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.
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.