Editor-s Choice: Oxy-Powder®

Constipation in Babies

Just like in adults, constipation causes much discomfort for babies and toddlers. This can also present trouble for the parents, as they attempt to soothe a crying and achy baby.  Many sleepless nights for parents and children can be avoided by taking a few simple steps for preventing and treating constipation in babies.

Recognizing Symptoms of Baby Constipation

Constipation in babies is a condition usually fairly easy to recognize, though it can be tricky at times since the baby or toddler’s age affects the symptoms presented and can even change the method of treatment needed.  For example, newborns generally have several bowel movements per day whereas toddlers may only have one every day or two.  Just as with adults, each toddler’s digestive system operates on its own schedule, but everyone should have at least one bowel movement per day for optimum health.

The consistency of the stool will also vary depending on the child’s age and diet.  If the infant is breastfed, for example, the stool will be softer than from a baby that is fed formula.  Formula fed babies tend to have firmer BM’s that are also darker in color.

Although variables can affect the signs of constipation in babies, there are a few special indicators for which parents should remain alert. These signs are:

  • Dry, hard stool
  • Stool that looks like small, hard pebbles
  • Straining or appearing to be in pain while having a bowel movement, possibly characterized by grunting, a red face, or bringing the legs up to the abdomen while having a bowel movement.
  • General discomfort in the abdominal area that is accompanied by sporadic or infrequent bowel movements
  • Blood in or around the stool

Causes of Baby Constipation

Constipation in Babies
Constipation in babies is most commonly caused by diet or changes in diet.  If your infant or toddler was having regular bowel movements before and is suddenly experiencing constipation, you should take a closer look at any dietary changes you may have made recently.  Changing from breastmilk to formula or from formula to cow’s milk may cause constipation.

Even if your child has been fed only formula up until now, he or she may experience constipation as well.  This is because formula has a tendency to cause constipation.  Emotional issues can also lead to constipation, for example—if your infant or toddler is upset or anxious for some reason.

Treating Constipation in Babies

If you suspect your child is constipated because of formula, you may be able to alleviate the problem by feeding them a bottle of water everyday. Often, this extra water will help hydrate the digestive system and loosen up bowel movements. Even if the problem is not caused by formula, increasing the amount of water in your child’s diet can be very beneficial when it comes to relieving symptoms of constipation.

You can also treat constipation in babies by increasing the amount of fiber in your child’s diet.  Fiber cannot be digested by the human body. Therefore, the fiber remains in the colon and absorbs water, which helps soften the stool.  It also adds bulk to the stool, making it easier for the body to eliminate it.

Fiber can be found in fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. So, including bran cereals, graham crackers, whole wheat breads (not bleached or enriched white flour), whole grain crackers, fruit, and vegetables in your baby’s diet will help your child with constipation. When increasing the amount of fiber in your child’s diet, it is particularly important to also increase the amount of water your child drinks. If you do not increase water intake along with the increase in fiber consumption, you can actually worsen your child’s problem.

To improve your child’s fiber intake, you might also add a small amount of Psyllium husk to his or her diet.  These husks can be simply sprinkled on your child’s cereal or mix it in with other food your child enjoys eating. You can start with just one teaspoon of Psyllium husk every day and increase the dosage to two teaspoons if necessary.

As with adults, movement also helps relieve constipation in babies. You can place your child on his or her back and move their legs in a cycling motion.  Not only will this help get things moving in the body, it is a great bonding opportunity for you and your baby.  You should engage your child in active play on a regular basis, which is great for his or her overall health, fitness, and growth. You can also stimulate your baby’s digestive function by massaging his or her abdomen.

If your baby suffers from constipation, it is important to take steps right away in order to resolve the problem.  If your baby is constipated, he or she will attempt to hold the stool in, which will only worsen the problem.  In addition, your child’s intestines will actually become weaker as they become stretched by the hard, impacted waste.  As a result, your baby will not be able to effectively move the BM through his or her digestive system and additional health concerns may arise. So take care with your child’s digestive health just as you would your own—add fresh clean water for proper hydration, increase fiber from natural whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, and don’t forget to make exercise a priority to help alleviate constipation in babies. You will both enjoy your time together much more if they are not upset from being constipated!

Have a question? Ask an expert.
[contact-form-7 id="1477" title="Ask An Expert"]