Babies often go a long time between bowel movements. Most of the time, it is normal for a baby to go days or even more than a week without a bowel movement. However, a baby may sometimes be constipated and need a little help. Online baby product directory at My Baby Nursery.
When a baby is pooping regularly, it usually means their digestive system is working correctly, and they’re getting enough to eat. So it’s understandable that the absence of poop—or noticeable changes in the consistency of poop—can stress parents out. But relieving baby constipation is sometimes as simple as changing up their diet. Keep reading to learn about foods to help baby poop, as well as ones to avoid.
Is My Baby Constipated?
For starters, parents need to determine if their baby is backed up. Constipation in newborns is relatively uncommon. Babies are on an all-liquid diet, so their food is more easily absorbed and digested.
On average, babies poop three to four times per day until they reach four months of age. That said, some infants will poop after every feeding, while others can go several days before releasing their bowels. So even though a prolonged absence of poop indicates constipation, it can be hard to determine this pattern in infants.
Another essential thing to watch for is a soft stool consistency. Hard stool indicates that it’s staying in there longer than desired. Other signs of constipation in babies include slight bleeding (from stretched anal walls), making strained faces, a hard belly, and refusal to eat.
How Do You Know It’s Constipation?
Before you begin treating constipation, you should determine if there is an issue at all. So here’s the scoop on poop and how to tell if your worries are founded, and your baby is constipated.
During the first few weeks, you’ll find yourself changing diapers with alarming regularity. Figure in every feed or so.
But don’t despair because by the time your baby reaches six weeks old, they may have a bowel movement only once or twice a day. On the other hand, they may have one only every 7–10 days. (Yep, the frequency really can vary that much.) The poop is yellow, soft, runny and sometimes lumpy, and the smell isn’t unpleasant.
A newborn formula-fed baby typically poops up to five times a day. At about 6 to 8 weeks, this may decrease to around once a day.
Formula-fed babies have poop that is a camel to brown colour with a thicker consistency, more like paste. Most likely, the less-than-aromatic smell means you’ll hermetically seal soiled diapers before you toss them into the garbage.
Signs That Your Baby Is Constipated
You’ve noticed that your baby’s tummy isn’t following the schedule that you got used to. Could it be constipation? Here are the signs that could confirm your suspicions:
- You notice that they cry or fuss while they’re trying to have a strenuous bowel movement.
- The poop, when it does come, is like hard pellets.
- You notice streaks of red blood in the hard poop.
What Causes Constipation?
While it’s not easy for a baby on a liquid diet to become constipated, trouble can start when you start introducing your baby to solid foods at around six months. Here’s why:
New Food Types
Think of it as a learning curve: Your baby’s body is learning how to cope with a new kind of food to digest as they move away from their complete liquid diet, and you need to soften the learning curve. (Pardon the irresistible pun.)
Changes to Fluid Intake
Decreased fluids will make your baby’s poop more complex and more challenging to push out. If they’ve started solids, they may need to up their fluid intake to offset the solid food. And if your baby is teething or feeling unwell, it can also lead to them taking in less fluid than usual.
Lack of Fibre
Even though they’re just starting, babies’ tummies work like ours. While initially, the move to solids that have fibre (from breast milk or formula, which don’t) can cause temporary constipation, their tummies will adjust.
Make sure to monitor your baby’s fibre intake and pair it with plenty of hydration for a smooth ride the same way that you monitor yours.
Which Baby Foods Help With Constipation?
OK, so you’ve confirmed that your baby is constipated. The next step is helping to alleviate the strain on their developing digestive system.
Remember that you can keep offering these foods as your baby develops into a toddler and beyond. There is little research or evidence to support specific foods (including high fibre ones) in treating or preventing constipation in infants. Most of these recommendations are based on evidence for older adults and children.
Keep in mind that good practice when introducing solids is to introduce foods as single ingredients. That way, if your baby is allergic to certain foods, you’ll be able to trace the source more efficiently. Check out My Baby Nursery for all your baby product needs.
