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Infant Constipation

Infant Constipation Symptoms

Infant constipation is characterized by the same signature, hard stools plaguing adult constipation sufferers. If an infant has not “filled” its diaper in more than three days, the kid is likely constipated. An infant’s bowels usually move up to four times a day, although the bowels of breast-fed babies move more often than those who are fed by bottle. By the time a child is two years old, the number of daily bowel movements should have decreased to two a day. Infant constipation is usually characterized by pain or distress in the infant when they are unable to empty their bowels.

infant constipation

Baby Bowel Habits

The bowel habits of babies begin to evolve as they make the transition to solid foods and so will the appearance and scent of the stool. Some babies will have bowel movements as frequently as every day, others may fill their diapers several times a day, and yet other babies may have to wait a few days between bowel movements. Since the intestines have to acclimate to the new form of nutrients brought on by the intro of solid foods, bouts with constipation may ensue. Dehydration can be another relevant factor during the shift to solid foods, as previously the infant was taking in plenty of liquids through the mother’s milk.

The Most Common Causes of Constipation in Infants

There are four very common causes of constipation in infants. Just take the introduction of solid foods, for instance. The introduction of solid foods into the diet tends to subject breast-fed babies to a higher potential for becoming constipated, especially once a breast-fed baby has been completely weaned from its mother’s milk. Similar to adult constipation, low fiber diets can provoke digestive trouble. Frequent feedings of rich dairy products, like yogurt, cheese, and cow’s milk, can contribute to constipation. Other foods linked to infant constipation include:

  • Bananas
  • Applesauce
  • Cereal
  • Bread
  • Pasta
  • Potatoes

Constipation in Breast-Fed and Bottle-Fed Babies

Breast-fed babies very rarely experience the discomfort of infant constipation. This is due to breast milk being more easily digestible than artificial formulas, making mother’s milk a diet of true efficiency and little waste. Nearly all breast milk is absorbed by the baby. The stool of breast-fed infants is comprised of a large volume of mucus and curds of undigested protein. During the period of birth up to two or three months of age, breast-fed babies generally experience frequent daily bowel movements , with the byproduct being a stool typically yellow in color. The large intestine of breast-fed babies is filled with several types of helpful bacteria serving to break down the indigestible portions of milk. Infants nourished on breast milk also exhibit elevated levels of a bowel movement increasing hormone called motiline.

Constipation is much more common in formula-fed babies who depend on a bottle for nourishment instead of on their mothers. The infant digestive system typically finds artificial baby formula more difficult to break down, subsequently resulting in fewer bowel movements than their breast-fed peers. In fact, the stool of bottle-fed infants appears quite different, usually being thicker, rougher, and green in color.

Effects of Constipation

Hard to pass stools is characteristic of constipation at any age. In infant constipation however, additional results may include anal fissures, bleeding internally (which may show up in the stool or the diaper), and pain. Consequently, an infant may begin “holding in” its bowel movements as a defensive measure. Lingering waste in the large intestine may result in compaction because of the child absorbing additional moisture from the stool, thereby making it even harder to pass. Colic, the inability to eat, and dilated intestines usually accompany infant constipation.

Constipation Remedies for Infants

There are a number of steps that you can take to help relieve constipation in babies:

  • Massages both soothe temperament and aid in digestion
  • Moving the legs in a circular motion exercises the pelvic muscles
  • Bathing calms frayed nerves and relaxes the muscles
  • Apply a petroleum-like jelly to heal any cracks in the anus
  • Avoid artificial, processed substances like formula and powdered mixes
  • Abstain from feeding your child meat-based baby-foods like “stew”

Additionally, a number of home remedies exist for infant constipation, but be sure to consult a qualified pediatrician for infants two months old and younger. Infants over two months have demonstrated an improvement in bowel habits when given two to four ounces of purified water twice daily. If constipation persists, administering two to four ounces of grape, prune, orange, apple, or pear juice two times a day may alleviate some symptoms, especially if dehydration is a concern. For infants who have already begun eating solid foods, implementing a diet rich in fiber twice a day may improve the condition. Some of the foods to give in moderation include peas, beans, pears, peaches, spinach, plums, and apricots. If chronic elimination problems persist, consult a doctor, since constipation has been associated with certain medical conditions like having an under-active thyroid. Take this problem seriously-your baby’s digestive health is a critical part of its ability to grow up healthy, to be happy, and especially to enjoy its time with you!

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