To learn how to relieve constipation in babies, you must first determine what their normal pattern of bowel movements is.
It’s considered normal for a baby to have from one bowel movement after every meal to having one bowel movement a day. Believe it or not, both are considered totally normal!
It all depends on how the baby is fed, what they eat, what they drink, how active they are, how fast they digest their food and, of course, their genes.
When a baby is breastfed
For a newborn who’s totally breastfed, there’s no “normal” number of bowel movements. Their poop is usually yellowish-orange and soft, even when they haven’t pooped for days.
A breastfed baby can poop from 4 or 5 times a day to once a week. Breast milk is the perfect blend of nutrients, proteins, and fats, so many breastfed babies simply don’t have a lot of waste to dispose of.
You’ll gradually learn your baby’s habits. Also, you’ll learn what foods you should and shouldn’t eat while breastfeeding them.
When a baby drinks formula
One of the advantages of breast milk over formula is that there’s no way a breastfed baby can suffer from constipation. However, their new intestines can have a hard time digesting formula.
Some formula ingredients may cause constipation in babies. Finding the right formula for your baby can be a harrowing and stressful process that will surely affect the newborn, thus complicating things even more.
Once you have determined what the perfect formula for your baby is, it’s considered normal for your baby to have one bowel movement a day. However, choosing to breastfeed your baby over formulas is the best choice for your baby’s overall health.
When they start eating solid foods
Generally, constipation problems start when the baby starts eating solid foods, even if they’re still breastfed. You probably won’t see any signs of constipation if you give them fruits and vegetables.
However, when they start eating cereals (mainly industrialized foods made of rice), the first signs of constipation begin to appear:
- Less frequent bowel movements, indicating your baby’s normal pattern has changed.
- Difficult passage of stools.
- Stools are harder and drier.
Other causes of constipation in babies
If your baby is dehydrated, their stools will be even drier and harder. They will have more difficulty passing stools because their body reacts to dehydration by absorbing more liquid, both from the foods and liquids they consume as from what’s already processed in their intestines.
Also, there are medical conditions that can cause constipation, such as hypothyroidism, botulism, certain metabolic disorders, and food allergies.
Hirschsprung’s disease or congenital megacolon is the least common disease. It’s diagnosed in the first few weeks of life and prevents the proper functioning of the intestine.
If there are no clear reasons for hard and difficult to pass stools, you should consult with your doctor to rule out any disease.
How to relieve constipation in babies
- Try to make your baby move. If your baby already crawls, encourage them to do so. If they still don’t crawl, lay them on their back and bend their legs towards their chest and up and down, as if they were pedaling a bicycle.
- Massage their belly. Do so below the navel, about three fingers to the left, press gently but firmly until you feel a lump. Keep the pressure for about three minutes.
- Change their baby formula. Check with your doctor about what may be the best choice for your baby.
- Although juices aren’t recommended for infants, consult with your doctor if you can give them some prune juice or apple juice and incorporate them into breast milk or formula.
- If your baby has already started eating solid foods, avoid cooked rice and carrots. Rather, incorporate plum, peach, or pear puree into their diet.
- A baby can’t take laxatives without your doctor’s approval.
- Don’t stimulate their anus with a thermometer. This can be very dangerous for your baby.
- The use of glycerin suppositories to relieve severe constipation must be under strict medical supervision because frequent use can be addictive.
When to talk to your doctor
Talk to your doctor if:
- The constipation doesn’t get better, despite diet changes.
- Your baby has bloody and painful stools.
- Your baby loses weight and doesn’t want to eat.