Is constipation, especially in babies, common? On this week’s On Call for All Kids, Rachel Dawkins, M.D., a general pediatrician from Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, talks about things parents need to know about constipation.
To be blunt, parents are obsessed with poop. They know how often their child does (or doesn’t poop), the color, the consistency, the faces their child makes when having a bowel movement — everything!
What is a normal stooling pattern for babies?
Just like in adults, bowel patterns vary from child to child. Typically, infants and children will stool one to two times a day. Some may go a few days without stooling, and that’s totally normal. The consistency of the stool is more important.
What should stool look like?
For an infant or newborn, poop should be soft. No hard balls. It might be yellow or green and in newborns it might seem watery or seedy. Infants work really hard to poop, so it’s normal for them to turn red or seem like they are straining to poop. Babies can be gassy (just like adults)!
For older kids, I typically say stools should look like soft-serve ice cream. Stools should not be hard or dry looking. In kids who are constipated, their stools might be large (like clogging the toilet large) and may cause pain or discomfort to pass.
What are some baby constipation symptoms?
Blood in the stool should always prompt a visit with your pediatrician. Outside of the infant period, if stools are large or hard to pass that’s also a good reason to call your pediatrician — typically constipation is temporary.
How can you help a constipated child?
Many times constipation is due to diet. Kids typically don’t eat the best, most-balanced, high-fiber diet. To help a constipated child, I usually recommend increasing water intake and increasing whole fruit intake (not juice). I will tell parents that fruits that start with the letter P help kids poop, so prunes, peaches, plums, pears, papayas, etc.
If you think your newborn or infant is constipated, talk to your pediatrician. This is probably the most common concern parents want to discuss during the newborn period.
On Call for All Kids is a weekly series featuring Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital experts. Visit HopkinsAllChildrens.org/Stories each Monday for the latest report. You also can explore more advice from Rachel Dawkins, M.D., and advice for parents of infants and toddlers.