Baby Constipation: The Ultimate Formula To Help Your Baby Poop With Ease
As a new parent, you will never wish for your baby to feel uncomfortable. In fact, you’ll always be looking for his next smile and coo, your reassurance that everything is fine and that he’s perfectly healthy and happy.
Baby’s do get sick, though, and that’s something that’s inevitable. Constipation may not be as serious as measles or colds, but it can cause your child plenty of discomfort and pain. If your newborn is having difficulty moving bowels, he might be constipated.
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5 Causes Of Constipation In Newborns
Constipation refers to bowel movement that’s difficult to pass. It’s characterized by stool that is hard and dry. Just like in adults, constipation in babies is caused by diet, although not directly all the time. The following are some of the most common causes of infant constipation.
It’s not common for a baby who’s on an exclusive liquid diet to experience constipation, but it can and does happen. Babies who are formula-fed, though, are much more likely to have problems with constipation since formula milk can be more difficult to digest. In short, formula milk can harden up poop more than breast milk can.
Moreover, some brands of formula are more likely to cause constipation than others. Your child’s doctor may recommend that you switch your formula to another brand, preferably one that’s not milk-based.
Some parents make the mistake of switching to formula with low iron content, thinking that it’s the iron in the milk that’s causing the problem. While it’s true that foods rich in iron can cause constipation, the amount present in formula for babies has been calculated carefully and is often not the culprit. That said, always consult your pediatrician first before making any changes to your baby’s formula.
It’s not only the type of milk your newborn consumes that may cause him to be constipated. If your child has lactose intolerance or has milk-protein allergy, he has a good risk of ending up constipated.
Other foods could also contribute to constipation, which can be a likely cause when your baby is already around six months and has started receiving baby food. Cereal, bananas, applesauce, carrots, cheese - all these have the potential to get your baby in trouble when served in high amounts. It’ll even be a lot harder for you to pinpoint what caused your child’s constipation once you start introducing these foods together.
Overfeeding is arguably the greatest single cause of baby constipation. It often results in diarrhea, which in turn leads to an overworked digestive system. This leaves the colon too exhausted to function correctly, resulting in the difficulty of moving bowels. Constipation as a result of overfeeding is true whether a baby is breastfed, or formula fed.
There’s no particular illness that can cause constipation in babies, but if he’s not feeling well, it may have some effect on his digestive system. An illness can also cause your child not to drink as much as usual, resulting in a reduction of fluid in the colon.
In addition to illness, certain drugs can also cause constipation. A high dose of iron, for instance, can lead to constipation in babies. If you suspect that your child’s difficulty in moving his bowels is a result of some medication he’s taking, let your doctor know immediately.
If a child has been born premature, he has a higher chance of having trouble with constipation during the first few months of his life. The reason is that his digestive system hasn’t fully developed yet, resulting in food moving slower through his digestive tract and not being processed correctly.
Children with a family history of medical conditions such as cystic fibrosis, celiac disease, Hirschsprung’s disease, hypothyroidism, and chronic constipation are also more likely to experience constipation regularly.
While it’s rare for these underlying conditions to cause constipation in babies, it's important to call your baby’s doctor immediately if constipation is accompanied by signs such as weakness and vomiting.
Myths And Facts About Baby Constipation
There are so many old wives tales that surround the subject of baby constipation to the point that parents get confused as to what to believe. In this section, we’ve compiled some myths people believe about what causes constipation in babies and the facts they need to focus on instead. First, the myths.
Babies should have a bowel movement every day. While it’s good to know that your baby is passing stool almost every day, missing a BM doesn’t always mean he’s constipated. Breastfed babies, in particular, can go for a week without a BM once they’ve reached their first month. On the other hand, while formula-fed babies usually pass stool at least once a day, them skipping a day or two shouldn’t be a cause for concern.
Baby is definitely constipated when he’s straining. Straining is one of the signs of constipation, but that doesn’t mean your baby is constipated if he’s straining while trying to move bowels. Most babies do strain during bowel movements, with their face all squished and red, but that’s normal. They’re still developing their abdominal muscles, and their digestive tract still needs to work a little extra.
Babies who are always constipated don’t get enough fiber. While adding fiber may help in the relief of constipation in infants, it doesn’t necessarily mean they lack fiber in their digestive tract if they are always constipated.
Honey is an excellent remedy for infant constipation. In the past, honey was considered a natural treatment for infant constipation, supposedly because of its antibacterial and antiseptic properties. It has many health benefits indeed, but a study published in 2012 reported that honey ingestion had caused botulism in a 3-month old baby girl. The report further concluded that routinely giving honey to infants is not safe.