Are there baby foods that cause constipation? become studies show that constipation may affect as much as 30 per cent of children. If your child is part of the unlucky statistic, here are some foods that you may want to give them smaller amounts of until it passes:
- dairy products such as cheese and yogurt
- low fibre foods like white rice, white bread, and white pasta
Solid Foods That Cause Constipation
Once solid foods are introduced into your baby’s diet, their poop is going to change. More formed food usually means more formed poop, Dr Shu says. Also, the intestines are maturing now, so they can compact things and hold on to them longer. And because the body is taking longer to process the food, you’ll likely see one less poopy diaper a day.
Food can be both friend and foe. For starters, certain foods could be making it harder for your baby to poop. Consider the ABCs—or applesauce, bananas, and cereal, Dr Morton says. Too much of any of these, especially grain, could cause constipation in your baby. Also, keep an eye on dairy products that are popular first foods for babies, such as cheese and yogurt. Low-fibre foods—including white rice, white bread, and pasta—can also bind babies up.
Baby Foods That Help With Constipation
Wondering how to relieve constipation in babies quickly? When Baby’s poops become more infrequent, more complex, or difficult to pass, enlist the help of these foods to soften the situation:
- Fibre. Anything containing bran, known for its high fibre content, should help loosen up your baby’s stool. Think fibre-rich cereals, whole-wheat pasta, and brown rice.
- “P” fruits. These include pears, plums, peaches, and prunes. Their juice counterparts could also do the trick. Dr Shu often recommends pear juice; it works well, and kids like it.
- Vegetables. Broccoli, beans, and Brussels sprouts can get things back on track.
- Water. Sometimes your baby’s system needs a good flushing to get working again. But note that babies can only have small sips of water and only after they hit six months of age.
Liquid Foods to Relieve Constipation
Constipation in breastfed infants could be a symptom of a milk protein allergy, says Diana Lerner, M.D., instructor of pediatrics and pediatric gastroenterology fellow at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Everything Mom eats gets passed to the baby, so breastfeeding women might consider taking dairy out of their diet. Similarly, they can try eating foods to help baby poop, such as prunes and fibre-filled items.
Exclusively formula-fed babies are much more likely to experience constipation than breastfeed infants, says Jane Morton, M.D., a clinical professor of pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine. Some of the ingredients in formula might be more challenging to a baby’s digestive system and result in much firmer poops. Your pediatrician may switch your baby’s formula to one that isn’t milk-based.
Parents might also be tempted to switch to a low-iron formula if they suspect their baby is constipated, but Dr Shu advises against it. Formula-fed babies need the extra iron, and although foods high in iron can cause constipation, the amount found in formula isn’t to blame.
If your little one hasn’t tried these foods before, don’t rush the process. Test out one at a time, and then introduce combinations once you’re confident they’re well-tolerated.
- Back to basics. Give your baby’s digestive tract a break by feeding them mashed avocado or sweet potato purée. These are easy to digest and may give your baby the kick start they need.
- B vegetables. Think broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and beans. Purée these for a meal filled with fibre.
- P fruits. Your grandmother was right — bring on the prunes for quick work. A purée that includes a mix of prunes plus pears, plums, or peaches should work magic. Try subbing the prunes with dates for a change.
- Bring on the fibre. If your baby is over eight months, you can offer them whole grains like oatmeal, fibre-rich cereals, whole-wheat pasta, and brown rice.
- Water intake. Until six months, and exclusively breastfed or formula-fed baby doesn’t need to drink water. Above this age, you can introduce small amounts of water.
Recipes to Try
Plums and Pears With Cinnamon
Cut 2 or 3 pears and plums into small pieces. Place in a saucepan with a small amount of water and simmer until soft. Add in a sprinkle of cinnamon. Blend thoroughly.
Sweet Potato With Apple and Peach
Cut half a sweet potato, one apple, and half a peach into small pieces. Place in a steamer basket and cook until tender. Blend until smooth.
Spinach and Apple Purée
Chop two apples into small chunks and cook in a saucepan with about 1/2 cup of water. When they’re tender, add about 1 cup of spinach and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Purée until smooth. It can be seasoned with cinnamon and ginger.
