If babies came with a bodily functions decoder, a mother's life would be so much easier. Despite all of the diaper tracking and dietary changes, many moms still ask "is my breastfed baby constipated?" and worry that "clogged pipes" may be the root of their tummy pain. Although constipation is supposedly rare in breastfed babies — since breastmilk is very easily digestible — it can still happen. So how do you know if your baby is really constipated or not? Luckily, there are a few ways to tell that don't require a "how to" manual.
According to La Leche League International (LLLI,) your baby will likely only wet and dirty one or two diapers for the first few days of your baby's life. From there, the number of dirty diapers will increase. But as your milk looses it's colostrum, which has laxative effects, it's normal for your baby to skip a day or so between bowel movements.
Like most things, every baby's system is different and it's just as normal for a breastfed baby to poop after every feeding as it is for them to poop only once a day, or even skip a day. LLLI also noted that once you introduce solids to your baby, their elimination patterns change, and you can expect the frequency of your baby's bowel movements to change along with their new diet.
Although it's not common, breastfed babies can still be constipated. Keeping track of the following signs can help you determine if constipation is the culprit behind their discomfort.
1. Your Baby Has Hard, Small Stools
The easiest way to tell if your baby is truly constipated is to wait until they've had a bowel movement and then examine their poop. (Motherhood is never glamorous, is it?) According to The Bump, there is a scale for measuring constipation that pediatricians use called the Bristol Stool Scale, which ranks a baby's stool on a scale of one to seven, one being hard pellet shaped stool and seven being pure liquid. Most experts classify anything on one through three on the scale as being constipated.
That being said, only you know what your baby's typical stools look like. If they're harder than normal and resemble small pellets, your baby may indeed be constipated.
2. They Have Been Pooping Less Frequently Than Usual
You'll have to take in consideration their "normal" when it comes to poop, according to the aforementioned LLLI piece. If they typically poop after every feeding (common for many exclusively breastfed babies under 6 months) and suddenly poop only once a day, they may be constipated.
However, if you've introduced solids, they may just be having a harder time digesting something and not necessarily constipated, according to Medela. Pay attention to their frequency along with the appearance of their stool to get the most accurate idea.
3. They're In Pain While Trying To Poop
Although the New Health Advisor noted that there are a lot of reasons why babies may appear to be in pain while they poop, constipation is often one of the main culprits. If your baby appears to be uncomfortable, straining, or even crying while trying to poop and they're experiencing the other symptoms discussed above, you can probably assume that they're constipated.
4. There's A Small Amount Of Blood In Their Diaper As Well
Baby Center noted that a small amount of blood is normal in constipated babies. However, if there is a lot of blood, or it doesn't get better, be sure to take them in to their pediatrician as there may be a larger issue.