Some bacteria can help with constipation. Both probiotics and prebiotics can help fight the effects of harmful bacteria living in the digestive tracts. They help maintain a healthy tummy, and if your baby is having trouble with his bowel movements, adding food that contains these two to his diet will help him comfortably pass his stools.
Exercise can help ease bowel movement. We’ll discuss this further in a later section, but yes, baby exercise is a great way to prevent constipation. It’s not true to every patient, especially those with chronic constipation, but the relationship between regular exercise and ease of bowel movement is an established fact.
Constipation can run in the family. If either of the child’s parents has problems with constipation, the baby will have a higher chance of having as well. Environmental factors and genetic predisposition are often to blame, but if the parents are careful, they can help minimize their child’s risk by helping him develop good physical and dietary habits from early on.
A Common Question About Constipation
Can teething cause constipation? This is one question a lot of parents ask. While teething itself does not cause constipation, it can lead to dehydration, which in turn, leads to the hardening of stool. However, you also need to realize that some babies react to teething differently, i.e., they get more runny stool.
7 Signs That Your Newborn Is Constipated
Unlike adults, babies won’t be able to talk and let you know when they’re constipated. The most obvious sign, though, is that your baby goes for days without a bowel movement. Newborns, in particular, move their bowel on a regular basis. On the other hand, some babies go for at least a week without a poop once they reach their sixth week.
And while patterns may vary when it comes to your child’s bowel movement, as a parent, you’ll be the first to know if your child’s bowel movement has become irregular and whether or not he’s suffering from constipation. If you’re concerned that your child may be constipated, these signs will help you confirm whether your suspicion is right or not:
- Crying and discomfort
- Pain and irritability before defecating
- One bowel movement a week
- Baby has hard poop (dry, pellet-like stool)
- A hard belly
- Foul-smelling wind
- Offensive-smelling poo
You’ll know if your baby’s constipation is at its worst if his poop is coming out like small, hard balls. They don’t have to appear like rabbit poop, though, before you take action. If his stool starts to look like a collection of corn or grapes, that means he’s already constipated.
Streaks of blood are also a sign that your child is having difficulty passing stool. This usually happens when the stool is too large it creates a small tear around your child’s anus. The keyword here is ‘streaks of blood.’ If the blood is flowing while he is pooping, that’s a sign of something else that may be worst than constipation and needs to be checked by a doctor immediately.
Breastfed Babies And Constipation
While formula milk is associated with baby constipation more than breast milk is, it doesn’t mean that breastfed babies don’t suffer constipation. Breast milk, in particular, isn’t always the reason that a baby gets constipated.
In fact, constipation in breastfed babies only starts to occur when solid food is slowly being introduced to the diet. This goes to show that it’s the new addition to the baby’s diet that may be causing the difficulty in bowel movement and not breast milk.
Another possible factor a breastfed baby might get constipated is when mommy is not drinking enough water. It’s crucial especially at the time of pregnancy that a mother drinks enough water every day, as lack of fluids can affect the breast milk. Even if a mother has enough nutrition milk for her baby, she still needs to watch her diet carefully and only eat and drink that which can help produce nutritious breast milk.
Dehydration is one the most common culprit for constipation in babies. It’s especially true for babies who are breastfed. This is characterized by decreased amounts of urine, tears, and saliva, plus a soft spot and sunken eyes.
Since a mother’s milk is made up of 90 percent water by the time the baby is six weeks old, increasing the frequency of nursing may help reverse dehydration. Moreover, moms are encouraged to drink an average of 13 cups of water a day while breastfeeding. Drinking juice and low-fat milk can also help provide the necessary vitamins and minerals needed for healthy breast milk.
Now, the main reason that babies who are breastfed are rarely constipated is that breast milk has a different composition than formula milk. You’ll know your child is getting enough fluids from breast milk if his stool is soft and yellow. He should also be producing an average of five wet diapers per day by his fourth day.
Since breastfed babies depend entirely on their mother’s milk for nutrition, it makes sense for the mom to watch her own diet since what she eats may have a direct effect on the quality of her milk.
Sometimes, constipation in breastfed babies is caused by milk-protein allergy. If baby is constipated, the doctor may check the mother’s diet and suggest she cuts on dairy and other types of food that may also be contributing.
On the other hand, a mom’s diet may also help ease or prevent constipation. If baby is constipated, the mother could eat some prunes and see if it improves the baby’s condition.
