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How Long Does It Take for Prunes To Work On Baby Constipation

How Long Does It Take for Prunes To Work On Baby Constipation?

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Nicole Nabatkhorian
Dr. Nicole Nabatkhorian

MD / PGY-2 Pediatrics

Disclosure: Some of our articles contain links to recommended products or services in which we may receive a commission if you make a purchase.

If you suspect your baby is suffering from constipation, your instinct will be to help them feel better as soon as possible. Before turning to any medication, many parents consider using prunes to relieve their little one’s constipation. Prunes and prune juice are frequently recommended as a natural constipation remedy, but you might wonder how long does it take for prunes to work on baby constipation.

Prunes can act as a natural laxative due to their high levels of fiber and sorbitol. Most babies will have a successful bowel movement within 12-24 hours of eating prunes. The time it takes will vary for each child due to differences in digestive tracts and the severity of constipation.

Keep reading to better understand how and why prunes help with constipation and what may help them work faster for your baby.

Parent changing baby's diaper on bed

How long does it take for prunes to work on a baby?

Prunes have been used to treat constipation in people of all ages for many years. Even recent studies have shown that prunes or prune juice are effective in treating constipation, so it may be the first option you turn to when your little one is showing signs of constipation.

How long it takes for prunes to work depends on several factors. Your little one’s gut is still developing and some babies have slower digestive tracts than others. This is completely normal but it could mean a delay in how quickly prunes will take effect in helping to relieve your baby’s discomfort. 

For an adult, a serving of prunes will usually start relieving constipation within a few hours. If constipation is severe, it may take longer. Overall, studies have shown that prunes both soften stools and increase the frequency of bowel movements because they are high in fiber and sorbitol, a natural laxative. However, how well and how quickly the prunes work will vary from person to person.

Since babies often have slower bowel movements, you can expect it may take longer for the fiber and sorbitol to take effect. Most parents report a successful bowel movement within 12-24 hours after feeding their baby prunes.

How do I know if my baby is constipated?

If your baby has never been constipated before, you might not be sure what to look out for. Most parents think of constipation as their baby being unable to poop, and sometimes this is true. However, it’s not the only symptom of constipation.

Keep in mind that some straining, gas, and going several days between bowel movements are not necessarily signs of constipation in infants. Exclusively breastfed babies rarely become constipated but may only pass stool once or twice a week.

Formula-fed babies usually have more frequent bowel movements, but even if they are more spread out you shouldn’t worry so long as the stools are soft and pass easily. 

Before starting to eat solid foods, babies usually only become constipated if they are dehydrated or if they’re sensitive to an ingredient in their formula or something their mother ate. Some signs that your baby is constipated include:

  • Hard, pellet-like stool
  • Crying and arching back during bowel movements
  • Less frequent bowel movements
  • Drastic changes in texture of bowel movements

You will know better than anyone what’s normal for your child. Even though there’s an average number of bowel movements your baby should have each week, it’s best to pay attention to sudden changes in their schedule. If something seems off to you, check with your pediatrician.

Why is my baby constipated?

If your baby is showing signs of constipation, you’re probably wondering what caused it and how you can prevent it in the future. It’s so challenging to watch our little ones be so uncomfortable, and we’ll do anything to help them feel better.

It’s common for parents to think their baby may be constipated because they’re straining during a bowel movement, but this can actually be common when their digestive systems are developing. If your baby is truly constipated, it’s likely due to a change in their diet or something in their formula or diet not agreeing with them. In rare cases, it can be linked to other intestinal issues.

Baby eating food from a spoon in their high chair

When can babies eat prunes?

Constipation most frequently occurs once babies have started eating solid foods. Introducing new foods may cause your child’s digestive tract to become backed up. Fortunately, if your baby already started solids, then they’re ready to eat prunes. For most babies, this is around 6 months.

Most pediatricians recommend waiting until around 6 months to introduce solids for the first time. Traditionally weaned babies typically start with baby cereal and then parents gradually introduce other foods in pureed form. Prune puree is one of the best fruits to start with because prunes typically aren’t a high allergy risk food and you can always keep some on hand in case of constipation.

In our house, we like to keep a small stash of Happy Baby Organics ‘just prunes’ baby pouches in our pantry for times when our little ones are having trouble with constipation. These are great because they have a long shelf life and you won’t have to worry about running to the store to grab prunes when you’re in a pinch. As always, Happy Baby Organics have a great ingredients list! Grab some here.

Parents who choose to skip purees in favor of baby-led weaning may need to get creative since whole prunes are difficult to chew and may present a choking hazard. You can mash them to spread on toast or bake them into soft cookies. Older babies may be able to handle prunes cut into small pieces.

How many prunes should you use for baby constipation?

For adults, 3 prunes count as one serving and 2-3 servings of prunes plus an increase in water intake has been shown to reduce constipation. Of course, these numbers will be different for babies. 

Prune purees are typically packaged in 2-2.5 oz containers. Several parents report that just one of these containers is enough to start helping their baby’s constipation.  However, this can be too much for some babies and may cause their stools to be extra loose for a few days.

