Constipation in Babies

New parents are always anxious about their baby's health. They constantly look for small assurances such as frequent smiles and laughs that their babies are okay. As a new parent, you cannot ignore your baby's poop. Regular poop indicates that your baby is feeding well. If your baby does not poop as usual, it could signal a problem. How do you tell that your baby has constipation? The signs, causes, and treatment options for constipation in babies are outlined below.

How to Tell If Your Baby Is Constipated

Babies do not follow any schedule in their bowel movements. Their bowel movements and poo texture vary from time to time. The following signs suggest that your baby is constipated:

  • Pain, discomfort, crying, and irritation before bowel movements
  • The baby's belly is hard
  • Poo resembles hard and dry pellet and is difficult to pass
  • Less than three bowel movements in a week
  • Lack of appetite
  • Poo and wind with a foul smell
  • Very liquid poo is also a sign of constipation. Sometimes liquid poo passes a blockage of hard poo in the baby's lower intestine. It may appear as diarrhea but, is in reality, a sign of constipation.

What Could Be the Causes?

1. Solid Foods

Constipation in babies is common when you first start your babies with solids as their bodies are learning how to digest and manage the newly introduced foods. Solid foods such as rice cereal that are low in fiber may cause mild constipation. This is common when weaning your baby for the first time as weaning your baby from breast milk sometimes leaves your baby dehydrated and leads to constipation.

2. Formula Milk

Exclusive breast-feeding rarely leads to constipation because breast milk balances proteins and fats. Breastfed babies pass soft stool even if bowel movements delay for several days.

If you feed your baby with formula milk, your baby is more likely to experience constipation as formula milk is more difficult to digest than breast milk, which can lead to firm and bulky poo. Some components in formula, especially protein, may lead to constipation. Hence, you should consult your doctor before switching from one brand of formula to another.

3. Dehydration

When your bay is dehydrated, the body absorbs more fluid from food, drinks, and waste in the bowels. Consequently, the poo is dry, hard, and difficult to pass. Dehydration can occur if your baby is not getting enough milk due to teething, thrush, cold, ear infection or throat infection. Whatever the reason is, act quickly to address the condition for a healthy baby.

4. Medical Condition or Illness

It is rare for medical conditions to lead to constipation. However, some underlying conditions such as food allergies, hypothyroidism, metabolic disorders, and botulism may cause constipation. Always consult your baby's doctor if you cannot determine the reason why your baby has hard, dry and painful stools.

How to Help Your Constipated Baby

Constipation in babies, though not a life-threatening issue, can cause you to worry a lot. The good thing is that you can use the following remedies to help your constipated baby:

1. Introduce Water or Fruit Juice

Add a small water serving to your baby's daily diet to relieve constipation. If water servings are ineffective, try pear, apple, or prune juice. Give 100% serving of any of these juices every day with the usual feedings. Give 2-4 ounces, that is, 60-120 millimeters at first and then add or reduce the amount depending on the results.

2. Puree Baby Food

Solid foods are a major cause of constipation in babies. Try switching from solid foods to pureed prunes or peas.

3. Massage the Belly

Massage your baby's tummy gently and in a clockwise direction. Start from the navel and then rub your hands in a circular motion as you move out and away from the center of the belly.

4. Choose the Right Food to Give

  • Substitute whole grain cereal for refined or white cereals such as white rice cereal. You can also replace rice cereal with barley cereal.
  • Include high fiber fruits, vegetables, and foods in your baby's diet. These include peas, prunes, broccoli, sweet potatoes, spinach, pears, beans, peaches, apricots and plums.
  • Avoid foods that cause constipation such as carrot baby food, foods thickened with tapioca and applesauce.
  • Dairy products cause constipation in older children. Reduce your child's intake of these foods: refined carbohydrates, cheese, and milk. Substitute them with high-fiber products such as fruits and vegetables, whole breads and whole grain cereals.

5. Try Bicycle Legs

Hold your baby's legs in half-bent position as the baby lies on his or her back. Move the legs in cycling motions. Combine bicycle legs and tummy massages for faster results. Bicycle legs help the baby pass excess gas.

6. Other Remedies

  • Switch formula brands: Formulas with high rice cereal and casein content are more likely to cause constipation. Switch such brands with alternative brands if constipation is persistent.
  • Give a warm bath: A warm bath helps your baby relax and pass stool. Try a tummy message after the bath.

When to See a Doctor

Call your baby's doctor if:

  • Your baby stops eating, passes stool with blood or loses weight significantly.
  • Home remedies do not relieve his or her constipation.
  • Your baby is less than 4 months and passes very hard stools or has no bowel movement within 24 hours of the usual bowel movement.

In addition, consult your doctor before giving a suppository or laxative. Underlying conditions such as cystic fibrosis, Hirschsprung's disease, and hypothyroidism rarely cause constipation in babies. Immediate medical attention is necessary whenever infant constipation persists after changes in diet or is accompanied by additional symptoms such as rectal bleeding and vomiting.

 
 
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