Constipation is quite a common condition in babies especially when they start to have solid food. Some insight about baby constipation remedies to provide you effective and absolutely safe solutions for your reference.
How do you tell your babies are constipated? Look for the sign of babies having difficulty trying to pass stool and monitor the frequency of bowel movement. Usually breastfed babies may not have bowel movement from 7 days to 2 weeks time. It does not mean they are constipated, but most of the nutrients are well absorbed. Normal healthy babies who are formula-fed may have bowel movement 2-4 times a day or sometimes once every few days, depending on the type of formula.
What is constipation?
Constipation is a condition when one is having difficulty to empty bowel. If babies are having more than 2 conditions listed below, It is determined ones is having constipation:
- Having bowel movement less than 2 times a week
- Passing hard stool looks like small little pebbles
- Having large stool due to accumulation of stool for a period which obstructs the normal passage of stool
- Pass out loose and watery stool as a result of the large stool blocking the passage
- Blood stool due to babies are pushing too hard causing little tear at the anal wall
- Babies are straining, face turning red and crying whenever they try to have bowel movements.
- For older babies, bloated tummy, abdominal pain and lost of appetite
What is the solutions?
Exclusively breast-fed babies normally do not have constipation issue as nearly most of the nutrients from the breast milk are well absorbed. These type of babies stool are usually soft and runny like a consistency of yellow mustard. Sometimes, looks “seedy” as it appears like little seeds and these are undigested milk fat which you do not have to worry about.
For babies who are exclusively formula-fed, their stools are little firmer than breast-fed babies. Normal babies stools are like peanut butter consistency and they are likely to face constipation issues under these circumstances :
- switching breast milk to formula milk
- they start eating solid foods
- insufficient fluid intake
- cow’s milk protein allergy
- they start toilet/potty training for toddlers
1. Dietary change
Sometimes, change of milk powder will be able to solve infant constipation issues. Formula milk powder is thicker consistency and they are more difficult to digest than breast milk. That is why the stools are firmer and accumulation of stool will cause even larger stool which is more difficult to pass out.
When switching breast milk to formula milk, there is a transition period whereby your babies’ system will take times to adjust to these changes. Short term constipation will happen but your babies will slowly go back to normal pooping after that.
There are also instances when parents think that their babies are not having enough milk (always hungry) and tend to increase milk powder without following the instruction given by the manufacturer. This in fact will cause dehydration by increasing the milk powder to make up the bottle and cause constipation. Therefore, it is important to follow the instruction (right measurement) to make up the bottle. Thicker consistency will make the constipation worse.
Some babies do react on the cow’s milk protein. Cow’s milk is more difficult to digest compared to breast milk. If your babies encounter constipation and other allergy reaction such as skin problem like hives and eczema when your babies consuming cow’s milk formula, you may switch from standard cow’s milk formula to extensively or partially hydrolyzed milk powder which is an easy-to- digest protein formula.
World Health Organization recommended having exclusive breastfeeding your babies until they reach at least 6 months of age. It will greatly eliminate constipation issues in your babies.
There are infant formulas which are fortified with probiotics which are live microorganisms, to promote healthy intestinal environment for babies. Some evidence of research done to prove the benefits of probiotics to gastrointestinal system:
- Recent research from NCCIH (National Centre for Complementary & Integrative Health) on probiotics for constipation in children in 2017 review give more optimistic approach that probiotics indeed increase in stool frequency.
- A study was conducted in year 2014, on Use of probiotics in the prevention of colic, regurgitation and functional constipation involving 589 infants for 3 months has proven that probiotics such as Lactobacillus reuteri can reduce the constipation in newborn.
You can find probiotics in various products – infant formula, probiotics drop, dietary supplement & food such as yogurt.
High fiber food
When babies reach 6 months of age, you may introduce some solid food. During the transition period when babies start to have solid food, there are chances that babies get constipated. Again, your babies digestive system need to adjust to digest semi-solid or solid food. Therefore, it is important to note which are the best babies food to be given that are rich in fiber. High fiber food is good to promote regular bowel movement but it has to go with sufficient liquid intake to play its role.
- Fruit and vegetables purée,
- Rice cereal
Just to name a few. Here is a useful pediatric feeding guideline. It provides guideline on infant feeding milestone which is easy to follow especially to new moms.
Liquid intake must be adequate to ensure the smooth bowel movement. Lack of liquid in babies body will cause dehydration and constipation may arise too. For babies below 6 months of age, water is not necessary as they are having sufficient liquid from breast milk or formula. However, a sip or two will not cause any harm.
After babies start getting solid food, you may introduce water in a sippy cup. Limit 2-4 ounce of water a day for babies 6-12 months old. Depends on the weather condition, if it is hot and humid, you can give 6-8 ounce of water to avoid dehydration and constipation. When babies reach more than 12 months old, you can offer water whenever they are thirsty, rest assure that babies can get almost 20% of liquid from the food and as long as their wet nappies change are about 4-6 times a day and the color is pale yellow, they should be well hydrated.
How about fruit juice? According to AAP ( American Academy Paediatrics) advised parents do not give fruit juice to infants below 1 year old. Parents can offer half a cup or 4 ounces of 100% fruit juices to baby starting 1 year old. The amount of fruit juice can be increased slowly by age. Too much of the fruit juice can lead to other problem like obesity, tooth decay and failure to thrive.
It is not advisable to give babies medicine or over-the-counter drug to solve their constipation problem. However, there are times when babies are straining and crying due to too large rectum mass blocking the passage of stool. Immediate medical treatment is the only way out and usually they are effective.
There are safe medicine which you can give to your babies either orally or through rectal disimpaction. Check with your doctor or health professional for the right medicine for your babies.
1. Laxatives such as lactulose, lactitole, sorbitol, magnesium salt, polyethylene glycol electrolyte solution, senna
2. Stool softener glycerine suppositories
The treatment for constipation for babies are usually to soften stool and prevent the accumulation of stool which may form bulky stool which is hard to pass out. Use of drug is the temporary measure and implementation of dietary change shall be prioritized.
Even though the medicines are safe for babies, there are always a risk of adverse side effects and the dosage shall not be more than prescribed amount.
3. Massage and bicycle exercise
My personal experience when my child had constipation after she started solid food, we only seek for medical treatment which I was aware that it is not a long term solution. In order to solve it, implement no. 1 solution which is dietary change is crucial.
Do not undermine constipation issue as it will create greater problem if you do not find out the solutions. Always keep in mind “prevention is better than cure”.
Please drop me a comment if you encounter constipation in your babies and share with us your experience here in the comment box below.