Best Way to Treat Constipation in Babies, How to Recognize its Signs and How to Help Your Baby
When you’re a parent, you know that your biggest challenge is making sure your kid stays healthy and happy. But sometimes, things are so stressful that they can make you feel like you want to give up on being a parent altogether. Constipation is one of those things—it can be challenging to deal with even if it doesn’t cause any problems for your baby. It’s a common issue many parents experiences, yet there can still be confusion over what it is, the causes, and how to recognize the signs and treat it best. Fortunately, you can do many things to help relieve constipation in babies without professional help or medication.
In this article, we’ll clear up any confusion and give you the best advice to help treat constipation in babies- so you can keep your baby happy and comfortable!
Causes of Constipation
Constipation is when your child has hard stools or infrequent bowel movements. It can be caused by various reasons, including:
- Change in diet: Baby constipation is caused by a change in diet, whether you’re switching from breast milk to formula, transitioning baby to cow’s milk, or introducing solid foods. Constipation is a common problem in babies who are being introduced to solid foods for the first time.
- Specific medications: High-dose iron supplements or certain pain medications can cause constipation. Your doctor can inform you if your child’s medication may be at fault.
- Low-fiber intake: Eating too much-unrefined sugar or dairy products such as milk or not eating enough fruits and vegetables which contain fiber.
- Low diet: Your baby may not be eating enough. Your child may be asleep when you feed them and thus not get hungry enough to go to the bathroom.
- Infections: An inability to produce enough water and salts in the colon (the large intestine). It can occur if there’s an infection or problem with your baby’s digestive system, such as pyloric stenosis (narrowing the opening between the stomach and intestines).
- IBS: Your baby may have trouble digesting food properly due to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). IBS causes many symptoms in children, including stomach pain, diarrhea, or constipation.
- Toilet training issues: your child might resist potty training and hold in poop if you start it too soon.
- Changes in routine: Bowel function can be impacted by changes in your child’s routine, including travel, hot weather, or too many activities.
- High fluid intake: You may also notice that your baby has fewer bowel movements, especially if they have been drinking lots of water or milk before eating solids.
Signs that a Baby is Constipated
- Infrequent stool movements: Constipation is defined by the frequency of bowel movements and their consistency (hardness).
- Consistency: Passing clay-like stool consistency and hard stool pellets is a significant indication of constipation.
- Straining: Long periods of straining or crying while trying to have a bowel movement is a sign of a constipated baby.
- Streaks of red blood in the stool: Your child may be straining really hard to make a bowel movement if you see streaks of bright crimson blood in their stools.
- Lack of appetite: If your baby is constipated, they may feel full quickly and refuse to eat as their discomfort grows.
- Hard belly: Constipation may be indicated by a stiff tummy. Constipation can create bloating and pressure, making your child’s stomach feel full or hard.
How to Treat Constipation
Tips to relieve constipation in babies
1. Give a Massage
Massaging is a great way to help your baby get relief from constipation. Massage can be done in several ways, including:
- Make clockwise circles on the baby’s belly with your hands; slowly alternate hands.
- Walking your fingers clockwise around the naval.
- Place your baby on its stomach across your lap and gently rub their back.
- This can be done in the morning and at night before bed.
Water Bath Massage
- Take them to a warm bath, and then gently massage their belly while it’s submerged in water. You can also use warm water.
- It will help them release gas from their intestines and ease any cramping that may be happening there.
Lower Abdomen Massage
- Massage the lower abdomen in a clockwise direction. You can do this by placing one hand on the other or both hands on the lower abdomen.
- You can also massage it by placing one hand over each side of the stomach, making small circles with your fingers.
- This exercise aims to relax those muscles around the digestive tract, which helps relieve constipation in babies and toddlers.
- Rubbing the baby’s back with your hand or fingers.
- Using a rolling motion on their tummy (you should use gentle pressure)
- Massage their back, legs, and feet.
- Rub their tummy with your fingers or a soft cloth to stimulate the colon.
- Massaging your baby’s muscles can help relieve constipation.
Pro Tip: Use safe, healthy, and hydrating oils when massaging your baby to nourish their skin and enhance blood flow.
2. Give Enough Milk or Formula
- Breast or formula milk should be given to your baby in sufficient amounts. Breastfeed, if you can.
- Breast milk is simple to digest for babies; it is a natural laxative.
- Babies need breast milk to grow and develop; they also need it for their immunity and digestive system.
- The protein in the formula may be more difficult for your baby’s body to absorb than the protein in breast milk, which can lead to constipation or diarrhea later on.
- Formula-fed babies have a higher risk of colic than breastfed ones because they are not getting the same nutrients from breastfeeding.
3. Increase the Fluids
If you have a baby who’s not eating well, they may be constipated. Increase the amount of water, juice, or other fluids you serve, so they are hydrated.
- In this case, try offering them plain water and diluted fruit juices at regular intervals throughout the day (try 1/2 cup of juice mixed with 2 cups of water).
- It can help with constipation because it adds more fiber to their diet and gets them used to drinking something new—hopefully more easily digestible than just plain old water alone!
- Try giving your child a small cup of prune juice or apple juice to help aid digestion.
4. Increase Fiber Intake
- Increasing the amount of fiber your baby consumes can relieve them of constipation.
- Offer your child more fiber-rich food like applesauce, rice cereal, peaches, and pears.