Every baby is different so there may be some trial and error needed to find out what works for your baby. Take it slow and don’t feed them too much right away, especially if it’s their first time eating prunes. If your baby’s stool becomes too loose, be sure they’re getting enough breastmilk or formula to prevent dehydration. You can also try mixed purees, such as prunes and apples, for a less concentrated serving. 

How long does it take for prunes to digest?

If you’re wondering how long it takes for prunes to work, it depends on how long they take to digest. For adults, most foods take between 24-44 hours to fully digest and pass through the body. This can vary from person to person and depends on what they’re eating. Several factors affect this time range such as:

  • Amount of food
  • How well you chew
  • Texture of the food
  • Amount of fiber in the food

Since prunes are high in fiber, this helps to speed up the digestive process. A baby’s digestive tract is much shorter than an adult’s but it is also still developing and is not as efficient at doing its job yet. Breast milk contains enzymes to help speed along digestion so a breastfed baby may digest prunes faster than a formula-fed baby. 

Your baby may take more or less time than the average adult to digest prunes, but if you don’t see a difference in stool frequency or consistency within a few days, you may want to call your pediatrician for other options.

How fast does prune juice work in babies?

If your baby is not ready to start eating solids but is struggling with constipation, you may want to consider offering some prune juice instead of purees. Prune juice does not contain fiber like the whole fruit or purees, but the high sorbitol levels can still help with constipation.

Because it is a liquid, prune juice will digest faster than purees. This could bring relief faster and many parents report a bowel movement within a few hours of offering prune juice. Giving your baby prune juice on an empty stomach may speed up the process even more.

When can babies have prune juice?

Always talk to your pediatrician before starting a baby younger than 6 months of anything other than breast milk or formula. Fruit juice is also not generally recommended before 1 year of age, so check with your doctor for older babies as well.

With your doctor’s approval, you can usually start your baby on 1-2 ounces of prune juice once or twice a day as needed to treat constipation. It is not recommended that you offer more than 4 ounces a day.

Baby prune juice vs regular

You may wonder whether or not to buy baby prune juice instead of regular prune juice. Baby prune juice is generally more expensive and comes in smaller bottles. 

If the ingredients on both bottles say 100% prune juice then they’re most likely the same and the price increase for the baby juice is purely a labeling mark-up. However, you may want to check for preservatives or additives and consider whether or not it is organic.

Both baby and regular brands offer organic options so you can shop around to find what you like best. Or you can try making your own prune juice at home.

Baby taking a warm bath

Tips for baby constipation

Prunes can be an effective way to relieve constipation in babies and kids of all ages. However, they’re not the only treatment for constipation. If your baby is constipated, there are other dietary changes that may help. Here are some tips for treating baby constipation at home:

  • Keep them hydrated
    Constipation usually happens when your little one’s digestive system is getting used to solid foods. Give them a small serving of water or juice along with their meal to keep things moving.
  • Get them moving
    Exercise can also be a way to help relieve your baby’s discomfort. You can help your baby’s digestive system by laying them down and moving their legs like they’re riding a bike.
  • Give them a bath
    A warm bath is another home remedy for constipation. This simple trick can calm your baby down and may stimulate their digestive system.

These tips can be used along with giving your baby prunes to help ease their discomfort and get their digestive system back on track.

When to call the doctor

Constipation happens sometimes when a baby is getting used to solid foods or a new food is introduced to their diet. However, there are rare cases when constipation is a sign of a serious issue. If your baby still hasn’t passed a stool after a few days or you see any of the following symptoms, contact your pediatrician:

  • Extreme irritability
  • Blood in the stool
  • Abdominal pain

Even if your baby isn’t showing these symptoms along with their constipation, but you suspect something else may be wrong, trust your gut. There’s no harm in calling your doctor if you’re unsure what’s going on with your little one.


Do prunes help baby poop?

Although every child and person is different, prunes do tend to have a laxative effect because of the high level of fiber and sorbitol. If your baby isn’t constipated, prunes may not affect them, but they may help a baby poop when they’re constipated.

How long does it take for prunes to kick in?

How long it takes for prunes to work will vary based on the age of your baby and their digestive system. Typically, it will take between 1-2 days.

How many prunes should you use for baby constipation?

If your baby hasn’t had prunes before, try giving them less than a serving size to see how it will affect them. If your little one isn’t eating solids yet, you can try prune juice after getting approval from your doctor. Older babies and children may be able to tolerate cut up pieces of whole prunes.

Can I mix prune juice with milk or formula?

This depends on the age of your baby. If your baby is already eating solids or over 6 months old, you might make a prune puree mixed with breast milk or formula, or mix prune juice with milk. If your baby is less than 6 months old, consult their doctor before mixing anything in their milk or formula.

Joshua Bartlett
Joshua Bartlett

My name is Joshua Bartlett I run this blog with my wife Jarah. We have more than 11 years of parenting experience including three girls and one boy. I started this blog in late 2018 when I realized that I was dealing with baby-related issues on a constant basis…please read more about me here!

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