How Long Can a Baby Go Without Pooping?

imagesYou wouldn’t think you’d miss a poopy diaper … until you realize it’s been three or four days since you’ve seen one.

How long is too long?

Baby docs say that moms’ “constipation panic” is common. And why not? You spend a lot of time making sure that all systems are go with your baby, so when one seems to plug up, it feels like it should mean something. Surprisingly, though, babies can go longer than you’d think without dirtying a diaper.

The exact answer to “how long,” unfortunately, is that frustrating phrase, it depends.

Here are some questions that can help:

* What are you expecting? That your baby should poop daily? They don’t need to. So don’t let anybody tell you that yours should. (Grandma!) What’s normal varies from baby to baby, just like for adults.

* Is your baby exclusively breastfeeding? True constipation is less likely. Breastfed babies tend to poop less often overall than formula-fed babies because breastmilk is mostly absorbed and doesn’t hang around the digestive tract; every two to three days isn’t unusual. Three poops a week is considered a good rule of thumb that things are going okay.

* Is your baby formula-feeding? Formula is slower to digest, so BMs tend to be firmer and bulkier, and can get stopped up, especially if/when you transition to part-breast, part-formula, or from breast to formula. Try offering a bottle of water. (Don’t ever dilute formula.) Sometimes it’s the type of formula at fault; you might want to experiment with another.

* Has your baby been sick lately? Or teething? Dehydration can lead to constipation. Infections can cause this, as can things that make your baby not want to eat  — like thrush or a new tooth about to pop.

* Did your baby just start solids? Or a new food? Constipation often crops up at these transitions. That’s when babies often go from a daily poop (more or less) to once every three, four, or more days. One solution is to return to how you were feeding before and see if it makes a difference.

* Does your baby seem uncomfortable or in pain? Behavior is a much better guide than counting time, doctors say. Think how you’d feel if you were plugged up for days and unable to get it out. Look for straining, drawn-up legs, and  unexplained crying. Another sign is when any poop produced is in hard pellets or bloody.

In a nutshell, you rarely have to worry for under a five-day stretch. But, of course, it does happen. The usual treatments include offering water or (if over 4 months) fruit juice, or (if 4-6 months and on) solids, strained prunes, or pears. Ask your baby’s doctor for advice if you’re worried or see distress signs in your baby; over-the-counter glycerin suppositories are often recommended and work pretty well.