- Make sure your baby’s diet is as healthy as possible. A high-fiber diet is essential for healthy digestion and bowel movements; ensure you feed them plenty of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
- Breast milk is naturally rich in fiber, but if you’re feeding your baby formula or expressed breast milk, it’s important to add some extra dietary fiber into their diet.
- Fiber helps move food through the body more efficiently by keeping things moving faster—so it could help reduce gas and bloat and help them with bowel movements.
- Including prunes or stewed apricots in their meal may be beneficial.
- High-fiber content choices can also be whole grains, such as oatmeal or whole-grain bread, or skinless apples.
5. Lukewarm Bath
- You can also give your baby a lukewarm bath to help them relax and relieve tension contributing to their constipation.
- To help your baby pass stools, give them warm baths daily with Epsom salt added to the bath water (about 1/2 cup).
6. Encourage More Physical Activity
It’s no secret that babies need more exercise than adults, but it can be challenging for parents to get their little ones moving. That’s why it is always recommended to keep a baby walker in the house—it’s such a great way to help your child burn off some excess energy and get some fresh air!
- If you don’t have access to a walker, try taking them outside daily.
- Make sure your child gets exercise.
- Encourage good posture by sitting on the floor with them and encouraging them to sit up straight.
- Consider bicycle-style leg movements, alternating pressing the knees toward the chest. This movement stimulates the bowel and helps them poop.
- If they are old enough, encourage them to walk or run.
7. Try Rectal Stimulation
- You can also try rectal stimulation, which involves putting your fingers into your baby’s bottom and gently massaging their anus.
- You’ll want to do this while they’re lying down on their tummy so that you can support them in case they get scared or uncomfortable.
- If it feels good for both of you, continue doing this at least once daily until constipation has gone completely!
When Its Time to Get Boss Mode
8. Synthetic Glycerin Suppository
If your baby is highly constipated and you can’t get them to poop on their own, consider using a synthetic glycerin suppository. These are made of inert ingredients and work by slowly releasing the medicine into the rectum, and they’re safe for babies as young as six months old to use.
- Try a probiotic supplement if the problem persists.
- Probiotics help maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut by replenishing them when they’re lost through antibiotic use or other factors that affect their number or diversity (like having too many antibiotics at once).
- You can find probiotic supplements at local health food stores; talk with your doctor about which one might work best for your baby.
10. Stool Softeners or Laxatives
- If changing the foods you give your child doesn’t help their constipation, talk to your doctor about trying an over-the-counter laxative for children. Ask about stool softeners or laxatives.
- It’s vital to ask your doctor about the best way to go about this process since there are many different types of constipation treatments available—and some work better than others in different situations.
Here are a Few Things You Can Try
- If your baby cries when you try to feed them, try reducing the amount of food by about 50%, and this will help relieve their distress and make eating easier for both of you.
- Using a rectal thermometer to take your baby’s temperature may stimulate their bowels.
- Oral stimulation before feeding can help with constipation. Try giving your baby oral stimulation before feeding.
- Make sure you have some activity for your baby, like patting the belly or rubbing their legs to get them moving around so that it doesn’t feel like they are just sitting there doing nothing (which can lead to more gas).
- Some children may benefit from a fiber supplement. Fiber supplements include wafers, chewable tablets, and powdered fiber that can be mixed into juice (or frozen into popsicles).
- Ensure your child doesn’t eat or drink within two hours of going to bed and avoid feeding them too close to bedtime.
- You should always consult your doctor before giving your baby any medication, including over-the-counter treatments.
- Always keep a journal of what your baby eats and how much they weigh.
WHEN TO WORRY
- Your baby has fewer than three bowel movements per week. You should call your doctor if you see symptoms such as vomiting or excessive crying.
- Your baby refuses to eat or loses weight due to constipation.
- Your baby has a swollen or rigid abdomen.
- Your child’s bowel movement or diaper contains blood.
- Your child has frequent cycles of constipation.
- You have trouble toilet training your child, or your child refuses to sit on the toilet or seems afraid of having a bowel movement.
- Your child’s bowel habits worry you or raise questions.
Talk to Your Pediatrician
Your pediatrician can help you diagnose and treat your child’s constipation. They may ask for specific symptoms, like how long it’s been going on and whether or not there is a change in bowel movement frequency.
- The doctor will also test your child for certain conditions that could be causing constipation—like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), celiac disease, and lactose intolerance—and offer treatment options such as dietary changes or over-the-counter medications if needed.
- The doctor can help determine whether any underlying medical issues could be causing the problem.
- If you have concerns about your child’s bowel movements or passing fewer than four stools per week, see a pediatrician immediately!
IMPORTANT: Don’t stop a constipated baby from straining.
It is important to note that stopping a constipated baby from straining can be dangerous. If you do this, they may develop an impaction when the stool hardens into a rock-like substance in their colon. This can cause severe abdominal pain, vomiting, and other health problems like dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. Constipation is usually a temporary problem, but it can be confused with other conditions, so consult your child’s doctor if the problem persists or seems severe.
The Bottom Line
Relieving constipation in babies is not always a straightforward task and can require plenty of trial and error. Constipation in babies is a common and sometimes uncomfortable experience, but one that can be managed with the proper knowledge and care. With regular massage to aid bowel movements and a diet full of natural fibers, relief may come sooner than expected.
Above all else, ensure that you remain attentive when caring for your little one – be observant of any changes in behavior or signs of discomfort since this could indicate that further medical assistance is required.
So, there you have it. We hope our tips can help you and your baby overcome and relieve constipation. If not, speak to your doctor about the best action for your child’s situation.
Written by Varun Gupta