How To Treat It
A change in formula or in Mom’s diet could help combat constipation in formula and breastfed babies, respectively. Solid foods, which are often the cause of constipation, can also be the cure, Dr. Shu says. Several kinds of fruits and veggies, such as pears and broccoli, can get things back on track, along with fruit juice and water.
When a change in diet isn’t doing the trick, talk to your pediatrician before employing other methods. The doctor might suggest rectal stimulation with the use of a cotton swab or rectal thermometer. This usually produces a bowel movement within several minutes of stimulation, Dr. Shu says. Another possible is a glycerin suppository. If it works, it could take about an hour to produce a poop, Dr. Shu says. Other suggestions may include Miralax, a tasteless powder you can mix into a drink senna, a natural vegetable laxative and lactulose, a synthetic sugar used for treating constipation.
Causes Of Constipation In Babies
- formula is too strong if your baby is bottle-fed, make sure the formula is made up correctly, so that there is not too much formula powder for the amount of water
- using a different formula changes to the milk formula
- not enough drinks in warm weather, bottle-fed infants require extra fluid such as cooled, boiled water between formula feeds. Breastfed infants may require more frequent feeds
- solids that are not right for the baby use the correct solid foods for the age of your baby. Be aware that excessive use of legumes and high fibre cereals are not appropriate for young infants
- difficulty passing poo sometimes a hard poo can cause a little tear or crack in the skin around the anus and this can hurt the baby. The baby seems to know that it hurts to do poo and so holds on. Then the poo becomes even harder and will be more painful to pass.
Should You See A Doctor About Constipation In Children
You should take your child to the GP if your child:
- needs a laxative more than a few times a year
- has constipation that doesnt get better after you give them a laxative
- hasnt done a poo for seven days
- poos in their pants without meaning to
- has constipation and also fever, vomiting, blood in their poo or weight loss
- has painful cracks in the skin around their anus
- has constipation and youre worried they arent eating or drinking enough.
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Constipation In Breastfed Babies
Babies who are breastfed can often go several days without a bowel movement. Even though their stool is soft, it may seem like they have many days of no stool followed by a “blow-out.”
For an older infant or child, going 5 or 6 days without a bowel movement would usually be a problem. In an exclusively breastfed baby who is gaining weight normally, however, this behavior is usually normal. As long as the “blow-out” appears painless, most parents have nothing to worry about.
Baby Constipation Home Remedies
While all medical remedies should first be vetted by the babys primary care physician, Sneed shared that there are home remedies for baby constipation.
At less than one month of age, we normally start with one to two teaspoons of dark Karo syrup mixed with formula daily, as well as a good probiotic. Sneed said. After a month of age, I would try one ounce of 100-percent pear, apple, or prune juice a day, increasing it by one ounce per month to a maximum of four ounces per day by four months of age.
Dr. James Hahn, a pediatrician with St. Elizabeth Physicians in Greendale, Indiana, added that simple interventions like warm baths, bicycle kicking a babys legs, and belly massages can also be useful.
As a last resort, parents may use a glycerin suppository to help their babies if immediate relief is needed, but Sneed cautions use of suppositories without consulting a doctor.
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Diagnosing Constipation In Babies
Doctors can often determine constipation based on information parents provide about the frequency, color, and constituency of stools. Typically, constipation is not seen as a diagnosable condition in and of itself, but rather, as a sign of other concerns, such as dietary issues, medication use, or underlying medical problems.
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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Consult With Your Pediatrician Before Giving Your Baby Water
Do not give your baby water. Although dehydration can be a cause of constipation, do not give your infant water unless instructed to do so by a physician. Giving water to infants can result in electrolyte disturbances that can be serious and sometimes fatal. Breast milk and formula contain just the right amount of sodium, chloride, potassium, and other electrolytes. When you give water you can dilute these electrolytes. Although your babys kidneys should correct for electrolyte changes, too much water can be more than their kidneys can correct.
Q When Is It Normal For Breastfed Babies To Stop Pooing As Often
Any age from about three weeks and over, but more commonly from six weeks, breastfed babies may start to space out their poos even as much as a week or more apart. This can seem alarming, but in a healthy baby, its usually nothing to worry about and doesn’t usually suggest that your infant is constipated.
The poo, when it comes, will be soft and easy to pass because of the way the gastro-colic reflex has changed. This is the reflex that is stimulated by food going into the top of the digestive tract causing a reflex action at the other end and its very sensitive in a newborn. So its quite normal for a new baby to poo virtually every time he feeds.
As your baby gets a bit older, that reflex is nothing like as sensitive, and they can hang on to their poo, storing it in the lower bowel for some time. This is why you sometimes get a very large amount of poo when your baby does finally go!
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Q Is Diluted Fruit Juice Or Fruit A Good Baby Constipation Remedy
If your baby is already on solid foods then diluted fruit juice, such as apple, pear or prune, or the fruit itself should be fine for providing relief. Fruits, such as apples, pears and prunes, contain sorbitol which is a natural laxative, helping the lower bowel retain water, which in turn helps the poo stay soft and easy to pass.
For younger babies, check with your health visitor before you start giving anything other than milk.
How Often Should Baby Poop
To figure out if your child has a bout of baby constipation, its helpful to know how often babies tend to produce stool. From newborn to 3 months, a breastfed baby might have anywhere from 5 to 40 bowel movements a weekan average of 2.9 a day. Since breastfed babies absorb so much of the milk, some infants could go up to three or four days, or maybe even a week, without pooping. But as long as when they do its soft, pain free and blood free, thats fine, Santo Domingo says. Their formula-fed counterparts can have anywhere from 5 to 28 a week, or about two a day.
