Constipation in Babies

Constipation can result in less frequent bowel movements than normal. This AptParenting article will help you understand the reasons for constipation in babies. It also provides information on simple home remedies, that can help alleviate the pain and discomfort experienced by your baby.
AptParenting Staff
Constipation is a common complaint in babies. Parents need to check whether their baby is pooping regularly. If a formula-fed baby is passing soft paste-like stools regularly, it's likely a sign that he's taking in enough food, and that he is healthy. Absence of poop can be a cause for concern. Babies usually do not suffer from constipation, when they are exclusively breastfed. Signs of constipation are noticed when they are switched to baby formula and solid foods. Constipation in babies is very common, and can be treated easily.
Constipation is the compactness of the stools and the difficulty of passing them. Newborns pass soft and runny stools that have consistency of a seedy mustard, when breastfed. Once the babies are fed baby foods, they have fewer, firm, and dark stools. A baby who has been introduced to solid food diet, may pass stools once every three days or everyday.
Signs of Constipation in Babies
Many parents complain about the irregular bowel movement of their babies. Babies' bowel movement patterns vary greatly. The color, texture, and form of the poo may also change from day-to-day. If the baby is passing stools less frequently or straining during bowel movements, this does not mean that your baby is constipated. Babies 0 to 4 months of age poop on average 3-4 times a day. After the introduction of solid foods, that reduces to approximately one bowel movement per day. But this may vary from baby to baby. Check for the following signs of constipation:

➺ The baby passes firm and dry stools
➺ A prolonged absence of poop
➺ The baby strains and has difficulty when passing them.
➺ You notice dry, hard, pebbly stools in the diaper.
➺ The baby draws the legs up on the abdomen, gets red-faced, and grunts while passing stools.
➺ Blood streaks in the stool
➺ Infrequent stools and abdominal discomfort
➺ Reduced appetite
➺ Irritability or crying due to pain before doing a poo.
➺ Less than three bowel movements a week
Causes
There are several causes of constipation in babies. Constipation in new-born babies is lesser as breast milk is easily digested.

However, babies may face constipation, if the mother has consumed foods that cause constipation in her, and this gets transferred to the baby due to breastfeeding.

Also, if the mother is producing less milk, the baby will be fed less milk, resulting in less bowel movement, that may be thought as constipation.

Infants who are fed formula milk may have constipation. Formula milk can take long time to get digested, and certain ingredients in the food may cause constipation.

When a breastfed baby is introduced to solid food, he may suffer from constipation. The stomach that is used to easily digestible breast milk, may take time to process the solid food. This slow process of digestion often leads to constipation.

Another cause of constipation is dehydration. If the baby is not getting enough fluids, then his body may absorb fluids from the food eaten or the waste in the bowels as well. This causes hard, dry stools that are difficult to pass.

Food allergies, botulism (food poisoning), or even hypothyroidism may be a cause of constipation.

The baby may have a metabolic disorder or digestive system problem. His body may not be able to absorb food properly.

You should visit the doctor and find out if there are any underlying medical conditions that are causing constipation in your baby.
Home Remedies
You can ease the bowel movements of your babies and toddlers by following some infant constipation home remedies.

You should start feeding less amounts of milk and increase the number of baby feeding times. You should feed baby smaller amounts of formula more frequently. This will help the intestines to digest the milk/formula properly.

Sometimes, a change in formula or in Mom's diet helps relieve the symptoms of constipation in babies.

You should increase the amount of water in baby's diet, if the baby is fed formula milk. This will help in better absorption of food in the intestines. However, you should consult your pediatrician, as the quantity of water to be given to a baby varies according to the age of the baby. Excess water given to a 4 month old baby or plain water given to a baby younger than 2 months can lead to health problems.

During a warm bath, give a stomach massage to the baby. It will stimulate the intestines, and will assist him to pass stools.

If the baby is straining during a bowel movement, lay the baby on the back, and gently push the knees towards the chest. This will help put some pressure on the stomach, and aid in easy bowel movement.

If your baby is constipated, gently move his legs in a bicycling motion.

To babies older than 6 months, you can give small amounts of apple, pear, or prune juice. Start with 0.5 tbsp (in case of 6 months old babies) to 2 tbsp of the juice, and increase the amount slowly over time.

You may introduce strained foods containing high fiber such as apricots, prunes, peaches, plums, pears, peas, spinach in the diet of your baby (4-12 months) to help relieve constipation.

You can even try using glycerin suppository available at local drug stores, and insert it in the rectal vault (in case the baby is 6 months or older). This will promote an easy bowel movement.
Treatment
If your baby is suffering from constant constipation, you should visit your pediatrician. The pediatrician may recommend mild laxatives to treat constipation. He may ask you to add one teaspoon of flax oil to baby cereal once a day. This is one of the best natural remedies for constipation in babies.

Never give laxatives or enemas to babies without first talking to your doctor. Babies resume normal bowel movement in a few weeks as soon as their bodies are adjusted to the change in feeding habits.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.