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Is Your Newborn Not Pooping But Passing Gas? What Should You Do?

What is a normal pooping routine for a newborn?

You are pooping once daily and you are considering that your newborn baby should do the same. Well, if he does, it’s ideal. But it is not the case most of the time. Your newborn not pooping but passing gas for a week or more can be pretty normal as the pooping routine of a newborn is highly variable and depends on the feed and age. A newborn can poop after every feed and that can be up to 6 times per day to once every week and still just be fine.

A newborn passes through a number of changes during the first year of their life. Generally, during the first week, a baby passes up to four poops every day, and then the first three months of life, a baby passes three poops every day and gradually poop frequency decreases, and it reaches one to two formed poops per day around two years of age. So comparing them with a normal pattern or comparing it with your friend’s baby is not advisable. Where your friend’s baby can poop 3 to 4 times a day, your baby can poop only once in a week and still be perfectly fine. Generally, breastfed babies poop more frequently as compared to formula-fed babies.

Newborn not pooping but passing gas is less scary unless it spans greater than a week. However, if the newborn is not pooping and not passing gas, then either it is definitely not a normal condition and you should consult the doctor. Normally these situations are accompanied by other symptoms like; irritation, crying, vomiting and food hesitation.

What causes the pooping routine so variable?

Normally the newborn during the first couple of months poops almost always after feeding. This is because of Gastrocolic Reflex, which is described as an urge to pass poop when somebody starts eating. It is a natural phenomenon that when babies start feeding, their colon (large intestine) starts moving faster to make space for incoming food. Therefore a baby can defecate up to 6 times in one day. As he grows, feed times space out and it takes a longer time to poop.

The second thing which has an impact on the duration of poop is the type of feed. However, it comes into play a little later in life. Initially, the majority of the babies are fed on breast milk which is an ideal meal for the newborn. It contains most of the essential ingredients and all the ingredients are easily absorbed by the maturing gut. Above all, it has a natural laxative which avoids any risk of constipation.

However, these qualities aren’t present in the formula feed and solid food which is usually used later in life. Thus causing the pooping duration prolonged. It makes breastfeeding in the initial life even more important.

Breastfed baby constipated

Although breastfeeding is the best meal for the baby, the baby can still develop constipation. This means your newborn not pooping for more than 4 weeks or he is not passing any gas either. Besides, the newborn also shows signs of constipation including;

  • Feels pain while passing poop
  • Not passing poop at least once a week
  • Passing hard and bigger than normal stool
  • Arching his or her back and/or crying baby
  • Small pellets like stools (sheep poop)
  • Leaks small amounts of poop into the underwater (if he is she is toilet trained)
  • Passing fewer poops, like a baby who used to pass three to four poops per day is passing only one poop in four days.

All of these are the signs that your baby is suffering from constipation. However, it may not be serious especially if it resolves on its own within a few days.

Also read: How Do Babies Get Colic?

Things you can do to soothe your baby

Being the mother it is definitely a worrisome condition for you and you must be looking the ways to help your baby soothe. Here is what you can do:

Change the formula feed

It is commonly thought that iron in formula causes constipation, iron in most the formulas is very small and does not cause constipation, therefore, change of formula does not help with constipation, always consult your doctor if you want to change the formula.

Fruit juice

Freshly squeezed fruit juices help relieve the constipation of small babies but do not give this juice to smaller than two months old, one to two ounces (30 to 60ml) of 100 percent freshly squeezed orange juice every day for up to one week relieves constipation. Give orange juice only once a day and not more than 7 days in one row.

Similarly, prune, apple and pear juices work for constipation, but these are for bigger children who are four months and above, two to three ounces (60 to 90mls) of juice for four to eight months old and up to six ounces for eight to twelve months old. Always remember, not to give too much juice to your baby, it can affect the overall diet proportion of your baby.

Brown sugar/dark corn syrup

Brown sugar and dark corn syrup and have complex sugars in them and they retain the water in the gut to keep the poop soft. It is an old folk therapy. There is a variety of these available in the market and the one available to you might not have the complex sugar proteins and it may not work.

Add clean water to the diet

Nothing bad comes from drinking a bottle of water. Make sure you add clean water to your baby’s diet when your baby is one year or older.  Not only it helps to make the stool soft but it also replenished the empty store of water.

Relax the opening

The stools have to come out of the anus which due to the immaturity of the age can be a little tighter. However, you can always lose the muscles of the anus and make it easier for the baby to defecate without staining. There are a few ways to do that like:

  • Rotating the legs of the baby in a bicycle manner and pressing the knees against the belly.
  • Gently massage the lower part of the belly of the baby.
  • Use a cotton swab or a thermometer and add Vaseline to it and gently massage the anus of the baby.

All these maneuvres are effective and help the baby defecate with less straining.

Change up food items

A simple rule is that fruits and vegetables relieve constipation and cereals and dairy products cause constipation.

Never use laxatives unless prescribed

With constipation, one’s mind may think of using laxatives similar to adults. However, these laxatives are not safe for newborns because of their relatively immature immune systems. So you should not use any artificial laxatives unless your doctor prescribes it.

Newborn not pooping but passing gas: when is the time to see the doctor?

Your baby can go up to a week without pooping. But if your baby is starting to look ill you should not delay in consulting a doctor. Normally you should never wait longer than 3 days if your newborn is not pooping and neither passing gas. However, if the baby is showing the following signs it means an emergency condition:

  • Your newborn is excessively vomiting.
  • There is blood in the stools.
  • Your baby is crying a lot with withdrawal to feed.
  • There is an unexpected weight loss.
  • Either whole of the body or just the belly is starting to swell abnormally.

In such circumstances, you should not wait and rush to a doctor for a complete checkup. These situations are always scary but can be treated accordingly if caught in time.

Dr. Syed Ahmad Raza
Dr. Syed Ahmad Raza

Medical Officer at Ammar Medical Complex, Founder at Therightparenting and Owner and Founder at OOPER with Syed Ahmad Raza

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