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Why Baby Gets Upset During Bowel Movements

The world is very new to babies -- including the sensation of pooping. Having a bowel movement may be surprising and upsetting to a baby. It doesn’t mean there’s really pain, but it does mean that your baby might get upset.

Keep in mind that it’s difficult to have a bowel movement while laying down. Your baby can’t sit and “push;” he must coordinate the abdominal muscles to squeeze while relaxing his anus. That’s not so easy for a little baby! In time, he'll learn to pass stool without putting on such a big show.

Don't worry if baby grunts and groans and makes all kinds of faces during a bowel movement; it is highly unlikely to signal a medical problem by itself. Babies all seem to get over it, and changes in formula (if bottle feeding) typically don't make a difference.

Tips for Concerned Parents

If your baby does react to bowel sensations more intensely, try massaging his belly or legs before or during the bowel movement. You might try placing a warm water bottle on his belly during the process, but be sure to check first that the temperature is not too hot for your baby.

When to Worry About Your Baby's Bowel Movements

Severe, high-pitched, totally inconsolable crying is a different story than the grunting and groaning described above. This type of reaction should be checked out by your baby's pediatric provider as soon as possible. Also, call your baby's doctor if you see blood in his stool or he is passing hard, pellet-like stools.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Renee A. Alli, MD on March 25, 2014

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