As infants age, breastfed and formula-fed babies start to have about the same number of poopsso from 3 to 6 months, that means about two to four bowel movements a day, and at 6 to 12 months, both formula-fed and breastfed babies will go down to 5 to 28 bowel movements a week, or about 1.8 a day. Keep in mind, these are just averages. If an infant doesnt have a bowel movement every single day, were not that concerned, Santo Domingo says. What were more concerned with is whether its hard when it does come outthat would lead us more toward thinking its baby constipation.
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Taking A Rectal Temperature
When a baby is constipated, taking the babys rectal temperature with a clean, lubricated thermometer may help them pass stool.
It is important not to use this method very often, as it can make constipation worse. The baby may start not wanting to pass a bowel movement without help, or they may begin to associate having a bowel movement with discomfort, leading them to fuss or cry more during the process.
Anyone who feels as though they often need to use this method to help the baby have a bowel movement should talk to the babys doctor.
As infants may go for extended periods without a bowel movement, it can be hard to tell if they are constipated. Signs that indicate constipation in a baby include:
- infrequent stools that are not soft in consistency
- clay-like stool consistency
- long periods of straining or crying while trying to have a bowel movement
- streaks of red blood in the stool
- lack of appetite
- a hard belly
Signs of constipation in babies vary depending on their age and diet. A normal bowel movement before a baby begins eating solid food should be very soft, almost like the consistency of peanut butter or even looser.
Hard baby stool prior to solid food is the most obvious indication of constipation in babies.
At first, breastfed babies may pass stool often since breast milk is easy to digest. However, once a baby is between 3 and 6 weeks old, they may only pass a large, soft stool once a week and sometimes even less.
How To Soothe The Baby
When a baby briefly cries out in their sleep, they often settle on their own. Picking them up may wake them up, disrupting their sleep.
If the crying continues, try talking softly to the baby or rubbing their back or stomach. This can help shift them into a different stage of sleep and help them stop crying.
Breastfed babies who nurse in their sleep may find comfort from nursing. Caregivers should decide whether or not the baby is likely to awaken from nursing and assess whether they are willing to risk waking the baby.
It can also be helpful to simply observe the babys sleep pattern. Some babies let out a soft cry as they fall deeply into sleep, or immediately before waking. Identifying the babys typical sleep pattern can help caregivers assess the cause of crying.
Some babies might cry in their sleep when they are sick or teething, but pain that causes crying will usually wake the baby. Caregivers can talk to a pediatrician about how to ease the babys pain.
Although we do not yet know when nightmares start, a caregiver who thinks that they hear their baby having a nightmare can soothe them by talking calmly to them or rubbing their back. Babies who are still breastfed may also find comfort from nursing.
If a baby wakes up after having had a nightmare, comfort them and follow a soothing sleep ritual to get them back to sleep. Older babies and toddlers may need reassurance that the nightmare was not real.
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What Is Constipation In Babies
To understand baby constipation, itâs important to know what stools are like for infants. Although every baby is different, and thereâs a broad range of whatâs considered normal when it comes to pooping, many babies will poop after each feeding in the first weeks of life. Then, after about 3 to 6 weeks of age, some breastfed babies will poop less often, even as little as once a week. That’s because breast milk creates almost no solid waste that has to be eliminated from the digestive system. Formula-fed babies tend to poop once a day or once every other day.
In terms of consistency, your babyâs stools should be soft, like peanut butter, when everything is normal and regular. Your baby may be constipated if she experiences hard, dry bowel movements, which can be difficult or even painful to pass. And, if your babyâs constipated, her bowel movements may be more infrequent than whatâs typical or normal for your baby.
What Not To Do For Your Constipated Baby
- Give laxatives, suppositories or enemas unless youve been advised to do so by a health professional.
- Sit them on the toilet or a potty believing this will help. Toilet training is a developmental stage in the toddler years and requires a complex sequence of nervous system maturity.
- Compare their bowel habits with other babies. Every little person is an individual and there are too many factors which play a role in bowel habits and frequency.
- Make too many changes to their milk or solid food intake. Lots of changes at one time can have a negative effect and the baby may start having very loose poos.
- Massage their tummy very firmly. A babys gut is still immature and easily damaged through rough handling. Always be gentle.
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What You Can Do
Dont give your baby medicines for constipation unless they are advised or prescribed by a doctor.
If your baby is fed with breast milk:
- You may need to feed your baby more often. See your doctor or child health nurse for advice.
If your baby is fed with formula:
- It may be that his or her formula has not been made up correctly, so it does not contain enough water.
- Double check that you are following the instructions on the tin of formula correctly.
- Make sure you are using the scoop that is provided with the tin of formula you are using different brands can have different sized scoops.
- Make sure you are not packing the powdered formula too tightly in the scoop it should be loosely filled, and levelled off using the flat side of a knife or the leveller provided.
- Make sure you are adding water to the bottle first, then the powdered formula. If you add formula first you will be adding too little water to the bottle.
If your baby is eating solids :
- Offer extra water between their normal meals or diluted fruit juice , 1 part juice to 3 parts water.
- Try to encourage them to eat extra servings of fruit and vegetables that have been pureed or chopped . These can include stewed prunes, stewed apricots, and steamed vegetables.
- Add more water to your babys solids.
Other things to try:
- Gently move your babys legs in a cycling motion this may help stimulate their bowels.
- Gently massage your babys tummy.
- A warm bath can help the muscles relax .