Children's Health Q&A by Dr. Phillips

My son is 10 weeks old and has not had a bowel movement in four days. I've already tried giving him prune juice. Can suppositories be used on infants?

Medical Author: Dennis S. Phillips, MD
Medical Editor: Melissa Stöppler, MD

Answer:

As a pediatrician, I frequently get presented with similar questions, and I always start by wondering, Is this situation really a "problem" or just a variation of normal? I think it's most important to decide, Do we really need to do anything? Regarding frequency of bowel movements (like so many areas of pediatrics!), there is such a wide range of "normal." Many babies have an easily passed BM every four days, or even every seven to 10 days. This is their usual pattern. They are comfortable before, during, and after their BM's, and this pattern is "normal" for them. Some babies have four painful, rock-hard BM's, sometimes with blood on the outside of the BM, each day.

These babies are constipated! So, it is really okay to just observe if your baby is eating and is being his usual self despite "infrequent" BM's. But if there are very hard BM's or symptoms of discomfort, especially if this discomfort is sudden in onset and unusual for your baby, see your doctor right away. It might be necessary to change his diet or do further evaluation. But for the infrequent firm, tough-to-get-started BM, I tell families it's okay to try a glycerin suppository if the prune juice hasn't worked.

Thank you for your question.


Last Editorial Review: 12/8/2006