Dealing with Baby Constipation
The poop on…poop!
You might think that pooping comes easily to your babe (and you have the Diaper Genie to prove it!). But as tots start eating solids, the nature of their poop changes and their bodies have to adjust. “It takes a lot of coordination to pass a bowel movement, and adults take it for granted—we’ve been doing it for a long time,” says Paul Horowitz, M.D., a pediatrician at Discovery Pediatrics in Valencia, California, and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. “But babies are still learning how to do it. So if you see them grunt and push and it seems like there should be some poop, but there isn’t, that could be what’s going on.”
Other key reasons nothing’s happening:
- He’s not a “regular” sort of kid. Different babies have different poop patterns. “It’s not uncommon for breastfed babies to skip a day or two in between BMs,” says Dr. Horowitz. “The rationale is that breastfed babies are getting this ideal nutrition and there’s nothing left over at the end of the pipeline—everything’s being absorbed and the liquid goes out as pee.” Babies who aren’t breastfed may have a change in poop patterns, too; it’s possible something in his formula could be causing constipation, so talk with your doctor about switching brands.
- He needs more fiber. Once a child is downing solids, he should be getting foods that have fiber, which encourages poop-age.
- He might have an intestinal issue (but don’t panic)! “Constipation that lasts for more than three days can be a sign of a medical issue, but it’s usually a symptom that’s paired with other things, like vomiting, fever, or blood in the stool, and needs to be evaluated by a doctor,” Dr. Horowitz says. Take a look at the big picture and don’t focus solely on the constipation. If your baby is otherwise acting totally normal, chances are good that he’s fine.
What You Can Try
- Serve up more fiber-filled fruits like peaches, plums, apricots, pears, and prunes. For babies, boil or steam and then purée them whole (the fiber is in the flesh and the skin), then serve in two-tablespoon increments (about one ounce). Older babies can eat about one cup of the fruits in bite-size chunks (first remove choking including tough skin, pits, or seeds). Toddlers can also get good fiber from sources like 1/4 cup of mashed-up cooked beans or six to eight tablespoons of oatmeal cereal.
- If a baby’s has constipation tendencies, steer clear of serving him bananas, applesauce, and rice, as they’re low fiber sources and could clog up his system even more.
- If your baby is older than four months, adding just a little water—about two to four ounces—to his diet can help lubricate his system and relieve constipation. Diluted fruit juice can help, too: mix one ounce of prune juice with one ounce of water and let him sip it twice a day. (For babies under four months, check with your pediatrician before handing over the juice.)
- When your baby seems uncomfortable, relieve tummy pain by laying him on his back and gently pedaling his legs in the air, like he’s riding a bicycle—it can let trapped gas loose and even help get the bowels moving.
What You Shouldn’t Try
- Don’t give your baby mineral oil, laxatives or an enema. These are made for adults, not infants, and can cause bad cramps or pain.
- If you’re breastfeeding, don’t go on an elimination diet or add supplements; it won’t help jumpstart the process, and could stress you out more.
- Forget spoonfuls of Karo (corn) syrup; contrary to folklore, the chemicals won’t help soften stool—and it’s pure sugar.
When to Call the Doctor
- If your baby hasn’t had a bowel movement in three days.
- If his abdomen is distended, hard, or he seems like he’s in pain.
- If you’re worried. As Dr. Horowitz says, “Anytime that your radar goes up is a good time to call the pediatrician.”
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