Last Updated on February 9, 2023
Infant constipation is not uncommon. In fact, it can happen to as many as 20% of newborn babies and cause distress to parents. This blog post explains what the causes of constipation are, the signs that a newborn may be experiencing when constipated and how to relieve it quickly. It also discusses prevention strategies for newborns so that they will never experience this uncomfortable condition again and you, devoted mums and dads, have no more worries.
Signs Of a Constipated Baby
There are several signs of newborn constipation:
- The baby’s poo is harder than normal. It becomes dry, increasing the difficulty of passing it.
- Baby is crying when pooing or straining while pooing. This means that baby’s bowel movements are not enough for the rectum to be relaxed, which leads to bleeding sometimes.
- Baby’s poo is very dark in colour and smells bad.
- Baby is pooing less, or the poo is very small. This can happen because baby isn’t able to release large poos due to hard stool that doesn’t allow it to relax and pass through easily.
- More severe symptoms are vomiting, fever or ear infection
What Causes Constipation In Newborn Babies?
In general, exclusively breastfeeding babies for the first six months of their life will generally help them stay away from certain issues related to bowel movements when compared to formula feeding. Breast milk is more ideal for babies to digest than formula milk. Hence, some people think only bottle-fed babies will suffer from this problem. However, baby constipation is common among both breastfed and formula-fed babies. The reasons for a baby’s constipation are not all about the diet but are a lot more complicated than what we think:
Common Causes With Milk
- Younger babies are less likely to develop constipation problems because their digestive system is still not fully developed. However, a breastfed baby may not be getting enough fibre from the mother’s milk to help with digestion.
- Formula-fed babies are more vulnerable than breastfed babies because formula milk lacks healthy fibre. The child may also be suffering from iron and vitamin deficiency that will cause newborn baby constipation issues like hard stools, painful pooing or tummy cramping.
Constipation In Toddlers When Weaning
To older babies and toddlers, when they start to consume solid foods, there are a few things that could lead to constipation:
- Parents introduce solid foods too soon when baby’s tummy is not ready.
- Baby is not getting enough fluids like fruit juices, or soups
- Baby may not be getting enough fibre from fruits or veggies to help digestion when eating.
- Parents give a big portion in one sitting that the baby can’t handle properly while still learning how to swallow and chew solids correctly.
- Some baby food ingredient is causing constipating issues, such as dairy products, soy milk, cereals and whole wheat flour.
- Too little water is consumed.
- There may be days that there are dietary changes which isn’t processed well by some toddlers.
In some rare cases, a baby is constipated because of underlying illnesses like:
- Hirschsprung’s disease
- Cystic fibrosis
How To Relieve Constipation In Babies Quickly?
It is important to deal with constipation quickly once you notice the symptoms because it makes the baby uncomfortable and could cause problems later on if they don’t get any relief. If you have a dietician check out a baby’s diet, routines, breast milk or infant formula, he/she can give you some expert advice on what can be done to help them. But there are a few things that you might want to try at home before going to see your healthcare professional:
- Give them less milk and more water
- Try to use organic infant formula with more fibre for a few days to see if the poo can pass easily
- Babies should drink about four cups of fluid per day. When their stools are dry and hard, feed them some prunes, apricot, pear juice or any other fresh fruit juice you have
- Give them less cereal in their feedings
- Your little one’s diet should include soft foods such as mashed sweet potatoes, beans, cooked carrots and peas.
- Citrus or other fruits like bananas could be used to replace heavy snacks like bread or cookies
- Give your baby a gentle massage or encourage your little one’s legs to move or at least get involved in more physical activities
- Use natural laxatives like a prune, pear puree or corn syrup to the constipated baby first.
- Check with your healthcare professional, who can provide medical advice before using any stimulant laxatives, to see if it is okay for the baby.
- If you suspect that there are underlying conditions such as food allergies, lactose intolerance, or an enzyme deficiency, then seek help from a paediatrician right away to get proper treatment.
How To Prevent Newborn Constipation?
There are many parenting tips that are recommended by doctors to avoid newborn constipation:
- Let the baby sit upright for 30 minutes after each meal
- Breastfeeding should be done more often, especially in the first two months.
- Try to enrich your breast milk with a healthy diet, and avoid these foods
- Formula-feeding a baby at a fixed time every three to four hours is recommended
- Never miss a health check with your doctor while breastfeeding
- If you are breastfeeding, check your own poo and make sure that you are not constipated
- Avoid cow’s milk and opt for soy or almond milk instead
- Limit the intake amount of formula for your toddler when weaning
- Say no to any products which contain mineral oil when the baby starts eating solids foods
- Give the baby various fresh vegetables and fruits as they are rich in fibre
- Make sure the baby is relaxed when they poo by providing a comfortable and warm environment
- Solid food like meat and veggies should be cooked soft
- Give older babies enough fluids daily
- Check baby’s poo every day to notice if it is normal or if there are signs of constipation
Whether you’re in new parenthood or just looking to be more informed, it’s important that you know how constipation in babies works and what you can do about it. You don’t have to worry when your baby has some natural bowel movement changes after they eat because this is completely normal for them.
It might take time, but with an understanding of the causes and treatment options, we hope things will eventually work out. If not, there are also other ways where health visitors or healthcare professionals help make sure everything goes smoothly.
We want our readers to feel empowered, so please send us any questions you may have if your baby is constipated.
Sources and References
- Newborn Baby Constipation – smababy.co.uk
Sophie is a former primary school teacher and passionate about parenting. She enjoys writing, reading, cooking, and making memories with her family.