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Painful Bowel Movements in Newborns

author image Rose Erickson
Rose Erickson has been a professional writer since 2010. She specializes in fitness, parenting, beauty, health, nutrition and saving money, and writes for several online publications including The Krazy Coupon Lady. She is also a novelist and a mother of three.
Painful Bowel Movements in Newborns
A close-up the face of an infant with blue eyes. Photo Credit John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Newborn’s bowel habits vary from baby to baby. However, painful bowel movements can affect any baby, disrupting her daily schedule and making feedings and diaper changes difficult. Because painful bowel movements can sometimes be the sign of a serious condition, it is pertinent to understand why they can occur and how you can ease your baby’s symptoms.


Your newborn can experience minor to severe pain and discomfort while passing a stool. He may pull his legs upward into his stomach, turn red in the face and grunt while attempting to have a bowel movement. In addition, stools can become infrequent, hard, dry and resemble pebbles once they are finally passed. You may also notice blood in the stool or in your newborn’s diaper.


Your baby can experience painful bowel movements if her stools contain little water or she has poor rectal muscle movement. If your baby is formula-fed, an ingredient in the formula can cause her stool to be hard and difficult to pass. Dehydration, if your baby is sick or does not drink enough, can trigger painful bowel movements. Hemorrhoids, which are swollen veins in the anus or rectum, can also trigger pain. Frequent hard bowel movements can tear the thin tissue surrounding the anus, resulting in pain and discomfort. Pain can also be due to some medical conditions such as Hirschsprung's disease.


If your pediatrician approves, give your newborn water, an infant electrolyte solution or diluted juice in between feedings to help soften stool. Pump your baby’s legs or move them in a circular motion while he is on his back to help move the bowels. You can also try massaging your baby’s tummy by placing three of your fingers below his belly button and rubbing gently for approximately three minutes. Apply aloe vera if you notice redness or swelling in the buttocks area. Conditions such as Hirschsprung’s disease will require surgical treatment by a doctor.


Seek medical attention if your newborn’s painful bowel movements are severe, do not subside after a couple of days, worsen, or your baby develops bloody stool. These could be symptoms of a more serious medical condition such as cancer. Do not ignore your infant’s painful bowel movements. Left untreated, conditions such as a fissure may not heal properly and will require surgery to repair.

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