What Causes Constipation In Newborns
While it is more common for newborns who are bottle-fed formula to become constipated, it also happens to exclusively breastfed babies.
There are many reasons it may just be an immature digestive track for some. For others it could be from a sensitivity to something in moms breast milk or the formula youre using.
Lack of fluid in diet
Newborns can become constipated due to a lack of fluid.
Sore gums, sore throat or another discomfort like an ear infection might make it uncomfortable for your newborn to drink, leading to mild dehydration and constipation. If you believe this to be the case, then take baby for a check-up. You need to relieve the discomfort, which will get baby eating again, hopefully solving the constipation and poop struggles in the process.
If youre formula feeding, be sure you are adding the correct amount of water too little would lead to constipation.
Change from breastmilk to formula
Since formula is harder to digest than breastmilk, changing from one to the other will affect your babys digestion. Weaning onto formula may cause constipation while your newborns digestive system adapts.
Similarly, your newborn may struggle with a change in formula, causing a little constipation as baby adjusts. Some formulas suit some babies better than others, so you may wish to go back to the original formula if it didnt cause constipation and baby struggles to adjust and poop easily on the new formula.
Tightness in anal sphincter
If Your Baby Is Having Difficulty Pooping They Could Be Constipated Find Out What To Look For And How To Help
As new parents, you’ll always be looking for your baby’s next smile, laugh, and coolittle reassurances that they’re happy and healthy. Poop, although not nearly as pleasant, is another thing parents should monitor.
When your baby is pooping regularly, it’s likely a sign that they’re taking in enough food and disposing of the rest, says Jennifer Shu, M.D., an Atlanta-based pediatrician and coauthor of Food Fights: Winning The Nutritional Challenges of Parenthood Armed with Insight, Humor, and A Bottle of Ketchup. So it’s understandable that the absence of poop can be a cause for concern.
Keep reading for a lowdown on baby constipation symptoms, causes, treatment, and more.
Imitators Of Constipation: Normal Patterns And Stools
- Breastfed and Over 1 Month Old. Stools every 4-7 days that are soft, large and pain-free can be normal. Caution: before 1 month old, not stooling enough can mean not getting enough breast milk.
- Straining in Babies. Grunting or straining while pushing out a stool is normal in young babies. They are learning to relax their anus after 9 months of keeping it closed. It’s also hard to pass stool lying on their back with no help from gravity. Babies also become red in the face and draw up their legs during straining. This is normal.
- Brief straining under 10 minutes can occur at times at any age.
- Large Stools. Size relates to the amount of food eaten. Large eaters have larger stools.
- Hard or Dry Stools. Also can be normal if passed easily without too much straining. Often, this relates to poor fiber intake. Some children even have small, dry rabbit-pellet-like stools.
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What Are Gas Drops
Gas drops contain simethicone. This active ingredient breaks up larger gas bubbles into smaller ones, which are more comfortable for a baby to pass.
Caregivers can give the drops directly to a baby or mix them in with formula or expressed breast milk.
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggest that gas drops are safe to give to newborn babies, and adverse side effects are rare.
However, if a baby is also taking thyroid hormone medication, do not give them gas drops as simethicone
Breastfed Babies And Constipation
Breastfed babies rarely get constipated because breast milk contains a natural laxative. They tend to have yellow-coloured seedy poos that are often quite soft.
Newborn breastfed babies may poo after every feed. Older breastfed babies may go up to a week without pooing. This is not constipation if the poo is soft.
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Week Old Babys Bowel Movements
Your baby has been living earthside for a couple of weeks and by now feeding is starting to become established.
Most guidelines say infants should have 1-2 bowel movements a day in the first four to six weeks. That might differ in some babies even in most babies at some point during that time. It usually doesnt mean theres a problem.
Lets look at what constipation in babies really is.
Why Is My Baby Constipated
One of the main causes of constipation in babies is a change in diet. A change in diet may include:
- changing from being formula-fed
Learn more about your baby’s poo.
In extreme cases, rare illnesses can cause constipation such as:
- problems with nerve endings in the bowel
- problems relating to the spinal cord
- thyroid deficiency
- other metabolic disorders
All babies are checked for these conditions, so this is usually not something you need to be concerned about. But if you are worried about your baby or are notice that pooing is painful for them, seek medical advice.
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When To Call The Health Care Provider
- Your baby is irritable and seems to be having stomach pain. Infants will pull their legs up to their stomach and cry when they are in pain.
- Your baby has constipation and develops vomiting, and their belly looks like it is bloated or filled with gas.
- You see blood in their stool.
- Their constipation does not get better with treatment.
If you have any questions or concerns, call your babys health care provider.
