Learning how to help my constipated baby is one of the many things that first-time parents may struggle with. For the new parent, every whimper or cry can seem like a cause for alarm. Although it is normal for babies to cry, a parent will still want to make sure that no physical pain or distress is causing the tears. Baby constipation is a common cause of distress in infants.
First of All, Know That Infant Constipation is Normal
One of the most important things to note when your baby is constipated is that newborn constipation is a perfectly normal part of life for your infant. For babies under the age of 12 months old, having infant constipation and other minor digestive issues is all just part of the territory.
Despite knowing this, baby constipation can still be a major source of concern for the parents, who hate seeing their child in any sort of pain. This is why it is important for new parents to learn what helps babies poop and how to help your baby have a bowel movement.
What are the Main Causes of Infant Constipation?
Most of the time, infant constipation is caused by the baby’s diet. If you think that your baby is constipated, you might want to talk to your pediatrician about the following subjects:
1. Allergies to soy or dairy – When a baby is allergic to dairy products or soy, it can cause several issues, including newborn constipation, gas and bloating, and others. Your doctor should be able to find out if this is your baby’s issue.
2. Infant formula – Some babies are just born with digestive systems that are sensitive to certain brands of baby formula. It could be any brand; it may be from concentrate or powdered formula.
3. Changes in your baby’s diet – The transition from breastmilk or formula to baby food can sometimes cause constipation in infants and lead to discomfort for your child. Be sure that your baby is drinking plenty of water when he or she starts solid foods. Also, introduce one food at the time so that you can determine whether or not each food causes issues.
4. Dehydration – Speaking of water, your baby could become constipated if he or she is dehydrated. If your baby is not urinating more than 6 times per day, and if his or her urine has a strong scent, your child could be dehydrated. This can be very dangerous, and you should call your pediatrician immediately if you suspect this is the case.
Even if you manage to avoid all of these main causes for constipation in babies, your child could still suffer from it from time to time. Read on to discover more about what causes infant constipation and how to ease your baby’s discomfort.
There is Less Chance of Baby Constipation in Breastfed Babies
Whether or not to breastfeed babies is not always a matter of choice for parents. With that said, it is important to note that there are fewer cases of newborn constipation and less chance of having a constipated baby if you choose to breastfeed. Also, during a transition from breast milk to formula or food is a common time for parents to notice that their baby is constipated.
Breastfed babies may normally poop less often than formula-fed infants, and this does not necessarily mean that your baby is having trouble pooping. Because breast milk is full of nutrients, babies often absorb almost all of it, which leaves very little to move through your baby's digestive system. In other words, there isn’t much left to poop out.
Fewer Poops Doesn’t Always Mean Baby Constipation
If your baby is breastfed, it could be perfectly normal for your baby not to have a bowel movement a few days. Also, you should remember that babies are not all built the same. Some infants will naturally have a slower digestive system than others. If your baby is not pooping as often as another parent’s child, or as often as your previous babies, that doesn’t always mean that anything is wrong.
Lack of a bowel movement for a few days is something that you may want to discuss with your doctor, but unless your baby is crying and showing signs of distress, there is probably no cause for alarm. Your doctor can help you to determine whether or not your baby has any medical reason for not going number 2, but lack of bowel movement alone does not mean that baby is constipated. Some breastfed babies may not poop for up to 5 days!
When to Talk to Your Doctor About Newborn Constipation
Just because your baby has not pooped in a few days does not necessarily mean that he or she is constipated. Baby constipation is not just about how often your baby has a bowel movement. There are a few other factors involved in determining constipation in infants. So how can you know if it is time to talk to your doctor?
Of course, you should call your pediatrician anytime you have a concern about your baby’s health. There are, however, signs that you can look for to know if your baby may be constipated. You should give your baby’s doctor if you see any of the following signs:
1. Baby Seem in Distress - If your baby seems uncomfortable or in pain, arching his or her back and having a hard time pooping, he or she may be suffering from infant constipation.
2. Hard, Painful Stools - If your baby’s stools are hard and pellet-like instead of soft like butter, you may have a constipated baby.
3. Dark or Bloody Stools - A baby who has very dark stools that may have blood in them, he or she could be constipated.
4. No Bowel Movement for Over a Week - If your child does not have a bowel movement at least one time in over 5 days, you should ask your doctor if your baby is constipated.
Your doctor can let you know if you should be concerned about your baby’s constipation. Pediatricians can give the parents a lot of good advice on how to treat constipation in babies as well.
How Can I Ease My Baby’s Constipation?
There are several remedies that you may choose from to help ease your infant’s constipation. Of course, you will want to talk to your child’s doctor before trying any new foods, liquids, or medications for infant constipation. Here are a few ideas that you might want to ask the doctor about:
1. Giving More Fluids - Offering baby more water or juice can sometimes help to ease your baby’s constipation. Hydration is one of the most important weapons against infant constipation and should probably be considered first as a treatment.
Giving the baby a small amount of water or one daily serving of apple, pear, or prune juice along with his or her normal feedings can help. From 2 to 4 ounces of this juice contains enough sorbitol to act as a mild laxative for your baby.
2. Fruits, Veggies, and Grains – For babies that are already eating solid foods, you may want to give them a serving of pureed prunes, apple, peas, or pears for the same laxative effect. These foods contain higher fiber levels than other foods.
Multigrain cereals are also high in fiber and can help your baby work through an episode of constipation. Wheat, barley, and multigrain cereals are a good choice for babies to have in their diets to avoid constipation as well.
3. Formula Changes – If you are breastfeeding, you should never stop doing so simply because your baby is constipated. If you are giving your baby formula, however, you may want to try changing the brand to see if this helps, since some babies are sensitive to certain brands. As always, talk to your child’s doctor before making big changes in his or her diet.
4. Less Junk Food – For older babies or toddlers, you might want to check your child’s diet if constipation becomes a regular issue. Too much fast food, cheeses, junk foods, and even sodas and teas can cause constipation in some children.
5. Exercise – Just like it does in adults, exercise can sometimes stimulate your child’s digestive system to work. Encouraging your older baby to crawl or walk in a walker can sometimes help get things moving along smoothly.
If your baby is too small to exercise on his or her own, you can still use exercise as a way to try and ease their discomfort. Simply lay the baby on his or her back, and gently move the legs in the motion of riding a bike. You might also try putting the baby’s knees together and pushing them gently towards the chest.
6. Warm Baths – Giving your baby a warm bath is also a way to relax him or her and calm the digestive system. Rubbing the tummy gently while the child is in warm water can help ease the pain from constipation as well.
7. Massage – There are also several massage methods that you can do to help ease your baby’s constipation. Making circles on the tummy with your fingertips, walking your fingertips around the baby’s navel, and rubbing the tummy from the rib cage downward gently can all help ease your baby’s tummy ache from constipation.
You should never give your baby over-the-counter laxatives without consulting your pediatrician first. It is also important not to give your baby suppositories or enemas without talking to his or her doctor first. Your doctor may suggest a certain medication, or even simple remedies such as checking the child’s temperature anally with a lubricated thermometer, which can sometimes trigger the bowels to move.
Just as in adults, constipation in babies can lead to anything from mild discomfort to serious pain and distress. There are several methods that you might want to try at home to ease your baby’s constipation, but you should always consult your physician before changing the baby’s diet or introducing new medications. Your child’s doctor can help you choose what may be causing constipation and the best way to treat it.