastfed can pass looser, runnier stools.
Babies that are formula-fed will have firmer stools, with a texture similar to peanut butter.
Noticeable pieces of food may be present in the stool if your baby has consumed unstrained food.
Signs of Abnormal Baby Poop
Even though your baby's stool can vary a lot based on their age and diet, there are still some abnormal characteristics to look out for that may be indicative of poor health and require medical attention.
Contact your pediatrician as soon as possible if your baby's stool contains any of the following:
• Blood in stool
• Stool that is maroon, grey or white
• Black stool after your baby has already passed meconium
• A drastic change in the frequency of your baby's bowel movements
• Stool that contains a large amount of water or mucus
It's not uncommon for babies to experience occasional diarrhea for a few months after birth. Despite it being relatively common, if you notice that your baby is having diarrhea, it is best to contact your pediatrician, as this can lead to dehydration, and could be a sign of a virus or bacterial infection.
In contrast to diarrhea, some babies may also develop constipation. This is less common during the newborn period. If your newborn baby hasn't pooped for an extended time, this could indicate that they are not getting enough to eat. In this case, your baby's latch and position while eating may have to be adjusted, or their diet may need to change per your pediatrician's recommendation.
Lastly, your baby might have a breast milk imbalance or food sensitivity if their stools are consistently bright green or neon green. Since this can also be normal in some babies, it is best to contact your pediatrician to diagnose any potential problem.
How Long Can a Newborn Go Without Pooping?
This question has a long answer, which can vary quite a lot depending on your baby's age and diet. A timeframe that wouldn't be concerning for one infant may be concerning for another, based on how regularly your baby poops, and what their diet looks like.
As a general rule, if your baby is gaining around 1 to 2 pounds a month and feeding normally, the frequency of their bowel movements can range. Your baby's diet is going to heavily impact how often they poop.
After roughly the first 6 weeks, a breastfed baby may not poop every day, whereas a formula-fed baby will poop more frequently. However, before the 6-month mark, breastfed babies will usually have bowel movements more regularly. Regardless of how often they poop, look out for signs that their bowel movements are healthy and painless!
To summarize, it may be normal for a baby to go 24 hours or even a couple of days without pooping. As long as they are gaining weight, have an appetite, and are passing stools easily and painlessly, then they are likely alright.
If you do notice any alarming symptoms or there have been drastic changes to the appearance or frequency of their bowel movements outside of what is considered normal for them, contact your pediatrician.
When to Worry About Your Newborn Not Pooping?
As mentioned above, while it is true that there is a range of what is considered normal, it is important to look out for any signs that your baby requires medical attention. A dirty diaper (or lack thereof), can tell you a lot about a baby's health.
If you notice any of the following signs, it is recommended that you seek medical attention:
• If a baby younger than 4 months poops less than 3 times per week
• If a baby younger than 4 months has hard stools
• If your baby has a sudden loss of appetite
• If your baby has a bloated tummy or is vomiting
• If your baby has blood in their stool
• If your baby has frequent constipation
• If your baby shows signs of being in severe pain during a bowel movement
• If your baby is losing weight or struggling to gain weight
You should seek immediate medical attention if your baby is experiencing severe abdominal or rectal pain.
How Your Baby Can Be Gassy & Unable To Poop at the Same Time
It can be confusing when your baby is not pooping but passing gas. Babies sometimes get backed up or constipated, which can lead to them passing gas more frequently. They may also just get gassy in between poops without being constipated.
This can happen for a few reasons, which we will talk about below. It should be noted that not all gas needs to be "fixed", newborns pass gas once in a while and it is perfectly normal and expected.
Possible Reasons Your Baby is Not Pooping but Passing Gas:
• Breastfed babies: Breastfed babies are not as likely to get constipated, which means most of the time their gas is not caused by constipation. This is because breast milk is generally easier to digest than formula.
• Formula-fed babies: There are a few reasons formula-fed babies pass gas. Two of the likely culprits are swallowing air, which is common for babies, or it could be that their baby formula is not agreeing with them.
• Solid Food: The change in your child's diet when they start incorporating solid foods can cause little digestive hiccups. In this case, try introducing one new food at a time.
