Are you anxiously counting the days since your little one had a bowel movement and wondering how long can a newborn go without pooping?
Well, rest assured that this is a timeless question that new moms are always asking. All babies are individuals and some will poop after every meal, others will poop every few days, and others may not go for a week or more.
The First Bowel Movement
Right after your baby enters the world he will experience his very first bowel movements. The first poop occurs within 24 hours of birth. It will appear as a black or dark green, sticky, tar-like substance known as meconium.
Although your newborn has never nursed, he still ingested substances while in utero such as amniotic fluid, water, bile, skin cells and even fine hair that the baby shed during his growth process. Meconium looks disgusting but it has no odor.
Interestingly, it is the first and only bowel movement that your baby will ever have that is completely free of any bacteria because prior to birth your baby was never exposed to ingestible bacteria.
Bowel Movements After Meconium
After your baby passes the meconium from his system he will typically have two bowel movements on the second day of life, then three bowel movements on the third day, and four bowel movements on the fourth day. At that stage, your baby’s pooping schedule will start to normalize and most newborns start experiencing three to four bowel movements per day.
Breastfeeding and Bowel Movements
The initial colostrum in your breastmilk acts as a laxative and it is not uncommon for a baby to have a bowel movement every time he nurses. Once the dark meconium is cleared from the infant’s system, his feces should appear green and then change to yellow with a seedy and loose consistency.
It takes about six weeks for all of the colostrum to leave your breastmilk. Once there is no colostrum in your milk your baby’s bowel movements will significantly decrease. He may only poop every week or two, according to Kathleen Berchelmann, M.D. at Children’s MD.
Formula Fed Babies and Bowel Movements
Formula fed babies do not differ that much in bowel habits compared to breastfed infants. They will typically have about the same number of bowel movements or in some cases a bit less.
Most formula fed babies start to have one poop per day or every other day after they reach six weeks old. Many formula fed babies experience only one bowel movement per week. However, when they first start eating solids they are more prone towards constipation than breastfeeding infants who start to eat solids.
Cows Milk and Constipation
Many parents transition their infant to cow’s milk at 12 months of age. Unfortunately, some babies experience bouts of constipation after ingesting cow’s milk. Including fruits and vegetables in your one-year-olds diet can assist in preventing constipation.
Will Water Make Your Newborn Poop?
Even if your baby is pushing three weeks without a bowel movement you should not give him water. Giving water to a newborn upsets his electrolyte balance and can have adverse side effects.Your baby is not dehydrated if he is nursing. Eventually, he will have a bowel movement.
Symptoms of Constipation
Newborns rarely get constipated. However, here are a few symptoms to watch for if your baby is not experiencing a bowel movement and you feel something is not right. If your baby has any of these symptoms then you should contact your pediatrician.
- When your baby does experience a bowel movement he starts to cry because of pain.
- His tummy feels or looks bloated
- He is spitting up more than usual
- You notice that he is very fussy and appears to be suffering from a bellyache.
- His poop looks like small, hard, round balls.
- He strains to poop. You can tell he is straining by the firm feel of his tiny belly.
- Your baby is eating less than normal.
Causes of Constipation in a Baby
Yes, newborns can become constipated but it is rare. Here are few causes of constipation in a baby:
- Powdered Formula: If you are mixing the wrong ratio of powdered formula with water you can cause your baby to experience constipation. Also, you might want to change formulas to determine if a specific brand might be upsetting your little one’s system.
- Breastmilk to Formula: Many moms try to transition from breastmilk to formula or they use a combination of breastmilk and formula. Both scenarios can cause a backup in your baby’s system.
- Allergy or Food Intolerance: Your baby might be allergic to a food that you consumed and that is being excreted in your breastmilk. He may also have an allergy to the formula that you are using.
- Physical Abnormalities: Some infants are born with an abnormality of the colon or the rectum that is not detected at birth. Your pediatrician should evaluate your infant if he often suffers from bouts of constipation.
- Medical Condition or Illness: Some illnesses and medical conditions can cause constipation in a newborn. You should consult with your pediatrician to determine if your infant is suffering from such a condition.
Relieving Constipation in a Newborn
If your baby is experiencing constipation there are a few things that you can do to help him poop.
- Bicycling: Lay your baby on his back and move his legs as if he was riding a bicycle. This cycle of movements often relieves belly pressure and helps his body pass the stool.
- Warm Bath: A warm bath is relaxing and might get your baby’s system moving. You can also lay a warm washcloth or water bottle on your little one’s tummy.
- Formula: If you are using formula then you may want to change brands or go with one that is geared towards sensitive tummies.
- Breastfeeding: Your infant might be suffering constipation because of something that you ate and passed to him in your breast milk. You should evaluate everything that you have consumed and look for any deviations. If you have recently tried a new food then you might want to abstain from consuming it again until you have stopped breastfeeding your newborn.
- Massage: A gentle tummy massage might ease your newborn’s discomfort and relax him enough so that he can poop. You can even use a tiny bit of baby lotion to massage into the soft skin of his tummy. Remember not to press too hard. Usually, you only need to massage his abdomen for three to five minutes to bring a bit of relief.
When to Worry
All babies have their own unique rhythm when it comes to pooping but if your little one has frequent bouts of painful constipation or exhibits any of the following symptoms then you should seek medical care.
- Bloody stool
- Lack of appetite
- White stool which is considered serious and could indicate a liver problem.
- Excessive crying
- Mucus in stool
- Yellow or green spit up
- Loss of weight
- Overly hard stool
What the Experts Say
“Usually, sticky and darkish green-black in color, baby’s first poop is called meconium and is made up of everything baby ingested in utero, including amniotic fluid, skin cells, and water. But within the first few days of life, your newborn’s poop should progressively get more watery and lighter in color. If it doesn’t, or if baby isn’t consistently pooping in the first few days of life, it could be a sign that he isn’t getting proper nutrition and needs a follow-up visit with the pediatrician,” says Wendy Sue Swanson, MD, a pediatrician and executive director of digital health for Seattle Children’s Hospital.
“Breastfed babies typically have 8-10 poops a day by the end of the first week of life. But just a few weeks later when they’re a month old, the number drops in half. That doesn’t mean they’re constipated, it means they’re maturing. They may go 3 days, or 4 days or 7 days… and it’s completely normal, because breast milk is the perfect food, so there’s just not the waste to be gotten rid of… [Parents] are very concerned that there’s constipation if the baby hasn’t gone in the last week. But most of the time, that’s a normal thing, that’s actually a healthy sign of great food being processed well, “ states Dr. Alan Greene, a pediatrician and founder of the popular parenting website DrGreene.com.
“The only thing I enjoy more than a question about poop, is when parents bring in a diaper filled with poop for me to examine very carefully,” says Santa Monica pediatrician Jay Gordon, MD, IBCLC. “When mom´s milk comes in, poop changes to green, orange, yellow or brown, seedy, always liquid, many different colors.Stool changes color sometimes on a daily basis, and you don’t need to worry about it.”
Your baby is a wonderfully unique individual in all aspects. Even though you may start to wonder how long your newborn can go without pooping rest assured that a long lapse between bowel movements is typically perfectly normal.