Your Baby's Digestive Health, From Constipation to Diarrhea

Having a fussy baby can be frustrating, especially when you don't know what's causing all the fuss. But knowing what makes your baby feel uncomfortable might depend on whether their digestive system is in good working order.

So what's normal? The normal range for bowel movements in babies is pretty vast; infant stool varies from baby to baby, and from day to day. Stool can be yellow, green or brown and still be considered normal. Normal consistency ranges from runny applesauce to playdough.

If your baby is not having regular bowel movements, they might be experiencing diarrhea or constipation. But don't worry, learning how to recognize the symptoms of both will help you make your child feel better. And you'll find those symptoms, and how to help, below.

What Are the Symptoms of Constipation in a Baby?
If your baby is having difficulty passing stool, passing stool that is hard and dry, or having bowel movements less frequently than usual, they may be constipated.

How Did This Happen?

  • Eating solid foods for the first time. It is possible that some of the foods you feed your baby for the first time — such as rice cereal and oatmeal — don't provide enough fiber to promote regular bowel movements.
  • Dehydration. Your child's body, when not properly hydrated, absorbs fluids from whatever they eat and drink, including fluid from the waste in their bowels.
  • Illness or other medical conditions. Some babies develop diseases, or have underlying medical conditions, that can disrupt healthy digestive functions and result in chronic constipation. Check with your doctor if your baby has difficulty passing stools.

What Can You Do?
Some doctors recommend adding 1 to 2 ounces of prune, apple or pear juice to breast milk. The sugar in these juices will help to loosen the stool. You can also exercise your baby's legs to break up the hardened stools in their bowels, or gently massage their stomach if symptoms continue.

Do not give your baby over-the-counter stool softeners unless advised by your pediatrician or healthcare professional.

What Are the Symptoms of Baby Diarrhea?
When your baby's stool suddenly becomes softer and more frequent than what's normal for them, your child might have diarrhea.

How Did This Happen?
Diarrhea can be caused by an infection or your baby's inability to properly digest certain nutrients in their food.

What Can You Do?
Talk to your doctor while continuing to breastfeed. Your doctor may prescribe a lactose-free formula

When to Call a Healthcare Professional
If the frequency and volume of diarrhea become excessive or if you notice any of the following symptoms, call your pediatrician or healthcare professional:

  • Blood or mucus in stools.
  • Fever.
  • Vomiting.
  • Irritability.
  • Refusal to eat.
  • Decreased or dark-colored urine.
  • Decreased activity.