How Often Should a Formula-Fed Baby Have a Bowel Movement?

Close-up of a young mother changing the nappy of her baby lying on a couch
Baby's diaper getting changed (Image: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images)

Bowel movements are one measure of your baby’s health and nutrition. Formula-fed babies generally produce fewer bowel movements than breast-fed babies. How often a formula-fed baby has a bowel movement differs from child to child and changes as the baby grows. More important than the number of bowel movements a day is the appearance of your baby's stools.

Newborn Poop Talk

In the first month of life, your baby should have several bowel movements a day. For some formula-fed babies, three bowel movements is normal, while five is normal for others. If your newborn has loose stools, stools lined with blood or less than one bowel movement a day, she may be constipated. Contact your doctor if she has fewer than five bowel movements a week for two consecutive weeks.

Appearance of Poop

Your baby's bowel movements will change appearance after the first few days of life. Because of the meconium collected in your baby’s intestines before birth, your newborn begins life with thick dark green or black stools. Then, the bowel movements become about the thickness of peanut butter. Normal stool colors include brown, tan, yellow and green. Contact your doctor if you see blood in the stools, since this may indicate constipation or a more serious problem.

After the First Month

The frequency of bowel movements often changes sometime between 1 to 2 months. At this point, your baby's bowel movements will likely decline to just one a day or one every other day. For some babies, having a bowel movement once every two days is normal. While you may see fewer bowel movements, the stools should remain the same peanut-butter consistency. Signs of constipation include hard stools, pebble-size stools, stools with blood and infrequent stools. Additionally, your baby may pull her legs up to her stomach, grunt, turn red in the face and cry or fuss while trying to produce bowel movement.

Your Baby's Constipation

Talk to your doctor if your baby is younger than 4 months and constipated. You may need to switch to a different kind of formula. For a baby 4 months or older, give 2 oz. to 4 oz. a water in addition to the normal number of bottles. If water doesn’t help, talk to your doctor about adding 1 oz. of prune, pear or apple juice to the baby’s diet. These juices can help loosen your baby's stool, according to If you’ve recently introduced new foods into the diet, stop feeding those foods and see if the constipation improves.

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