The Truth About Juice
Some sources suggest prune, pear, and apple juices help to increase the water content in poop and ease constipation.
However, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends steering clear of fruit juice for children younger than one-year-old. You can stick with these fruits as purées for similar effects.
What is it about prune juice? The high levels of sorbitol and phenolic substances in prune juice and dried plums act as laxative and diuretic properties. So if your child is over one year old, you can use small amounts of prune juice to encourage their system to run.
Home Remedies for Constipation in a Baby Include:
Moving a baby’s legs can help relieve constipation. As with adults, exercise and movement tend to stimulate a baby’s bowels. However, as babies may not be walking or even crawling yet, a parent or caregiver may want to help them exercise to relieve constipation.
The parent or caregiver can gently move the baby’s legs while lying on their back to mimic the motion of riding a bicycle. Doing this may help the bowels function and relieve constipation.
A Warm Bath
Giving a baby a warm bath can relax their abdominal muscles and help them stop straining. It can also relieve some of the discomfort relating to constipation.
Young infants do not typically need supplemental liquids as they get their hydration from breast milk or formula. However, babies that are constipated may benefit from a small amount of extra liquid.
Pediatricians sometimes recommend adding a small amount of water or, occasionally, fruit juice to the baby’s diet when they are over 2–4 months old and are constipated.
There are several ways to massage a baby’s stomach to relieve constipation. These include:
- I am using the fingertip to make circular motions on the stomach in a clockwise pattern.
- I was walking the fingers around the navel in a clockwise pattern.
- Holding the baby’s knees and feet together and gently pushing the feet toward the belly.
- She was stroking from the rib cage down past the belly button with the edge of a finger.
Taking a Rectal Temperature
When a baby is constipated, taking the baby’s rectal temperature with a clean, lubricated thermometer may help them pass stool.
It is essential not to use this method very often, as it can make constipation worse. The baby may start not wanting to pass a bowel movement without help, or they may begin to associate having a bowel movement with discomfort, leading them to fuss or cry more during the process.
Anyone who feels like they often need to use this method to help the baby have a bowel movement should talk to the baby’s doctor.
What Else Can You Do to Help With Constipation?
If you’re like most parents, you’ll be up for whatever you can try to help your baby get comfortable fast. Here are a few tricks that you can use to ease your baby’s constipation:
- Stop serving foods that can cause constipation (potatoes, cheese, bananas, rice cereal, pasta) and start doing purees loaded with fibre.
- Serve purees with produce starting with ‘P’ – prunes, peaches, pears, pears and plums. These P products help relieve constipation in the baby and aid in the baby’s digestive tract (see recipes below).
- Start to re-introduce purees that are easy to digest, such as avocado and sweet potato purees.
- If the baby is older than nine months, you can sprinkle a small pinch of ground flaxseed into any puree or finger food.
- Make sure the baby is getting enough water in during the day. Aim for 2-4 ounces in the morning and the evening. This is in addition to the breast milk, formula or milk (for toddlers) you are already giving them.
- Give your little one a warm bath to help them relax their digestion organs.
- Start doing baby tummy exercises to get things moving. Place the baby on their back and take both legs in your hands, bend their legs towards their belly button and make a circle with their knees in a clockwise direction. You can also gently press on their tummies about 2 inches away from their belly button, starting at the 9’oclock order and moving to the 3’oclock direction. You will want to press down roughly 1 inch into their stomachs gently. Repeat both exercises around ten times each.
When to See a Doctor
A doctor should assess a baby with ongoing constipation. It is advisable to call a pediatrician if a baby has not passed a stool after a day or two and there are other signs present, such as:
- blood in the stool
- the baby seems to be irritable
- the baby appears to have abdominal pain
- there is no improvement in the baby’s constipation after taking steps to treat it
Treatment typically starts with home remedies. If home remedies do not work, a doctor may examine the baby and, in rare cases, prescribe medications, such as:
While dealing with your baby’s toilet issues may seem a tad unsavoury, you’ll soon be so used to it that you’ll find yourself sharing your insights over coffee with other parents. And don’t be shy about sharing the yummy food combinations you discover to keep things moving.