• Change in Diet: Any change in diet can cause digestive upset,especially when they are first introduced to formula because it can be harder to digest than breast milk.
Beyond the more general factors listed above, there are some other common culprits that can cause your baby to poop less frequently and cause baby gas. Let's take a deeper dive into these reasons below!
Not Getting Enough Milk
Sometimes your little one just needs to feed more to have more frequent bowel movements. Not getting enough milk can in some cases cause dehydration or constipation.
If your baby is being formula fed, make sure you are correctly measuring the formula to ensure they are getting adequate nutrition.
Constipation is pretty common, affecting up to 30% of children. Your baby being gassy doesn't necessarily mean that they are constipated, although gassiness paired with the following symptoms can be a sign that they are constipated:
• Prolonged crying or irritability
• Decreased appetite
• Straining without pooping
• Small hard poops
Constipation rarely causes medical problems in children, but you should see your doctor as soon as possible if your newborn baby is not pooping at all or very rarely pooping.
Constipation can indicate that a food allergy or intolerance may be present. This isn't super common and only affects 2-8% of babies who are under 1 year old. Speak to your pediatrician if you are concerned that your baby may have a food allergy or intolerance.
Poop Compared: Breastfed vs. Formula-Fed Babies
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying you are what you eat but it turns out there is a strong connection between pooping frequency and what your baby is eating.
Check out the chart below to see the expected differences between the bowel movements of formula fed vs breastfed babies.
How Do I Get My Newborn To Poop?
If your baby is not pooping very frequently, you may want to try increasing your baby's poop frequently using one of the methods below:
• Make sure that they are drinking enough
• Give them a warm bath
• Medication or a change of formula (Only if recommended or prescribed by your pediatrician)
• Give them a few ounces of water (Only if your baby is over 6 months old)
Home Treatments For Constipation
It is always best to consult your pediatrician when it comes to any concerns you have about your baby's health, but if your baby is other than 4 months, you can try one of the following home treatments:
1. Give them a massage: Lie your baby on their back and slowly move their legs in a bicycle motion.
2. Help relax their pelvis: If they are straining to poop, gently bend your baby's hips and legs up towards their abdomen to help relax their pelvis.
3. Burp them after every feeding: Burping after feedings can help relieve gas.
Skip These Dangerous Home Remedies
Mineral Oil: Mineral oil can be used for adults, but it is not recommended for children.
Laxatives: Laxatives should never be given to your child unless instructed by your doctor.
Gripe Water: The use of gripe water may be associated with vomiting and constipation.
You know your baby and their habits best, if something seems off it is best to consult your pediatrician. That being said, some fluctuations in your baby's bowel movements are normal and expected. As we've gone over in this article, there's a whole host of reasons for your baby not pooping but passing gas.
So while your baby's dirty diapers, aren't always pleasant to deal with, it's important to keep watch over them as they do say a lot about your baby's health, and as such, this should be the first place to look for any changes or abnormal characteristics!
Please be aware that this information is based on general trends in babies, and it is not medical advice. Your doctor should be your first source of information and advice when considering any changes to your child’s formula and when choosing your child’s formula. Always consult your pediatrician before making any decisions about your child’s diet or if you notice any changes in your child.
Breastfeeding is the best nutrition for your baby because breast milk provides your child with all the essential nutrients they need for growth and development. Please consult your pediatrician if your child requires supplemental feeding.
Agustina Fernandez is a medical doctor, who graduated from Universidad Nacional de Cordoba, in Argentina. She has experience working in an emergency room of a public hospital, where she helped many patients with urgent diseases. However, her true passion are children and she is planning on doing her specialization degree in Pediatrics soon. In the past year, she has become interested in researching about infant nutrition, including breastfeeding, infant formula and food in the first years of little ones' lives.
Dr. Hsu received his medical degree from Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts, and holds a Master’s of Science degree from both Harvard University and Tufts University.
Dr. Hsu did research in MRI neuroimaging research of fetal brains at Boston Children’s Hospital, an affiliated hospital of Harvard Medical School. Dr. Hsu is currently a full-time medical writer and consultant.
Outside of the medical profession, Dr. Hsu loves to write, learn new languages, and travel