Family Health Guide

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Constipation: Symptoms

Failure to poop daily doesn’t necessarily signal constipation, even for babies; some can go a week without pooping! Each child has his own normal intestinal pattern; know your child’s so you’ll know when he’s off (a good ballpark for toddler and up is up to 3-4 days between bowel movements). Other things to look for:

  • Hard, small stools, either small and pellet-like or large and knobby
  • Straining on the toilet
  • Child holding in poop because it’s going to hurt to go
  • A bloated and/or sore belly
  • Blood in stool (a little bright red blood probably indicates an anal fissure, a non-serious problem, but if it’s black or looks like coffee grounds, that may indicate something more serious)
  • “Accidents” with runny poops: Counter intuitively, diarrhea-like poops can leak around the impacted stool

In infants, the following might also signal constipation:

  • Draws his legs up or squirms in discomfort when he passes stools
  • More-than-normal fussiness
  • Especially foul-smelling diapers (trust us, you’ll know)

It is important to check in with your doctor immediately if your baby's constipation is accompanied by exaggerated stomach distention, poor appetite, failure to gain weight, or vomiting, or if poops are pale or chalk-colored. These could be symptoms of a more serious condition.