Constipation in newborns

Kerry Beeson BSc (Nut. Med.) Nutritional Therapist

Having a newborn baby is incredibly exciting and filled with many precious moments, yet it can also present itself as a daunting time. When your tiny newborn baby is clearly experiencing some digestive discomfort, you may feel so helpless and keen to quickly make them more comfortable.

newborn baby sleeping

Here is a brief guide to constipation in newborns, and some tips to help provide some relief. If you are in any way concerned about symptoms though, always seek medical advice from your GP or health visitor.

Is my newborn baby constipated?

As a new mother, experiencing motherhood for the first time, it can be tricky to tell the difference between what is normal, and what is not. If however your baby is clearly uncomfortable or distressed, may be straining excessively or producing very hard pellet-type stools, or have not passed a stool for three days or more, they may be suffering from constipation.

It is worth noting that breastfed babies will often pass fewer stools than formula fed babies, and it can be common for them to go much longer without passing a stool. This is because breast milk has been extremely well-designed by mother nature, and as it is such an easily absorbed food, very little is passed out of the body as waste. Breastfed babies are also more likely to pass paler and softer stools.

Formula milk may be more difficult for some babies to digest, and could lead to constipation, particularly if they are experiencing the transition from breast milk to formula.

It is important to remember that like adults, all babies are different and some will pass more stools than others. You will soon become familiar with what is normal for your baby, and be able to recognise any changes or potential problem. If you suspect your newborn is constipated here are some suggested some tips to help relieve the problem:


Using gentle abdominal massage techniques, or rotating your baby's legs in a cycling motion, can stimulate your baby's bowel, helping to relieve constipation in newborns.

Ensure adequate hydration

Dehydration is a common trigger of constipation in newborns, much like adults. In particularly warm weather you may wish to increase the number of breast feeds your baby has in order to help prevent dehydration. With formula fed babies you may like to introduce bottles with some sterilised water in between feeds to help increase hydration levels.

Boost levels of healthy bacteria  

Constipation in newborns may be triggered by an imbalance in their natural levels of gut bacteria. Probiotics can be a helpful tool to bring the levels of beneficial gut bacteria back into balance. A natural birth helps to ensure that a newborn baby's gut is colonised by their mother's bacteria when they travel through the birth canal. If a birth by C-section is your choice, or perhaps medically unavoidable, it may be helpful to supplement with a probiotic. Look for one specifically formulated for newborn babies and infants to help support their natural gut flora while their digestive systems are developing.