How To Prevent Constipation In Babies
Constipation can leave your baby in great pain and discomfort, so you’d want to make sure your child doesn’t suffer from it. You can help minimise your child’s risk by adjusting his diet and keeping him active.
Wait for the right time to introduce solids
Breastmilk or formula should provide all the nourishment your child needs during his first four months. By the time he’s showing signs of readiness, you can start introducing solid food.
However, it’s advisable that you talk to your pediatrician first before proceeding. Sometimes, you’ll have to wait for a couple more months since there are babies that won’t be ready until they have reached their sixth month. This is especially true if your child is breastfed.
The American Academy of Pediatrics highly recommends that babies are to be exclusively breastfed during their first six months. Once your doctor gives the GO signal, you can go ahead and start introducing solids to your child’s diet. Your baby will also show signs that he’s ready for the level up:
- Head control
- Loss of extrusion reflex
- Sitting unsupported
- Weight gain
- Chewing motion
- Curiosity about food
- Seems to get hungry quickly
Give your child a fiber-rich diet
Most babies only start experiencing constipation as soon as solids are introduced into their diet. While all types of food have the potential to cause constipation, there are certain foods that are more likely to trigger the condition. Bananas, carrots, cereal, and rice, for instance, are foods to watch out.
Meanwhile, barley cereal, oatmeal, pears, prunes, peaches, and plums, are your child’s friends. Add to that beans, broccoli, and Brussel sprouts. Anything that contains fiber-rich bran, too, should assist in loosening your baby’s stool.
Make sure your child receives enough amount of fluids
Babies do not need extra water until they’re six months old and eating solids. Breastfed babies, in particular, get enough water from breast milk, since breast milk is 88% H2O. Even infants who are formula fed don’t need that much water unless it’s scorching outside.
Nevertheless, you need to make sure your child is getting the right amount of fluids he needs whether from breastmilk or formula. Once your baby reaches his fourth month, he can get a few sips of water twice a day but not more than 2 ounces in a 24-hour period.
Keep your baby active
Exercise helps in the proper digestion of food. Babies, in particular, need to stay active and get enough daily exercise. Since newborns have limited movements, they will need assistance from you.
Moving your baby’s legs in a cycling motion is good exercise for him if he’s not crawling yet. This helps the digestive system work efficiently. Once your child has learned how to crawl, you can encourage him to move around more frequently to increase his activity level.
Massage your baby’s stomach after each meal
Food and food allergy are not the only factors that can lead to constipation in babies. Sometimes, it’s stress and tension that can interrupt your child’s digestive process. Abdominal massage can offer a lot of benefit to babies who constantly experience an upset stomach as a result of emotional stress.
It’s found to be very efficient in the prevention of constipation. A good, gentle massage on your baby’s stomach after a meal promotes digestion, lessens gastric upset, and brings comfort to organs connected to the GI tract.
To give your baby a massage, follow these steps:
Have him lie down on his back. Place the palm of your hand on top of your baby’s rib cage, gently pressing his tummy and bringing your hand down in a sweeping motion. The goal is to get rid of built-up pressure inside his stomach. Do this several times before proceeding to the next step.
Place your fingertips on your baby’s belly button area. Perform a massage in a circular, clockwise motion. Do this for about 30 seconds. This will not only help stimulate your child’s bowels if he’s constipated but will also help him pass any trapped gas.
Finally, hold both of your baby’s angels and press his legs gently towards his chest. Hold this position for a few seconds and repeat several times.
This process is not only useful for preventing constipation but is also effective for the relief of an upset stomach. If your child has a tummy problem, you should try these steps until your baby feels better.
9 Best Home Remedies For Baby Constipation
There is no specific rule to follow in treating baby constipation at home since every baby is different and react differently to treatment. However, it’s crucial to religiously follow what the doctor says, especially if you’re dealing with a severe case of constipation. Nevertheless, there are several home remedies you could try that would bring your constipated baby a degree of relief.
It’s safe to assume that your baby is not getting enough water when he’s constipated. Whether he’s bottle or breastfed, giving him an additional 2 ounces of water after each meal will help flush his bowels properly.
Keep the limit in mind because babies shouldn’t be given water until they are six months. 2 to 4 ounces is okay only when your child is constipated. If he’s six months old and above, then he can sip water more regularly.
Fruit juices such as those made of tomato, apple, and prune can really be helpful in treating constipation. They’re rich in fiber, which can promote the movement of material through your child’s digestive system. This remedy is only advisable for babies six months and above, though, and should be limited to 3-4 spoons a day.
