How Long Can a Baby Go Without Pooping?
Has your breastfed or formula-fed baby gone several days—or even a full week—without pooping? Here’s why experts say it’s not usually a red flag.
Before having a baby, many parents envision stacks upon stacks of poop-filled diapers. So when your baby doesn't have bowel movements very frequently, you might wonder if something's wrong. How long can a baby go without pooping, and when should you worry? Here's a guide for new parents, whether your little one drinks breast milk or formula.
Breastfed Baby Poop Frequency
There's a wide range of normal when it comes to bowel movement frequency. Expect a breastfed newborn to poop after nearly every nursing session, usually equaling about eight or 10 times each day. Why so often? Their gastrocolic reflex is immature, which means that their colon is signaled to empty whenever their stomach stretches with food.
After a few weeks, your breastfed baby's stool schedule will change, and they'll poop about three or four times per day. Once your little one is older than 6 weeks, they may poop even less—maybe as little as once per week. That's because breast milk has the perfect nutritional balance for your baby, so there's often very little waste produced from it. You usually don't need to worry unless the color or consistency of their stool looks abnormal.
Formula-Fed Baby Poop Frequency
Formula causes stool to move through the intestines at a slower rate, so formula-fed babies usually poop less frequently. Their stool is also larger and smellier than breastfed baby poop.
During the newborn stage, formula-fed infants might poop around three or four times per day. Then, after a few months, they might pass bowel movements anywhere from one to four times daily, or even every other day—although it's normal to poop less frequently as well. It largely depends on little one's unique digestive system.
My Baby Hasn't Pooped in Several Days—What Gives?
Poop frequency tends to slow down around 6-8 weeks, whether your baby is breastfeeding or formula feeding. You can thank their increasingly efficient digestion and maturing intestines. At this point, it's usually not a concern if your baby poops just one or two times a week.
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That said, if your baby hasn't pooped in a while, pay attention to their mood. Are they content and playful as usual? Or do they seem more fussy or uncomfortable, especially after feedings? If your baby doesn't seem like themselves, loses their appetite, and has hard stool consistency, they might be constipated. Other signs of constipation in newborns include slight bleeding after bowel movements, refusal to eat, and making strained faces while pooping.
When to Call Your Doctor
If you're still concerned about your baby's poop frequency— or if your baby has gone a full week or more without pooping— give your pediatrician a call. They might want to evaluate your little one and check for a milk-protein allergy.
Laxatives are rarely used on constipated infants, but your doctor might suggest soaking your baby in a warm bath, massaging their tummy, or giving them a few ounces of water or prune juice—all of which can help loosen their stools.