While breastfed babies rarely suffer from constipation issues, constipation in babies is quite common in the ones that are formula fed. Formula milk is not as easily digested as breast milk, which is why many infants get constipated.
Constipation is referred to a condition of the digestive tract in which bowel movements occur less frequently than usual. The bowel movements are unable to empty the bowel completely of waste. Constipation affects everybody, irrespective of age or gender.
Actually, one cannot point out the exact number of bowel movements babies should have. Bowel movements will vary from one infant to another and unless the baby passes less stool than usual, hard or dry stool or has a lot of difficultly passing stool, there is no need to worry. When a baby is constipated he or she can become very crabby all the time. They may even turn red in the face while making effort to pass the stool. But what causes constipation in babies? While changes in diet, less fluid intake and certain health problems can conduce to constipation in babies, formula milk is also seen to cause constipation in babies. Let’s find out how!
Constipation in Formula Fed Babies
Babies fed on formula milk are more at risk of becoming constipated than breastfed babies. Breastfed babies are rarely seen to encounter constipation problems, because breast milk is easily digested by the baby. Breastfed babies have various helpful bacteria in their large intestines which break down indigestible proteins. This results in formation of softer stools that can be easily passed. Moreover, breast milk contains the perfect balance of fat and protein which conduces to soft stool formation. Breastfed babies also have higher levels of the hormone (motiline) that increases the softness of the stool.
Formula milk, although nutritious in every manner may conduce to constipation in babies. Formula milk is more difficult for a baby to digest, which conduces to lower bowel movements. Then again, it depends on the type of formula milk. For example, lactose-free formula, casein dominant formula, AR (anti regurgitation) and thickened formulas can conduce to constipation in some infants. Moreover, if the formula milk is not being made correctly, with not the right proportion of formula milk and water being mixed, the baby is prone to becoming constipated. There is a misconception that the iron in formula milk causes constipation, however, formula milk contains only small amounts of iron that cannot conduce to constipation.
How to Relieve Constipation in Babies on Formula Milk
More Fluid Intake
Babies on formula milk should be given an extra bottle of cooled, boiled water to drink during the day. This will hydrate their body and will add moisture to the stool in the intestines. It will soften the stool and facilitate its easy passage through the rectum, thereby, relieving constipation problems. However, just to increase the fluid intake, do not dilute the formula.
Change Formula Milk Brand
Sometimes the type of formula milk is to blame for constipation in infants. One can switch from one brand to another after consulting the pediatrician. However, do not change the brand without consultation.
Make Formula Milk Correctly
Read the instructions mentioned on the label of the formula milk container correctly and ensure you add the right ratio of formula milk powder to water. Adding extra formula milk powder to thicken the milk consistency can dehydrate the baby and conduce to constipation in babies.
Karo Corn Syrup or Brown Sugar
Adding Karo corn syrup to the formula milk (2 teaspoons) each time the baby is fed, will help alleviate the problem. While corn syrup is to be given in the milk, brown sugar is to be mixed in water (1 tsp in 30 ml of water) and given to the baby before or after a feed. Give this 3-4 times a day till the stool is soft. However, make sure you choose either corn syrup or brown sugar, not both at the same time.
Over the counter laxatives, enemas, suppositories, or any other medication should not be used as constipation treatments for babies without consulting the doctor. In fact, it is best to resort to such home remedies for constipation problems in a newborn. If there seems to be no relief even after trying all these remedies for constipation, contact your health care provider immediately to rule out the possibility of any underlying problem.