The aim of this study was to assess the incidence of small bowel obstruction (SBO) due to adhesions following laparotomy in the neonatal period. This was a retrospective study of babies born between January 1998 and November 2003 who had a trans-abdominal procedure in the neonatal period in the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, UK. Four hundred and fourteen patients had a trans-abdominal procedure during this period. The follow-up period ranged from 2 months to 6 years (median 39 months). Overall, twenty-three patients (6%) underwent subsequent laparotomy for SBO due to adhesions. Four patients (17%) who developed SBO due to adhesions had another adhesive obstruction requiring a further laparotomy. The majority of adhesions occurred within a year of the original procedure (87%). A single band caused the obstruction in eight patients (35%), multiple adhesions in six (26%), and dense adhesions in nine patients (39%). The incidence of SBO was highest following surgery for meconium ileus, followed by necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), and malrotation. There were no deaths due to small bowel obstruction in this study.