If you never thought you'd be one of "those" moms who analyzed her baby's bowel movements with every diaper change, you're wrong. Granted, I don't know you personally. But every mom, at some point or another, has a weird obsession with her child's poop. It's a universal fact. Especially when your baby is young, the frequency and texture (yes, texture) of their bowel movements can tell you a lot about their health before their able to do so themselves. Being on the lookout for signs your baby isn't pooping enough can make you more aware of how certain foods affect their bodies and how their digestive system is doing overall.
Here's the catch though: the way you feed your baby has a lot to do with how they will poop. Formula fed babies' bowel movements are vastly different than an exclusively breastfed baby's — not better or worse, just different. And knowing the difference, as well as what to expect for "normal" poops, can help you spot when something is off.
Constipation is rare for babies, but it does happen, and knowing the signs will help you ensure it doesn't happen often and know what to do if and when it does.
For Breastfed Babies
Exclusively breastfed babies are rarely constipated, according to La Leche League (LLLI), because nearly 100 percent of the milk is easily digested by their systems. In the newborn phase, it's normal for your baby to poop three to five times a day for the first six weeks or so. After that, as their digestive system matures and their stomach grows, it's normal for their bowel movements to slow down.
LLLI also noted that once the colostrum is out of a mother's milk (about six weeks postpartum,) there is a very wide range of "normal" when it comes to baby poop. Your baby could poop after every feeding still, or only poop once every few days and be totally fine.
It's important to pay attention to other symptoms besides the frequency of their bowel movements. According to Breastfeeding Problems, the most common symptoms of constipation in breastfed babies shouldn't be ignored, although the constipation generally clears up on its own. If your baby is truly constipated, when they do poop, it will be dry and hard. Similarly, there may be streaks of blood in their stools from straining themselves pushing. Their bellies may be firm or tender to the touch and they'll most likely show signs of discomfort or even cry while trying to make a bowel movement.
You shouldn't have to do anything drastic to help your baby's system along, but making a few dietary changes to include some foods that aid digestion and aren't known for causing constipation and making sure that your baby is nursing enough can help. Parents recommended taking dairy out of your diet if your baby continues to be constipated, and to try eating prunes to help ease the constipation.
For Formula Fed Babies
Although constipation is more common among formula-fed babies, it shouldn't be the norm. According to Dr. Sears, formula fed babies stools may be less frequent, harder and darker than a breastfed baby's. Similac noted that introducing new solids to your baby can make them more constipated as well.
Baby Center noted that the signs of constipation in formula fed babies are fairly similar to constipation in breastfed babies, but can have different causes. If your baby's stool is thick or hard (thicker than the consistence of peanut butter, if you need a visual,) if they show signs of pain or discomfort while trying to poop, or if their belly is firm to the touch or tender they're most likely constipated.
Just like dairy sensitivities in breastfed babies, some milk-based formulas can also cause constipation in some babies with a milk-protein intolerance. Parents noted that switching formulas to one that isn't milk-based can help ease their constipation. But be sure to consult your pediatrician first to make sure your baby is still getting all of the necessary nutrients (like iron and calcium) that they need.