As a parent, you find clues in your baby’s laugh, cry and hiccups and try to relate it with their well-being. However, some signs of the problem are difficult to detect. For example, a baby’s bowel movement changes over time and some of these changes may indicate he/she is constipated.
So, for keeping your baby’s tummy healthy, watch out for the signs and opt for these solutions.
Signs of constipation
Babies don’t have any schedule or normal number for how many times they are going to poo and like adults, the bowel movement pattern varies for babies too. Your baby’s poo may change texture from day to day depending on what they eat.
If you’re concerned that your baby may be constipated, look out for these signs:
1. A hard belly
2. Foul-smelling wind and poo
3. Dry, hard, pellet-like poo that he/she has trouble passing
4. Loss of appetite
5. Fewer than three bowel movements a week
6. Crying, discomfort, irritability or pain before they poo
There are several possible reasons for constipation.
Babies who are breastfed are rarely constipated. This is because breast milk has the perfect balance of protein and fat, so the stool is always soft. If you are feeding your baby formula food, then he/she may be prone to constipation, as formula milk is harder to digest, causing poo to be bulky and firm.
2. Solid food
Introduction to solid food can also cause constipation. This happens because your baby’s body is trying to learn how to manage new foods. Feeding your baby low fibre foods can also be the reason.
If your baby is not getting enough fluid and is dehydrated, your baby’s body responds by absorbing fluid from anything, even from the stool. This results in dry and hard stool, which is difficult and painful to pass.
4. Medication or illness
Occasionally, another reason for constipation in babies can be botulism, food allergies or metabolic disorder.
Very rarely, constipation can be caused by Hirschsprung's disease, an ailment caused by birth defect that averts the baby’s gut from functioning properly.
Solutions for constipation in babies
If your baby is constipated, you can try some of these tactics to provide relief to them.
1. Increase their intake of water
Many people assume that if babies are breastfed or bottle fed, they’re getting enough liquid diet, but if the baby is showing signs of constipation, then you should give an additional ¼ to ½ cup of water after each feeding, which will help them flush out properly.
2. Include juice in their diet
Though milk and water help keep your baby hydrated, you should also include fruit juice in their diet, as it acts as a natural laxative. You can give the baby pear or prune juice to help speed up your baby’s bowel movement.
3. Solid food to the rescue
Some solid foods may cause constipation, but there are others that will help soften the stool. High fibre foods such as prunes, broccoli, pears, skinless apples and peaches can deliver you good results. Give your baby cooked grains like oats or barley instead of refined cereal or puffed rice. Bran cereals, whole grain bread, and crackers will also help.
4. Exercising and massaging
Exercising will speed up bowel movement. If your baby is not walking yet, you can get your baby a bicycle and help them move their legs in circular motion as they pedal a cycle.
You can also give them a tummy massage using clockwise movements.
5. Try substituting formula
Try switching the formula food because every baby responds differently to the ingredients of each formula, which may be the cause of the problem.
6. Bath with warm water
A warm bath will soothe your baby and help them relax, allowing their body to let go of what it has been holding on. The tummy massage technique can be used after you dry your baby with a towel.
What not to do
Never use mineral oils, stimulant laxatives or enemas on the baby, as they are too young and quickly become dangerously dehydrated.
Talk with your paediatrician
If even after trying one or two of these methods there is no relief to the baby or you are confused and concerned about anything, contact your paediatrician. If somehow these solutions don’t work for your baby, ask advice from your doctors, as they will help you spot out other symptoms or signs, which could be the indication of a much larger problem.