Constipation and your baby

Constipation is bowel motions that are very firm, and look like little pebbles. Quite a lot of babies look like they are concentrating hard or may get very restless when passing a bowel motion. This is normal, providing the bowel motions are soft and there is no blood.


Breastfed babies rarely become constipated.

How should I treat constipation?

Making changes to baby’s diet should always be the first step – before giving medicines or suppositories. Discuss this with your Child Health Nurse.

Breastfed and bottle fed babies:

  • Breastfeed regularly
  • If bottlefed, give warm boiled water between feeds: 30 mL for the young baby, more for the older baby. Check the strength of the formula. Are you making it up correctly? Always put the water in the bottle first, then add powder. Don’t pack down the formula in the scoop.
  • Put some oil on your hand and gently massage baby’s tummy in a clockwise direction.
  • At change time, leave nappy off for a few minutes, and do “bicycle” motions with baby’s legs, gently moving their legs backwards and forwards as if they were pushing the pedals of a bike.

If baby is on solids:

  • Increase the amount of fruit (e.g. stewed apples, pears and prune pulp) and vegetables (e.g. spinach and carrot) – preferably ones you’ve cooked yourself, as these will have more roughage than commercial baby foods.

Decrease the amount of baby cereal for a few days. If baby is over six months, make sure you use mixed grain cereal.

Older babies:

  • Give pieces of raw or dried fruit to chew on.
  • Don’t forget to give extra water and/or diluted fruit juice (half water).

What are normal bowel motions?

Breastfed baby

  • Consistency: soft and runny.
  • Colour: mustard yellow to orange.
  • Frequency: every feed to once a week.

Bottlefed baby

  • Consistency: soft paste (like toothpaste).
  • Colour: greyish green to yellow, depending on type of formula.
  • Frequency: every 1 – 2 days

When baby is on solids

  • More solid (but still soft and easy to pass).
  • May be less frequent.
  • May contain undigested food.

When to seek help for constipation

  • If you have tried the above suggestion for 2-3 days and there has been no soft bowel action, see your Child Health Nurse.
  • If there is blood in baby’s motion, see your doctor.

This article uses information from Plunket and the Children’s Panadol First Five booklet.

Kidspot is dedicated to the promotion of breastfeeding as the best possible start in life for babies as well as being good for the health and wellbeing of mothers.

The World Health Organization recommends that infants start breastfeeding within one hour of life, are exclusively breastfed for six months, with timely introduction of adequate, safe and properly fed complementary foods while continuing breastfeeding for up to two years of age or beyond. Source:

Breastfeeding provides babies with the best nutrition and is preferred whenever possible. Good maternal nutrition is ideal for breastfeeding. You should be aware that reversing a decision not to breastfeed may prove difficult. Partially introducing formula could negatively affect your milk supply. Social and financial implications should be considered when selecting a method of feeding. Professional advice should be followed before using an infant formula. Proper use of an infant formula is important to the health of the infant and should only be used as directed.

If you’re worried about breastfeeding, your Well Child nurse or PlunketLine can help.

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