As a parent, you’re responsible for nurturing the growth and development of your little one through all of their ups and downs. One common challenge parents are likely to encounter is constipation. Understanding the causes of constipation in infants and ways to alleviate it can support their well-being and help hone your parenting skills. Read on for seven strategies to ease your infant’s digestive discomfort.

What does infant constipation look like?

Fewer or smaller stools relative to your baby’s “normal” can indicate constipation. You may also notice that they’re bloated, spitting up more than usual, straining for more than 10 minutes without passing anything, arching their back, or appearing irritable.

While breastfed infants typically experience softer stools, both breastfed and formula-fed infants can experience constipation. If your little one is younger than six months and appears to be constipated, it’s a good idea to inform their pediatrician. For babies older than six months, constipation may signal the need for dietary adjustments.

What causes infant constipation?

1. Introducing solid foods

Introducing solid foods can sometimes result in constipation, as your baby’s digestive system needs to adapt to a new type of food.

2. Inadequate hydration

Inadequate fluid intake, particularly during warmer weather or while baby is sick, can lead to dehydration and exacerbate constipation. Remember, according to the American Association of Pediatrics, hydration in babies 0-6 months should come only from formula or breastmilk. Read more on when to introduce your baby to drinking water here.

3. Low fiber intake

A diet lacking in fiber, especially as babies begin to consume solid foods, can lead to digestive distress. More on how to address this below.

4. Underlying medical conditions

In rare cases, underlying medical conditions such as Hirschsprung's disease or hypothyroidism could also play a role in constipation. If you suspect your child may have an underlying medical condition, contact your pediatrician.

How can you ease infant constipation?

There are several ways to alleviate constipation in babies over six months (remember, if your baby is younger than six months and appears to be constipated, call their pediatrician for guidance). Finding what works for your little one may take some trial and error, but here are seven strategies to get you started:

1. Increase their fluid intake

To keep baby hydrated, regularly offer them breastmilk or formula. If your baby has reached six months of age and has started to consume solid foods, consider offering water or 100% prune or pear juice to help soften their stools. If you’re trying juice, limit their intake to no more than 3oz per day [2].

2. Offer high-fiber foods

If your baby has started eating solid foods, introduce high-fiber ingredients to promote regular bowel movements. Some of our favorites are pureed fruits like prunes, pears, or peaches; vegetables like peas, sweet potatoes, and broccoli; and whole grains like oatmeal or barley.

3. Help move painful gas

Gently massage baby's abdomen in a clockwise motion to stimulate bowel movements and relieve discomfort. Try the “I Love You” massage on their abdomen:

  • I: Use your hand to make a downward stroke along their left side (your right), starting from the top of their tummy and moving down their side.
  • L: Switch to their upper right side (your left) and massage across their belly and down their left side, forming an upside-down L-shape.
  • U: Start at the lower right side of their tummy (your left) and make the shape of an upside-down U, moving up their belly, across their body, and then back down.

Repeat these strokes as needed until baby is less fussy or passes gas.

4. Give them a warm bath

A warm bath can work wonders in relieving constipation and discomfort for your baby. Immersing them in warm water can help relax their muscles and sometimes provides immediate relief!

5. Encourage tummy time

Tummy time during supervised play sessions can promote intestinal movement and alleviate constipation.

6. Try bicycle legs

Put baby on their back and gently move their legs in a bicycling motion to stimulate bowel movements and relieve gas.

7. Consult your pediatrician

If baby's constipation persists or if you notice blood in their stool or other concerning symptoms, consult their doctor for further evaluation and guidance.

Infant constipation isn’t fun for you or your little one, but you don’t have to work through it alone. If you’re feeling stuck or need additional guidance, reach out to Harbor’s infant care experts or your baby’s doctor. With the right support in place, you and your baby can work through their digestive troubles together.


1 -

2 -