Q&A: What should I do about my baby's constipation?
My nine-month-old daughter has had a problem with constipation for the last two months. I have tried everything and I am still breastfeeding. I do not know if it is something that I am eating or not. I try to eat very well and I take flaxseed oil daily. I have cut out all constipating items in my daughter's diet: no bananas, apples or rice cereal and I am trying to give her pitted friuts, water and non-constipating foods.
My doctor has suggested giving her mineral oil and I'm not sure about that. I do not even put it on my skin! What should I do?
“Constipated” means different things to different people. In pediatrics, a constipated child passes hard, painful stools. Soft stools, even if infrequent, wouldn’t be considered constipation.
Assuming that your daughter is having difficulty with hard stools, the problem shouldn’t be your diet (as you’ve already found out by modifying it), but something within her system.
There are five ways to combat constipation:
- Offer fewer constipating foods, as you have done.
- Offer more foods that promote the passing of stool: uncooked fruits and vegetables and foods with a high fiber content. Prunes are among the best fruits for this purpose, but most other fruits–excluding apples and bananas–work. If prunes don’t go over well, prune juice is worth a try. Bran muffins are another food worth trying.
- Move around more. This is more relevant for older children and adults. Regular activity helps promote regular bowel activity.
- Offer more fluids. Enough liquid to keep the urine a pale yellow color is usually adequate. Dehydration dries out stools as well as other parts of the body. The caveat here for toddlers is that excess whole milk consumption tends to cause constipation.
- Medicate. There are multiple categories of agents, from stool softeners to gut stimulants to bulking agents to mineral oil. Among them, mineral oil and gentle stool softeners tend to be used first in children.
I sense that you aren’t eager to use medicines. One product you may want to look for is a Metamucil wafer, which is essentially a high-fiber graham cracker. But since medicines should be a last resort, try maximizing use of the other strategies instead, to see if you achieve the desired results.