Baby constipation

Advice on the causes, symptoms and possible treatment of baby constipation.
Exclusively breast fed babies rarely suffer with constipation as the composition of breastmilk is designed for optimum nutrition and so is easily absorbed and digested. Formula fed infants are more likely to suffer with constipation as, unlike breast fed babies, they do not have a build up of the special bacteria in their stomachs that can cope with difficult to digest milk proteins.

It is quite common for infants to suffer with constipation when solid foods are introduced as part of the weaning process. This can be because the digestive system is having to cope with breaking down the new solid foods. However, it can also be due to a decrease in the amount of liquid consumed, so, especially if baby is being fed on formula milk, it is wise to supplement their regular milk feeds with drinks of cooled, boiled water.

Signs of constipation

The frequency of bowel movements varies greatly from infant to infant with some passing solids several times a day and others every couple of days. Once your baby beings to eat solids his diet will play a role in the frequency of his bowel movements.

There is no set rule as to how frequently baby should pass solids so its best to gauge your baby's digestive health on the consistency of his stools. Breastfed babies tend to have loose, mustard coloured, seed-like stools, whereas the stools of bottle fed babies tend to be more solid with a tan colour and peanut butter consistency. The stools of weaned babies tend to resemble normal stools but should still appear soft.

Your baby may be constipated if his stools are very solid and pellet like, if he is experiencing stomach ache, if his abdomen feels solid, if he is demonstrating colicky symptoms and if he hasn't passed solids for longer than what is normal for him.

Constipation treatments

If you notice your baby has become constipated you should try to resolve the issue quickly as an extended period without emptying the bowels will exacerbate the situation as more water is absorbed from the stools making them more difficult to pass.

Young infants should not be given over the counter laxatives without the consultation of a doctor, however there are some 'at home' remedies you can try to help your baby get things moving again.
  • Ensure your baby is getting enough fluid - if you are bottle feeding check that you are getting the formula powder:water ratio correct and if weaning supplement your baby's diet with cooled boiled water.
  • If your baby is already started on solids make sure he is getting plenty of fibrous fruit and vegetables. Prunes, pears, apricots and ripe bananas can be particularly good at relieving constipation.
  • Try lying your baby on his back and cycling his legs in the air - this can help to stimulate the digestive tract.
  • Massage your baby's stomach in a clockwise motion - this can be done while baby is in a warm bath or using lotion or oil to lubricate the skin as this helps to both relax baby and get digestion moving.
If your baby suffers from prolonged or regular constipation and you have checked that he is well hydrated and getting a balanced diet you should visit your health care provider for advice.

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At 17 months he should be having cows milk and normal foods not baby milk and jars so that could well be the issue. He is being fed like a baby when he is a toddler
by jane1978 14th Feb 2011, 9:04am
My grandson is 17 months old,over the last few months he has suffered from severe constipation,hes stools are huge are very hard, we gave him lactolose from chemist which had opposite effect,his stomach is swollen most of the time he gets hiccups alot,and every 3 to 4 weeks he projectile vomits,as i am the grandmother its very difficult for me get my point across as they think im over protective he has quite normal diet baby jars powdered milk etc please help
by nannyspiers 18th Oct 2010, 10:21am
What do you do when your baby continually gets constipated. from birth she gets constipated once evey two months.she is now one year old l introduced her on solids from the age of one month but she is still on breastmilk.
by Anibaby 2nd Nov 2009, 10:33am
Hi!iI have a 5 months old baby,and I have been exclusevely brestfeedig until a month ago.I m only giving him solids once a day ,but he has started to suffer with constipation now.Please help!WHAT CAN I DO?
by anadavid 15th May 2008, 8:52am