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Baby Constipation

baby constipationBaby constipation is a more common problem than many parents realize. Just as with adults, constipation in babies is characterized by having difficulty passing stools. On the other hand, symptoms of constipation cannot necessarily be recognized by how often the baby has a bowel movement because this changes from child to child and depends on the baby’s age as well. Newborns, for example, generally have bowel movements several times per day. In addition, a breastfed baby will tend to have softer stools while one fed artificial formula will have harder, darker stools.

Symptoms of Constipation In Babies

Despite the inconsistencies, there are a few signs to indicate constipation. These include:

  • Feces that is dry and hard or that looks like pebbles
  • Child appears to experience pain when having a bowel movement
  • Firm stools occurring less than once per day in newborns
  • Straining during a bowel movement, possibly accompanied by grunting, becoming red faced, or drawing the legs up to the abdomen
  • Discomfort or sensitivity in the baby’s abdominal area
  • Infrequent bowel movements
  • Streaks of blood on the outside of the BM

Causes of Baby Constipation

Diet is usually the culprit behind constipation whether we’re talking about a child or adult. If your baby was doing just fine with his or her bowel movements and then begins experiencing trouble, you should examine their diet and see if any unusual changes have been made recently. Switching from breastmilk to formula can certainly lead to baby constipation, as can switching from formula to cow’s milk.

Feeding formula in general can cause baby constipation quite readily. So, if you are bottle-feeding your baby and they are suffering from constipation, try feeding a bottle of pure drinking water every day as well. This can help with the problem because stools need water in order to remain soft.

Emotional issues can also lead to constipation. When a baby becomes upset, the intestines can begin to malfunction. For some individuals this can lead to diarrhea. In others, constipation is the result.

Complications of Constipation

Unfortunately, baby constipation can become a seemingly unending cycle. As your baby experiences difficulty with having bowel movements, he or she will begin retaining BM’s in order to avoid the pain associated with them. Holding the stool in causes it to become harder, because the colon will reabsorb the water, and then it becomes even more difficult to pass. In addition, the hard stool remaining in the intestines causes the muscles to stretch and become weaker. Consequently, the baby is eventually unable to push with the force needed to remove the stool.

Relieving Constipation In Babies

There are several things you can do to help your child get through his or her constipation troubles. First of all, be sure you are providing your baby enough fluids. Drinking more fluids (preferably breastmilk and water) equates to greater amounts of moisture in your baby’s colon. This means the colon will not need to take fluid from your baby’s stool and cause it to become dry and hard.

Adding fiber to your baby’s diet is also beneficial because it adds bulk to stools and aids in water retention for necessary softening. In infants and older kids, fiber can be added to the diet by including more graham crackers, bran cereals, whole grain crackers, whole grain breads, and vegetables. Vegetables that are particularly high in fiber include beans, broccoli, and peas. Obviously, babies can’t chew or digest these foods; but they can still obtain the ingredients through breastfeeding if you eat them. Remember—your baby eats whatever you do if you stick to breastmilk, which requires caution on your part as well regarding spicy foods, alcohol, or drugs of any kind. At any rate, increasing the amount of fiber in your child’s diet makes it even more important for you to increase the fluid intake as well, since the fiber needs water in order to do its job.

Movement also helps work stools through the bowels. So, engage your baby in as much physical activity as possible. You can start with simple exercises, such as moving your baby’s legs in a cycling motion as he or she lies down. Make a game of it, like “bicycling” somewhere or pretending he or she is running to you. This can be great fun for your baby while also helping to get things moving again!

Massage can also be helpful in stimulating the bowels while simultaneously providing your baby’s aching abdomen with soothing relief. To massage your baby’s tummy, begin at his or her belly button. Then, move outward from your baby’s belly button while creating circular patterns in a clockwise direction. To aid in the massage, you might want to try oil or lotion. Immersing your baby in a warm bath while massaging his or her abdomen can also encourage the bowels to work by relaxing the muscles.

You can also try a natural laxative, such as prune juice with pulp, to help fight off baby constipation. For a six-month-old, you should need only a tablespoon or two. A toddler, on the other hand, may need to drink a small glass of prune juice. Other fruit that can provide a laxative effect include pears, peaches, plums, and apricots.

Psyllium husks can also be helpful, and they can be easily sprinkled onto your baby’s cereal or mixed in with other foods. Start with just one teaspoon every day and increase to two teaspoons if needed. Your baby will need to drink many fluids while using Pysllium husks, so be sure to supply your baby with plenty of water to drink.

Summing It All Up

Let’s review: Be alert for signs of constipation such as pain or sensitivity, infrequency of bowel movements, stools that are hard, dry, or granular, and especially any blood in the stool. Pay attention to baby’s diet; choose breastfeeding if possible but you can always supplement their fluid intake with fresh drinking water. Try to add fiber to your baby’s diet for lessening the effort required to have a BM. Make sure your child gets plenty of exercise and give massages; they are just as beneficial and pleasing for babies and they are for you. As a last resort, give a mild, natural laxative to get your child through that difficult spell of baby constipation. They will love you for it!

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