Newborns usually have their first bowel movement within the first 24 hours after birth. Once they begin breastfeeding or bottle feeding, it is not uncommon for newborns to have infrequent bowel movements or go a few days without a dirty diaper which can confuse parents into thinking their newborn is suffering from constipation. Constipation is very common in newborn babies and usually a result of feeding changes from breast milk to formula or a reaction to switching formula types. Home remedies often treat the problem effectively, and if the problem persists, your pediatrician should be able to treat the condition successfully with suppositories, laxatives or natural alternative methods.
Newborn babies often strain while having a bowel movement and it is usually normal and not a sign for concern, but newborns that cry while passing a bowel movement may be constipated. Newborns suffering from constipation will often have bowel movements that are dry and hard instead of a normal loose, watery texture. The hardness of a constipated newborn bowel movement will be harder than the texture of peanut butter.
Reduce feeding amounts and increase feeding times to allow your newborn to digest milk with ease. Add an additional bottle of water to daily feedings for formula-fed newborns to increase water intake and absorption in the intestines. Try giving your newborn a stomach massage in a warm bath to stimulate the intestines and assist with passing stools. If you notice your newborn is straining and having difficulty during a bowel movement, lay her on her back and gently push her knees up towards their chest in a "squatting" form to assist with the bowel movement. Picking up your newborn during a difficult bowel movement can also allow gravity to assist in passing a stool.
For newborns that have consistent problems with constipation, your pediatrician may recommend the use of glycerin suppositories or prescription laxatives. Flax oil may also be recommended as a natural alternative and added to bottles based on your doctor's recommendation to treat newborn constipation.
Switching from breastfeeding to formula feeding can cause constipation and you should give your newborn a few days to adjust to the change. Switching formulas may also cause constipation and you should consult with your pediatrician on how to switch formulas and which formula is best suited for your newborn.
Breastfed babies will pass bowel movements less frequently than formula fed babies. Babies who are formula-fed are not more likely to have constipation due to iron in the formula. Studies now show that iron is essential for a baby's development and should not be reduced.
Do not feed your newborn honey or corn syrup as a remedy for constipation. Both honey and corn syrup can contain the clostridium botulism bacteria that can cause the potentially fatal infection, infant botulism.