If your baby is already older than six months and has started with solids, increasing his intake of food high in fiber when he’s constipated will surely help his condition. High fiber foods help loosen up stool and promote good bowel movement.
Prunes are not labeled nature’s remedy for constipation for nothing. They may be small, but they’re packed with insoluble fiber and sorbitol, a natural laxative. Add some to your child’s diet if he’s having problems moving his bowel. If he doesn’t like the taste of dried prunes, he can be given prune juice instead.
Coconut oil is one of the best natural laxatives on the planet and is definitely one of the best natural remedies for infant constipation. It provides quick relief to infrequent bowel movements. If your baby is already eating solids, you can give him 2 ml virgin coconut oil if he has constipation. This will help loosen his stool.
Betel leaves are known for their analgesic properties and are used mainly for bruises, cuts, and rashes. Aside from that, they’re also found to be able to alleviate pain caused by digestive problems, including constipation. For adults, ingesting juice extracted from betel leaves or simply chewing on the leaves directly can ease stomach pain. As one of the trusted baby constipation treatments, betel leaves can be heated slightly and applied to the child’s tummy. You can even dip them in castor oil before applying.
Sugar has been used for the relief of constipation for centuries. It works by introducing additional fluid to the baby’s digestive system, softening the stool. To prepare, mix 1/2 teaspoon of brown sugar to 1 ounce lukewarm water. Give the solution to your constipated child twice a day for best results. Keep in mind, though, that this method can be used only for babies 12 months and up.
Sometimes, a warm bath is all your baby needs for his constipation. Fill a small tub with warm water and let your child sit in the water for about 20 minutes. The warm water will not only soothe his stomach pain but will also help his anal muscles relax and help him move his bowels a lot easily.
Make the switch
This is not exactly a home remedy, but this may help, especially if you can confirm that it’s your baby’s formula that’s causing him his troubles. As mentioned earlier, make sure you consult your child’s doctor before replacing his current formula with a new one.
And if you’re switching, don’t go big directly. Check if the new formula you’re considering comes in small packaging. That way, you won’t regret switching to a different brand once again if the first switch doesn’t work.
What Not To Do When Your Baby Is Constipated
We’ve gone through the items that you need to remember when your child has constipation. Now, let’s discuss what you shouldn’t do in the same situation.
Act doctor. Never medicate your constipated child on your own. Unless you’re a real doctor, doing so will put your child at serious risk. If you’re unsure what medication to give your child or how to treat him, don’t hesitate to call his pediatrician.
Feed your child with constipation-causing food. This may seem obvious, but parents sometimes forget that their child is constipated and feed them with foods that promote constipation. Other times, they are aware of their child’s condition and yet feed them anyway.
Let your baby strain. Straining is normal when your child is constipated. However, once you notice that he’s forcing his poop out, you must help him keep calm, and give him additional fluid intake to help soften his stool and keep him relaxed.
Panic. Panicking will only fog your mind and affect your decision-making. As long as your child is feeding as usual and doesn’t seem to be lethargic, there’s no need to worry as he’ll recover from his condition.
When To See The Doctor
Constipation in itself is not a serious condition and can often be treated at home. If you’re not comfortable with your baby’s situation, you can take him to his doctor anytime for your peace of mind and your baby’s comfort.
The doctor might recommend that you try glycerin suppository for infant or perhaps a newborn stool softener if it’s been made sure that he’s simply constipated and nothing more.
Meanwhile, knowing a couple of home remedies for infant constipation can work to your advantage, especially if you’re already familiar with how your baby reacts every time he has constipation.
However, it’s also very crucial that you recognize when your child’s condition is getting serious and that no amount of natural treatment or home remedy would work. When you see your baby showing these signs while he’s constipated, be sure to take him to the doctor as soon as possible.
- Loss of appetite
- Blood in stool
- Weight loss
- Swelling of abdomen
- Rectal prolapse
- Anal fissures
Constipation is a symptom per se and is only a result of fluid reduction in the digestive tract. There are cases, however, that the cause might be something more serious than the baby not getting enough fluids. In such situations, basic treatments and remedies like giving him more fluids and fiber-rich food won’t work, and the more serious symptoms start to show up.
Most cases of baby constipation are easily treated with home remedies. If you’re sure your child has chronic constipation or if you suspect that his condition is a symptom of a more serious underlying condition, you should talk to his doctor immediately.