What Causes Constipation in Babies?

D. Jeffress

Constipation in babies is a common condition in which infants experience hard, dry stools that do not pass easily. There are many different causes of constipation in babies, depending on their age, dietary habits, and general health. The most common cause is mild dehydration, which can usually be remedied by consuming more water and juices. Infants under four months old who drink breast milk rarely become constipated, though formula-fed babies are more often subject to digestive problems. Babies older than four months may experience constipation symptoms as they transition from liquid diets to solid foods.

Prunes can help relieve constipation in babies.
Prunes can help relieve constipation in babies.

Breast milk is naturally regulated to ensure that infants receive the right amounts of protein, nutrients, and fat. It is very uncommon, therefore, for a breastfed baby to experience digestive problems and resulting constipation. Some types of commercial formula, however, can lead to constipation in babies. Formula milk is generally more difficult for an infant to digest, and most bottle-fed babies produce firmer, less frequent stools than breastfed babies. Passing thicker than normal stools less than once a day may be a sign that a bottle-fed baby is suffering from constipation, and may need to switch formulas according to a pediatrician's advice.

Baby food made of carrots, which can contribute to constipation.
Baby food made of carrots, which can contribute to constipation.

Babies usually begin eating solid foods between the ages of four to seven months. It is very common for babies to experience mild constipation during this time period, as their bodies must learn to adjust to a drastic change in diet. Certain baby foods, such as rice cereal, strained bananas, and carrots often contribute to harder stools and constipation. Foods that are high in dietary fiber, such as prunes, can promote healthy bowel movements as a baby's body becomes accustomed to solids.

An infant whose constipation cannot be contributed to formula or other causes may be a result of dehydration. Infants, children, and adults can all become constipated when they do not intake enough fluid. The body tries to make up for a lack of fluid by absorbing water from the intestines, causing fecal matter to become hard and dry. When dehydration is determined to be the cause of constipation in babies, parents can supply frequent, small amounts of water or juice to restore fluid levels and promote easier bowel movements.

Parents who notice that their baby is frequently constipated should consult a pediatrician immediately. Doctors might suggest dietary changes, over-the-counter laxatives, enemas, or stool softeners. Most infants recover from their symptoms within one to two weeks, though it is possible that constipation in babies is caused by a more serious medical condition, such as hypothyroidism. A knowledgeable pediatrician can check for underlying medical causes and suggest the best remedies for relieving symptoms.

A baby.
A baby.

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Discussion Comments


I am a new parent and I have been dealing with constipation. I turned to the internet to find ways to relieve constipation in babies. I visit this site often, and all I have to say is the articles are always great. The discussions are great too. It is nice to have a forum where people can ask questions to their peers.

I have just started feeding my child solid foods, one of which was powdered rice cereal. I did not realize that rice cereal could cause constipation. I changed the cereal to a blended cereal and within a few days, my baby's constipation problem was solved.


@georgesplane- Constipation relief in babies can be tricky because they have such fragile digestive systems. You want to give your baby relief, but you do not want to give them too much fiber that their system becomes irritated.

The advice that my mother gave me was to slowly increase the fiber intake of a baby, and keep the baby well hydrated. A baby can go for four or five days before you need to worry about constipation. Adding a little bit of ripe mashed banana (strained banana is void of fiber), apple juice with pulp, or mashed pears will usually result in a bowel movement. Easing up on proteins can also help.


My baby became constipated during the transition to solid foods form breast milk. I must have tried a number of remedies for constipation, but the only one that really worked was pureed pears. I had been told bananas, and certain grains would work, but they just seemed to plug her up more.

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