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Helping Your Newborn Get Through Painful Pooping

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Helping Your Newborn Get Through Painful Pooping

Mar 08, 2021

That constipated look your baby gives you when they can’t poop can be entertaining to look at, but can be quite painful for your baby. Luckily, painful pooping, or infant dyschezia, is a very common, normal and curable problem. Dr. Cindy Gellner talks about what might cause dychezia and what safe methods you can use to help your baby.

Episode Transcript

Dyschezia. It sounds like a scary condition for a newborn to have, but it is a common and very normal problem for new babies. What is it and what can you do to help your baby?

What Is Infant Dyschezia?

Most parents of newborn babies have seen their child go through this stage. Your baby goes from having several effortless poopy diapers a day to straining and screaming only to pass a soft bowel movement. This apparently painful pooping is technically called infant dyschezia.

The problem is that your baby has an uncontrolled stooling reflex and the muscles by the anus do not relax at the proper time so your baby pushes hard with the diaphragm and the belly muscles, while holding the anus tightly closed, and it looks like your baby is very constipated because they will do this over and over again without results. But eventually, the muscles are overtaken by the baby's effort. They relax, and the poop flows.

Treatment for Dyschezia

Rectal stimulation with suppositories, Q-tips, and thermometers may give temporary relief in a pinch. But these techniques actually seem to interfere with your baby learning how to let go of the stool and may actually cause your baby to not to be able to have a bowel movement without help in the future. For this reason, we do not encourage parents to do this unless the stools are very hard and your baby physically cannot pass the hard ball of stool without help. Usually, in those cases you may even see a little blood on the stool itself. That is true constipation and it is pretty rare in breastfed babies. Formula-fed babies usually have pasty-like stools which may be a little hard to pass, but again, are not true constipation.

Breastfed babies can go anywhere from several times a day to once a week with a big blowout. Formula-fed babies can go several times a day to once every four days. As long as your baby is eating and happy, they are good. Eventually, they will poop. We all do.

If it's been a few days since your baby has had a good bowel movement and you think they may really be constipated, please talk to your doctor about this. There are tips we can give you to help.

Remember, babies cry to increase pressure in their tummies, which helps push out the stool. This is a self-limited problem, and all babies seem to get the hang of it after a while.

updated: March 8, 2021
originally published: February 15, 2016