Is It Bad to Stimulate a Baby to Poop?

Reviewed on 5/10/2022
baby constipation
Should you help your baby poop? Learn to recognize signs of baby constipation

If your baby is straining to poop, or if you notice fewer dirty diapers a day, you may worry about whether you can stimulate your baby to poop.

While making your baby poop may give them temporary relief, it can also interfere with your baby’s ability to poop on their own. Because of this, most doctors discourage parents from interfering with their babies’ bowel movements unless the stools are too hard to pass without help.

How can you tell if your baby is constipated?

Constipation is pretty rare in breastfed babies since breast milk asks as a laxative. Breastfed babies may go poop one to two times a day every 1-2 days, or maybe just once a week.

So what you should be looking for is not only the frequency of bowel movements but how painful it is for your baby to go. If they have soft, easy-to-pass stools every 4-5 days and are active and cheerful, they are probably okay. 

Conversely, you should talk to your child's pediatrician if your baby...

  • has a hard time passing stools or seems uncomfortable;
  • passes stools that are very hard, bloody, or black;
  • does not pass stools at least once every 5-10 days;
  • refuses to eat as usual; or
  • has a swollen abdomen.

How much poop is normal?

Once children are on regular solid food, their stool pattern is much like adults. Babies who go every 3 days may take a long time to poop. Babies who poop every 4-5 days may have painful passing of stools with too much straining. 

Passing stools should be painless. If your baby has pain every time they need to go poop, they may need to be treated for constipation

Some conditions that mimic constipation are as follows:

  • Breastfed: Breastfed babies who pass soft, large, and pain-free stools every 4-7 days are considered to have a normal stool pattern. However, if the baby doesn’t pass enough stools before one month of age, it may mean that they are not getting enough breast milk.
  • Straining: Grunting or straining while passing stool is normal in young babies. Babies may also usually turn red-faced and move up their legs while straining. Babies usually strain during stool passage because:
    • They are learning to relax their anus after 9 months of keeping it closed.
    • It is hard to pass stool lying on their back without the help of gravity.
  • Large stools: Stool size depends on the amount of food eaten. Kids who eat more may have bigger stools.
  • Hard or dry stools: Some children even have small, dry rabbit-pellet-like stools. However, this may be okay if they are passed easily without too much straining. Often, this is associated with low fiber intake.

How can you stimulate your baby's bowels?

You can stimulate your baby’s bowels by doing the following:

  • Bend their knees toward their chest.
  • Gently massage their abdomen.
  • Give him a warm bath, which may help relax his muscles.
  • Take your baby’s temperature with a rectal thermometer to stimulate their bowels.
  • Administer over-the-counter medications, such as glycerin suppositories, in the anus. These must only be used under the guidance of a doctor.

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References
WebMD. "Your Baby's Bowels and Constipation." <https://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/baby-constipation#1>.

Seattle Children's Hospital. "Constipation." <https://www.seattlechildrens.org/conditions/a-z/constipation/>.

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