As a new parent, you find yourself more curious and concerned with poop than ever before. When your baby is constipated and having trouble or lack of pooping it can be very painful for baby and disconcerting for you as a parent. Along with pain and excessive crying, constipation can also interfere with regular feeding. For your baby’s health—and your own sleep/sanity—it’s always recommended to take a proactive approach to ease your baby’s constipation.
What is Constipation?
Constipation is a condition where the correct number of bowel movements are not taking place. For adults, this is about three times a week, whereas for babies it is upwards of three times a day.
It’s best to understand why your baby is crying, so you can do the best you can to help them. Whether through various physical therapies, a change in diet, or the right natural supplement, there are many ways to ease the pain of constipation.
The key factor to understand is that the passing of a stool should be a regular way for your baby to rid itself of waste. Yet, pain during pooping is an important sign to understand if your baby is constipated.
When Do Babies Suffer Constipation?
An infant may suffer constipation throughout the day, since they usually poop at least three times daily. If your baby has a specific rhythm of feeding and pooping, you’ll know something’s wrong when that rhythm is interrupted.
For babies, constipation is a painful experience. When babies experience pain, they will cry to let you know. If your baby is crying and hasn’t pooped in a while, all signs point to infant constipation as the problem.
What Causes Baby Constipation?
Baby constipation is something we’re only aware of through excessive crying or a lower frequency of pooping. Though there are many causes of baby constipation, including but not limited to diet, medication, and prematurity.
How your baby reacts to the food he or she eats is a major factor in baby constipation. Many times, moving from one type of food to another requires a transition period for your baby’s digestive system. Moving from breastmilk to formula, or to cow’s milk, can cause constipation.
Moving to solid foods can also cause constipation. While still developing, a baby’s digestive system can see solid food as something to be rejected as it’s not used to breaking down harder compounds.
We’re all familiar with the side effects of medications. For infants, almost every medication has a side effect, and infant constipation could be one of them.
Medications that have a high iron content can often cause constipation. Some pain relievers also list constipation as a side effect.
If you’re concerned one of your baby’s medications is causing constipation, consult your pediatrician about a potential medication change.
Many babies are born prematurely each year. Premature babies often have organs that are underdeveloped, which could impact digestion.
With underdeveloped gastrointestinal tracts, premature infants will have a harder time passing stools. If the GI tract is underdeveloped, this can lead to lower rate of digestion, meaning harder stools are produced.
What Are the Signs of Baby Constipation?
Trying to tell whether your baby is constipated is a guessing game. Since your baby cannot simply tell you, “Mommy, I’m constipated,” that means we as mothers must take all the evidence we have on hand to determine if constipation truly is the problem.
Signs of constipation include:
- Excessive crying
- Irregular bowel movements
- Blood in their stool
- Hard belly
- Loss of appetite
How to Tell Your Baby Is Constipated
Since constipation is a source of pain, a crying baby is a pretty good indicator of constipation. All mothers seem to have one sure-fire way to calm down their baby, but if this doesn’t ease the pain of constipation, this could be an issue to address.
You can take note of when your baby is crying. If it is right after a feeding, this could indicate that your baby’s gastrointestinal tract is not pushing out poop once new food is introduced.
How Often Should Your Baby Poop?
The frequency pooping is a clear indicator of if your baby is constipated. Much of this depends on what your baby is eating.
Breast milk contains a natural laxative that will often lead to pooping almost immediately after feeding. Sometimes—as is the case with those little poop machines—a breastfed baby can poop several times a day.
Bottle-fed babies will poop less often, mainly because formula can be more difficult for a baby to digest. The frequency will be lower, and it’s at this stage that many babies begin to experience constipation.
Solid foods are furthermore difficult to digest. This means that your baby’s gastrointestinal tract will have to work even harder as it transitions to breaking down solid food.
What Happens When a baby is Constipated?
Constipation is defined as the inability to pass a stool. But, what actually happens?
In most all cases, the stool is too solid to pass through the gastrointestinal tract. Many times, this is simply because the poop can’t be broken down into a soft-enough form to pass through a baby’s still-developing digestive system.
As you’ve probably seen, baby poop is most often soft, and sometimes liquid. This is largely because it’s much easier to pass a soft material through a developing digestive tract than solid matter. Adult poop is very often solid, mostly because we’ve moved on to solid foods years ago.
If you see your baby has a more solid poop, you can bet it was painful for your baby to pass. Along with the crying and discomfort your baby may experience after a feeding, a solid poop is one of the clearest indicators your little nugget is feeling constipated.
How Long Does Constipation Last?
In many instances of baby constipation are caused by adjusting to new diets, meaning it’s only a matter of time before your baby’s gastrointestinal tract matures enough to handle formula or solid food. This doesn’t mean you have to wait for your baby to develop to ease constipation—by using various safe remedies such as juices, foods, and organic supplements, you can safely curb your baby’s constipation pain while also offering yourself some much-needed relief.
Remedies for Baby Constipation
You may be familiar with various juices that are helpful in easing constipation. Prune juice is an incredibly powerful, simple, and healthy way to ease constipation, but you may not know that apple and pear juice are also effective remedies.
This is because these fruits contain sorbitol, a natural laxative found in many foods. Sorbitol works by drawing water into the gastrointestinal tract which can break down solid stools, one of the leading causes of constipation. As these are fruit juices, you can be assured they are a great healthy alternative for your baby—an added bonus: they are tasty too!
A note on juices—a baby’s palate might be sensitive to the acidity of various juices. This can be eased by simply diluting the juice with water to your baby’s liking.
2. High Fiber Foods
Various foods are also great remedies for constipation. Breast milk contains natural laxatives, in part because of baby’s developing gastrointestinal tract in the first months of life. Sometimes pediatricians will suggest reverting to breast milk during a period of constipation to give baby’s body more time to adjust to formula or solid foods.
Foods high in fiber are also great for baby constipation. Oatmeal cereals, fruit sauces (apples, pears, and prunes for example), and many vegetables such as broccoli are effective food remedies for constipation. Depending on your baby’s age, introducing these foods as solids might be recommended by your pediatrician.
3. Physical Therapies
One of the tell-tale signs of constipation is a taut or hard stomach, potentially caused by gas buildup. Gently massaging the stomach can help to ease pain and has been known to encourage bowel movements.
You can also encourage your baby to exercise, either with guided movements, such as bicycling their legs, or by simply moving around. Getting the muscles moving allows the colon to contract with baby’s movements, potentially breaking down harder stools and fostering healthy bowel movements.
4. Natural Supplements
There are many various supplements known to be beneficial for baby constipation.
Gripe water is made most often with ginger and fennel, gripe water is a great way to relieve gas and the associated pain that follows. What’s important about easing pain is the strain it causes on the colon—as the muscles are relaxed, regular bowel movements and passing stools becomes much easier.
Similarly, probiotics help foster healthy colons, as harmful bacteria are replaced with healthy bacteria. This has the potential to improve colon operation and lead to a healthier gastrointestinal tract while your baby is still growing. A formula like Mommy’s Bliss Probiotic Drops are great for babies as they can be adding right into formula, with breast milk, or applied on breast when feeding.
The Best for Your Baby
Constipation is a complicated issue for infants and newborns. As a parent you want to do what is best for your baby. Regardless of how you choose to help ease baby’s constipation, it’s always advisable to contact your pediatrician about issues surrounding constipation.
With all the factors that can contribute to constipation, a strong relationship with your pediatrician is crucial to ensuring you make the right choice for baby.