Tools and Resources

Infant constipation: How is it treated?

What are the signs of infant constipation? And what's the best way to treat it?

Infant constipation is the passage of hard, dry bowel movements not necessarily the absence of daily bowel movements. Infant constipation often begins when a baby transitions from breast milk to formula or begins eating solid foods.

If your newborn seems to be constipated, contact his or her doctor for advice. If your older baby seems to be constipated, try simple dietary changes:

  • Water. Offer your baby a daily serving of water in addition to usual feedings. Start with 2 to 4 ounces (about 60 to 120 milliliters). Try more or less as you gauge your baby's response to the water. Remember, though, the water doesn't replace normal feedings with breast milk or formula.
  • Fruit juice. If water doesn't seem to help, offer your baby a daily serving of apple, prune or pear juice in addition to usual feedings. Start with 2 to 4 ounces (about 60 to 120 milliliters), and experiment to determine whether your baby needs more or less.
  • Baby food. If your baby is eating solid foods, try pureed pears or prunes. Offer barley cereal instead of rice cereal.

To ease the passage of hard stools, consider applying a small amount of water-based lubricant to your baby's anus. Don't use mineral oil, laxatives or enemas to treat infant constipation.

If your baby is struggling and it's been a few days since his or her last bowel movement, it might help to place an infant glycerin suppository into your baby's anus. Glycerin suppositories are available without a prescription. They're only meant for occasional use, however, if dietary changes aren't effective.

Rarely, infant constipation is caused by an underlying condition, such as Hirschsprung's disease, hypothyroidism or cystic fibrosis. If infant constipation persists despite dietary changes or is accompanied by other signs or symptoms such as vomiting or irritability contact your baby's doctor.

Updated: 5/21/2011

© 1998-2014 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. A single copy of these materials may be reprinted for noncommercial personal use only. "Mayo," "Mayo Clinic," "MayoClinic.com," "EmbodyHealth," "Enhance your life," and the triple-shield Mayo Clinic logo are trademarks of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.

Legal restrictions and terms of use applicable to content provided to this site by MayoClinic.com/Mayo Clinic Health Information. Use thereof signifies your agreement to these terms of use.