Texture: What Stool Texture/consistency Is Normal
There isnt a normal consistency for poop. Each babys individual digestive system and current diet will affect the texture. In general:
- Formula-fed babies have soft, mushy stools.
- Breastfed babies or babies fed formulas that have prebiotics can have loose, seedy stools.
- Babies eating solid foods will have more solid stools.
- Hard, dry, pellet-like stools are a common sign of constipation.
- Watery stools lasting for 24 hours could be diarrhea, and you should contact your babys doctor.
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Week Old Baby Constipation Remedies
Its been two weeks since the birth of your baby.
The family routine is upside down theres no schedule anymore. Youre caught up in feeding, changing, rocking, soothing, and snatching sleep then you wonder When was the last time this little one had a dirty nappy?
You start mentally checking the last nappy changes. You ask your partner whether hes seen any stools in those diapers and you count the days your baby has gone without pooping.
You realize its been several days since your little one last had a bowel movement and you start to wonder whether your baby is constipated.
Lets shed some light on babies pooping habits.
Causes Of Constipation In Children
Constipation happens for several reasons.
It can happen when children hold poos in. They might hold poo in because they:
- are too busy playing
- have pain when they do a poo and theyre afraid to go to the toilet
- dont want to use the toilets at preschool or school.
Constipation might also happen because children:
- arent eating enough fibre
- have been sick and have been eating and drinking less.
These situations can all lead to a build-up of poo in the bowel. When this happens, the poo gets too big or hard to push out easily.
There are some underlying medical conditions that might cause constipation in children, but these arent common.
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How Often Should A Breastfed Baby Poop
Breastfed babies may go several days between bowel movements since the digestible content of breastmilk is extremely high they use and digest most of it. For this reason, it can take several days for your baby to build up enough waste to need to poop.
So, once or twice a week might be the norm for a breastfed newborn and this low frequency will continue until weaning onto solids.
How To Help Your Constipated Baby
It can be very stressful watching your little one struggle to poo. Heres a few things you can do to help your baby5.
- Make sure they have plenty to drinkIf youre breastfeeding, offer plenty of feeds. If youre formula-feeding, check youre using the right amount of powder. Formula-fed babies can also have drinks of cooled, boiled water between feeds.
- Try baby massageTry rubbing their tummy in a clockwise direction using smooth, circular motions. Or lay your baby on their back and gently move their legs in a cycling motion.
- Run a nice warm bathNot only is this very relaxing for an unsettled baby, the warmth can be very effective at soothing an achy tummy. Make sure its not too hot, or it could have the opposite effect. Below 38oC is ideal.
- Offer some fruitIf your baby is over six months old, fruits like apples, pears or prunes can help get things on the move.
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How To Help A Baby Poop During Constipation
It is a magical feeling and there are no words to explain how your baby feels after you have helped them poop during constipation. As a mother or caregiver, you should know what to do in order to help a baby poop during constipation.
Below, we have highlighted a few tested and trusted points that you should master to help your baby poop when they are constipated. Make them a continuous routine, and you will notice the great bond it will create between you and your baby.
3 Ways to Help a Baby Poop During Constipation
1. Bicycle Movement Therapy: The bicycle movement therapy is a tested and trusted way to help your baby poop during constipation. It involves a simple routine of gently moving your babys legs in a circular motion as if you are helping them ride an invisible bicycle. The movements which babys love, will help stimulate movements around their bowel area and your baby is likely to poop in the process.
2. Tummy Massage: As a mother or caregiver, there is no doubt that you already know how relieving a massage can be. Well, your baby needs one also when they are battling constipation, and you want to help them poop. You should gently massage their stomach and lower abdomen area to stimulate movements and ease the inflated stomach. This will enable the baby to experience a good level of ease around that area and help the baby poop during constipation.
Get Help With Lubrication
A dab of petroleum jelly applied around the anal opening could help stool slide out more easily. For babies, applying a lubricated rectal thermometer could stimulate the muscles used to get bowel movements going.
Constipation is a common childhood ailment, so theres a good chance your baby or toddler will deal with a bout of it at some point. Thankfully, the issue tends to be easy to fix with at home measures.
From the What to Expect editorial team and Heidi Murkoff, author of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. What to Expect follows strict reporting guidelines and uses only credible sources, such as peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions and highly respected health organizations. Learn how we keep our content accurate and up-to-date by reading our medical review and editorial policy.
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What Are The Signs Of Constipation
WebMd describes constipation in newborns as a difficult time pooping, their stool is hard, black, or bloody, and they go more than five days between bowel movements.
There are other factors that may signal your newborn is constipated babies may not be constipated if they only exhibit one or two symptoms.
