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Newborn Constipation

Newborn babies are basically ready for life when they are born healthy after nine months of development. However, their many bodily systems have yet to be fully formed. Many of their systems require certain measures to fully support their new bodies and to ensure the newborn baby is provided the best opportunity for good health, both now and in the future. Newborn babies are prone to a variety of different conditions that are not always serious, but do need to be addressed in the most natural and safest method possible.

newborn constipationOne of the conditions experienced by newborn babies is constipation. Constipation is characterized by the lack of a bowel movement for three to seven days for adults, but for newborn infants, the lack of at least one bowel movement per day is a sign of constipation. Newborn babies are prone to constipation due to their still developing digestive tracts.

Newborn Digestive System

The digestive system is comprised of the mouth, salivary glands, esophagus, stomach, small and large intestine, pancreas, and anus. These systems are still being populated with beneficial bacteria. Also, the immune system, which is chiefly connected to the digestive system, is also in the early stages of being strengthened and developed. Often, nursing mothers may consume a new food that causes newborn constipation via transmission through the breast milk. A process of elimination can help in determining the food causing the infant distress, and steps can be taken by the mother to avoid this food item until the baby’s digestive tract is further strengthened.

Causes of Newborn Constipation

In the modern era, an increasing number of infants are being fed formula milk, or a type other than the mother’s breast milk. Breast milk is a natural source of beneficial bacteria, immune system cells, and nutrition designed for consumption by a baby’s system. When artificial formulas or alternate-source milk is ingested by the baby, side effects such as newborn constipation may occur. When a newborn baby is not receiving strains of beneficial bacteria from breast milk, this reduces the population of bacteria in the baby’s intestinal tract. This deficiency also reduces the availability of digestive enzymes for breaking down the sugars found in milk—especially formula milk or cow’s milk. This can result in a slower transit time of food and waste and may manifest itself as constipation. Breast-fed babies also receive higher levels of the hormone motiline, which naturally increases the number of bowel movements an infant experiences daily. Formula-fed infants do not receive the same amount of this hormone and this compromises their ability to attain bowel regularity.

Though all newborn babies require food in the form of milk, newborns also need sufficient hydration, and if the main source for milk is not sufficient, your baby may require an extra bottle of water each day. To summarize, constipation can simply be a symptom of dehydration.

Other causes of newborn constipation include a lack of muscle movement. The anal sphincter muscles in newborn babies are still learning to expand and relax, and so sometimes bowel movements remain in place due to the infant’s body learning its tasks. Movement and infant exercises can stimulate the newborn’s muscles and digestive tract and promote a bowel movement. Gently massaging your baby’s abdomen and moving his or her legs in a gentle pumping motion back and forth can stimulate the muscles, promote the movement of gas and stool, and comfort your newborn overall. Applying Vaseline® to your infant’s anus will lubricate the area and help make passing a bowel movement easier.

Treating Constipation in Newborns

It is important to remember a newborn baby’s systems are highly sensitive and are still in the process of developing. The foods and medicines introduced into its system now will play an important role in his or her overall development and health in the years to come. Be sure not to give your newborn baby laxatives of any kind, as this could damage the nerve and muscle development within the intestines. Newborn constipation is relatively normal and occurs in many infants. In nearly every case, it can be quickly remedied with time and with a few of the home remedies mentioned in this article. If symptoms that are more serious appear, or the constipation lasts more than a week and does not respond to natural remedies, consult a qualified pediatrician.

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