Constipation In Babies

5 min read

Constipation in babies is not a are issue. However, the research and reports available on this topic are so contradicting that a reasonably worried mom of a possibly constipated baby would become more confused and worried after going through various websites. So our primary objective with this article is to expel your worries and clear your confusion.
The main reason for all the misconceptions around your baby’s bowel movements is that there are no fixed “normal” scenarios. Just like every baby is unique, so are every baby’s pooping schedules. So let us look at some of the commonly asked questions around this.
Constipated baby

How can I tell if my baby is constipated?
Can fewer bowel movements be normal for my baby?
Determining whether the baby is constipated
Symptoms of baby constipation
Formula-feed and baby constipation
Breastfeed and baby constipation
Solids and baby constipation
Home remedies for baby constipation
Calling the doctor for baby constipation

How Can I Tell If My Baby Is Constipated?

Your baby cannot obviously talk, so it is not possible for her to tell you that she is constipated. However, as a mother, you can keep a watch on her pooping schedules to arrive on a pattern that you may say is ‘normal’ for her. Every baby’s pattern is different and unique, and depends on her activity levels and how quickly she digests food. A regular bowel movement once a day is normal for babies who are fed solids, while breastfeed babies may go several days without pooping. Once you identify your baby’s pattern, it will be easier for you to know if she deviated from her schedules.

Can Fewer Bowel Movements Be Normal For My Baby?

You might be talking about constipation to someone who has a baby like your’s. And your cousin’s new born poops 5 times a day and you know that yours does only once in a week. So does this mean that your baby is constipated? Most likely, no. A newborn’s bowel movements can be any one of the extremes – he/she can poop 5 times a day and once in 5 days and both are normal. Then how do I determine if my baby is constipated at all?

Determining Whether The Baby Is Constipated

Firstly, you need to understand your baby’s gut. Does she poop after every single feed? Or she does it 3 times a day? Once you are able to determine your baby’s poop schedule, you are more likely to come to a better conclusion. If a baby does not pass bowel 24 hours as per her regular schedule, you can say that the baby is slightly constipated.
In order to determine the same, you will need to understand four key things here: frequency, color, form and comfort.

1. Frequency:

Look for consistency in the bowel movements. Figure out what your baby’s “normal” schedule is (you would know this in a week or two after birth) and see if he/she varies from that. If you notice lesser than frequent bowel movements, he/she might be constipated (e.g.: your baby usually passes stool once in 2 days but he/she hasn’t passed one in 4 days)

2. Color and form:

Hard, dry and very dark colored stools are signs of constipation. That said, the color and form of your baby’s poop varies with diet. Normal infant stools would be:

  • Soft, liquid/runny, seedy and yellow if the baby is exclusively breast fed
  • Pasty (or soft lumps), greenish/yellowish/brownish, if the baby is formula-fed
  • Soft lumps, if the baby has started solids with the diet, determining the color of the stool

3. Comfort:

Even if your baby is passing stool only once in a week, he/she would be doing this comfortably, without much effort. This is because the stool would be soft. However, if the baby is constipated, the stool would be hard and more difficult to pass (no matter how frequent it is). If your baby looks like he/she is straining or is uncomfortable during defecation, this could indicate constipation
Again, as mentioned above, please determine what is normal for your baby and watch out for inconsistencies.
Baby crying

Symptoms of Baby Constipation

A baby who is constipated would have hard bowel movements. The following signs could be watched out for:

  • The baby arches his back
  • Baby appears uncomfortable or to be in pain
  • Little one cries when passing a motion
  • The baby tightens his buttocks
  • The stool is hard, dry and dark

Formula-Feed and Baby Constipation

Your baby’s constipation could be because of a number of factors, primary one being diet. Babies who rely on infant formula or the ones who are given a mix of both breast feed and formula, are slightly more prone to constipation as the protein component in some formulas are known to harden the stool. However, no matter what you have heard, iron in formula has no role to play in your babies’ constipation issues.

Breastfeed and Baby Constipation

Breastfed babies are rarely constipated. Breast milk has the right mix of protein and fat, which makes up soft stools. Breast fed babies sometimes do not pass bowels regularly, as being nutritious, almost all of the breast milk is digested by the baby. However, if your baby is not getting adequate milk (baby’s weight could be a good indicator), he/she might be dehydrated, which can result in constipation.

Solids and Baby Constipation

Solid-food-fed babies – Your baby’s bowel movements are bound to change to a “new normal” when you start solid foods. So it is important to make the distinction between this changed schedule and constipation. That said, some solid foods, especially rice-cereals that contain less fiber, can cause constipation. You could try barley cereals in this case. Also, you need to ensure that the baby gets enough movement to have frequent bowel movements.
In rare cases, an underlying illness or birth defects can also cause constipation. These medical conditions include hypothyroidism, botulism, Hirschsprung’s disease and other metabolic disorders.
Remedies for baby constipation

Home Remedies For Baby Constipation

Since diet is the main cause for constipation, the following can be done:

  • If baby is breastfed, the key thing to remember is that the mother’s diet will directly impact the baby’s digestive system. The mother can have prune juice or pitted prunes. Alternatively, black dried grapes in water overnight, and the following day squeeze out the essence from grapes to the water and drink the water. This might cause loose motion in the mother, but you will see the trickle-down effect in your baby’s bowel movements
  • Some people suggest giving prune juice directly to your baby (who is at least one month old) in small quantities. However, check with the pediatrician before you do this
  • If your baby is formula-fed, try changing the formula brand after consulting with the doctor
  • If your baby is eating solid foods, cut down on foods that can cause constipation, such as rice and banana. Include high-fiber food in the diet – like pureed prunes or pears

Apart from diet, increased exercise can also ease the passage of stools during constipation. If your baby is too small to crawl around, include a few exercises during his/her daily massage. Press the area below the naval gently and firmly. Also, place your baby on his/her back, and move the legs in cyclic circular motion.

Calling The Doctor For Baby Constipation

If none of the above works, your doctor might prescribe a stool softener that might help your baby. Do not, under any circumstances, give any over-the-counter laxative to your baby without your doctor’s advice. Also, do not insert any object into baby’s anus – this can cause more harm than good.
In addition to this, if you notice blood in your baby’s hard constipated stool, please again call the doctor as it might indicate a cut or fissure in anus.
You should also call the doctor if you notice that your baby is not eating well and is losing weight.

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