Here are all the signs of constipation in newborns:
- Baby is uncomfortable when making a bowel movement
- Baby has a red, stressed face when making a bowel movement
- Baby has not had a bowel movement in 5 to 10 days
- Poop is much thicker than normal
- Poop is very dark, bloody or black
- Babys belly is extremely bloated
- Baby is refusing to feed
- Babys tummy feels hard and swollen
- Baby is extremely fussy, and nothing is calming them down
If your baby is experiencing many of these symptoms, it is best to get professional medical advice. Your doctor may want to see your newborn immediately if stools are bloody or black.
In the meantime, there are few things you can try at home to help your baby poop easier.
Tips To Prevent Constipation In Babies
- Breastfeed your baby if possible, breast milk is easily digestible
- Avoid introducing solid foods before 6 months
- Feed your baby small portions of food, fiber rich food is recommended
- Sit your baby upright for at least an hour after feeding them
- Give plenty of liquids like water, 100% Pear or Prune juice
- Exercise your baby by moving his legs, you can move babys legs back and forth in a bicycling motion. Constipation can be relieved this way.
- A warm bath can be helpful. By giving a baby a warm bath, they will be able to relax their abdominal muscles and stop straining when having a bowl movement
Read Also: How To Prevent Reflux In Newborns
When To Visit A Doctor
Constipation is rarely caused by a serious condition, but if your tamariki hasnt improved after a few days, or youre worried, call PlunketLine or visit your doctor.
If the constipation lasts a long time or keeps coming back, talk to your doctor – they may prescribe a medicine to help soften the poos.
What Are Some Home Remedies For Baby Constipation
If your baby becomes constipated once heâs started on solid foods, check in with your healthcare provider, who may recommend any of the following changes or additions to his diet to help relieve constipation:
Water. If your baby is over 6 months old , offer him a little water in a sippy cup with his meals. This shouldnât replace breast milk or formula, however.
Fruit juice. A few ounces of 100 percent fruit juice such as apple, pear, or prune juice can also help your baby. These juices contain sorbitol, which works like a natural laxative.
Certain fruits and vegetables. Once your baby is eating solid foods, give him pureed foods such as prunes, pears, peaches, and peas. These can help with constipation since they contain more fiber than other fruits and vegetables.
Infant cereals. Try feeding him whole-wheat, barley, or multigrain infant cereal once he is eating solid foods. These three types contain more fiber than rice cereal and may help get things moving.
If the above dietary changes havenât given your baby relief, contact his healthcare provider again for guidance.
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How Can You Help Your Constipated Baby
If changes in your babyâs diet havenât given him relief from constipation, your babyâs healthcare provider might recommend an infant glycerin suppository, which is placed in your babyâs rectum.These types of suppositories are meant to be used only occasionally, and shouldnât be overused. Do not use mineral oil, enemas, constipation medicine, or any stimulating laxatives to treat your babyâs constipation. Always follow your healthcare providerâs advice.
Why Is My Breastfed Newborn Constipated
Breastfed babies may seem like theyre constipated when they arent. Remember, constipation in babies means the poo is much drier and harder, and for that reason, it causes discomfort when they try to get rid of it.
If a baby is struggling to poo and the consistency of it is much harder than before, make sure you look for professional help as there might be a problem with your babys digestive system.
There could also be a problem with your babys ability to get enough milk the cause needs to be found and the problem sorted.
Whether its a problem with babys attachment to the breast, suction, positioning, or with milk production, speak to your breastfeeding specialist. The constipation youre seeing might be highlighting a different problem that needs to be addressed.
If there isnt a problem with your milk production but your healthcare provider insists you introduce formula, look for a second opinion. Many health care providers arent well informed on this matter.
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What Causes Constipation In Babies
Constipation in babies is primarily caused by diet. Here are some things you might want to discuss with your pediatrician:
- Baby Formula: The intestines of some babies just seem sensitive to a particular brand of formula .
- Dairy or Soy Allergy: Babies that have a milk allergy can experience constipation, excessive gas, and other discomforts. A doctor can determine if your baby has a dairy or soy allergy.
- Change in Diet: Sometimes when babies are given the green light for baby food they can struggle with regularity. Many first-time foods are very starchy and if your baby isnt getting enough water this can lead to poop troubles. Check with your pediatrician on the best first foods to help avoid constipation and how much water Baby needs in a day.
- Iron Supplement: Vitamins with iron can make poops into hard little black-green colored pellets.
- Dehydration: If a baby is not getting enough to drink, stools can get drier and harder. Its super easy to check for this problem: The inside of the mouth will get dry and sticky your baby will pee fewer than six times a day the urine will become much more yellow and a bit smelly.