Infants - Irregular Bowel Movements


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Your Baby Today: New Baby, New Mom: Expert Q&A: Pediatrics

By Lillian Beard, M.D. for Your Baby Today

Lillian M. Beard, M.D, a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, is an associate clinical professor at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, D.C. She is a frequent guest expert and spokesperson on national television programs, discussing issues related to children's health. Dr. Beard practices pediatrics in Washington, D.C.

Your Baby Today is proud to feature this expert Q&A with Dr. Lillian Beard. New questions and answers will be added to this page regularly. If you have any questions for Dr. Beard, please write to her at While Dr. Beard cannot respond to each individual inquiry, we will post answers to the most commonly asked questions here.

Q: * My 5 month-old moves her bowels approximately every three days, is this normal?
* Is it normal for my 3 month-old to have bowel movements after every feeding?
* My 3 month-old baby has had severe constipation for 2 days. She is in absolute agony when she tires to have a bowel movement. What can I give her to make things come back to normal?

A: Questions from new parents about feedings, bowel movements and sleeping have been those most commonly asked over my more than 25 years of pediatric practice. I always remind them just how important it is for us to recognize and celebrate that each baby is unique, an individual creation; as such they may not always conform to our standard expectations of what's "normal" for what they "take in" or the timeliness of what they "eliminate." In general, babies who are breast-feeding tend to have more frequent and softer stools. The younger the infants the greater the likelihood for more frequent bowel movements. Breast-fed babies will average 4-7 bowel movements during the course of 24 hours, and some may eliminate a little after each feeding. Formula-fed babies may have different patterns, some very dependent on the type of infant formula. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breast-feeding as the optimum choice for your baby's nutrition. However, if you are not breast-feeding, the Academy states that an iron-fortified infant formula is the only acceptable alternative. True constipation is not an every day occurrence in 3-month-old infants.

I have a few suggestions which might stimulate easier bowel movements.

  • When your baby seems to be straining to have a BM, place the palms of your hands beneath the soles of her feet, allowing her to push against them.
  • While she is on her back, gently press and massage the lower left side of her abdomen; this may stimulate the muscles to contract and move matter for evacuation.
  • While baby is on her back, grasp her legs by her knees/ thighs and move them in a bicycling motion onto and away from her abdomen. This is another fun and relaxing way to stimulate muscular activity.

Sometimes the type and brand of infant formula will make a big difference in your baby's pattern of elimination. Most "regular" iron-fortified infant formulas contain a combination of two types of cow milk proteins-the hard, curd-like casein and the softer whey. One brand, Carnation Nestle GOOD START, is iron-fortified and is 100% whey. This softer, "comfort" protein, digests easily, as does breast milk, and parents report softer stools, with a similar frequency of movement as breast-feeding babies. I suggest that you check with your baby's pediatrician before making any feeding changes.

The content on these pages is provided as general information only and should not be substituted for the advice of your physician.


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TwinsMom's picture

Not daily might be OK if he's feeling OK

If it is soft, and he doesn't seem to have discomfort, I wouldn't worry so much. There are many babies (and adults) who don't "go" daily. Be sure to talk to your doctor more about it if it is still worrying you.

irregular bowel moment

my baby is 8months old and from since 4months he would go day without a bowel moment his doctor said he is breastfeeding so its ok to go up to five days but he forces and cries alot although the stool comes out soft he was born a colic baby so his doctor said gas is the reason y he is forcing and to give grip water till 6months. he is going on to 9months and still hv the problem of passing stool...

What do u suggest i would be happy if u can assist me cause i rather him pasing stool daily since he eats so much((both breast n solid)

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