Symptoms Of Constipation In Babies
Constipation isnât just about how often your baby poops. Itâs also about how tough it is for them to do it. If they have soft, easy-to-pass stools every 4-5 days, theyâre probably OK. On the other hand, you should talk to your doctor if they:
- Have a hard time going or seem uncomfortable
- Have hard stools
- Have a swollen belly
Why Is My Baby Getting Constipated
Possible causes of constipation include:
Solid food. Your baby may become mildly constipated as he eats more solid food, especially if it’s low in fiber.
Formula. The protein component in formula can cause constipation in some babies. If you’re concerned, ask your baby’s doctor about switching brands.
Iron drops. While the amount of iron in formula is too low to cause constipation, the higher amount in iron drops can.
Dehydration. If your baby becomes dehydrated, his system will respond by absorbing more fluid from whatever he eats or drinks and also from the waste in his bowels. The result can be hard, dry stools that are difficult to pass.
Weaning. Decreasing breast milk in your baby’s diet can sometimes lead to dehydration, contributing to constipation.
Illness or a medical condition. Although it’s uncommon, constipation can be caused by an underlying medical condition such as hypothyroidism, cystic fibrosis, or botulism, and certain food allergies and metabolic disorders. If there doesn’t seem to be a reason why your baby passes hard, painful stools, have his doctor rule out these conditions.
Constipation In Babies: Signs Causes And Cures
If your baby is having difficulty pooping, they could be constipated. Find out what to look for and how to help.
As new parents, youll always be looking for your babys next smile, laugh, and coolittle reassurances that theyre happy and healthy. Poop, although not nearly as pleasant, is another thing parents should monitor.
When your baby is pooping regularly, its likely a sign that theyre taking in enough food and disposing of the rest, says Jennifer Shu, M.D., an Atlanta-based pediatrician and coauthor of Food Fights: Winning The Nutritional Challenges of Parenthood Armed with Insight, Humor, and A Bottle of Ketchup. So its understandable that the absence of poop can be a cause for concern.
Keep reading for a lowdown on baby constipation symptoms, causes, treatment, and more.
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How Long Can A Newborn Go Without Pooping
Formula-fed babies typically poop three to four times a day, but some go as long as three or four days without a bowel movement. As long as your babys poops are soft and passed without a struggle, you dont have to be concerned. But call your pediatrician if your little one doesnt poop for more than five days.
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How Is Constipation Diagnosed
The healthcare provider will ask about your childs symptoms and health history. He or she will give your child a physical exam. Depending on how old your child is, you might be asked questions such as:
- How old was your baby when he or she had their first stool?
- How often does your child have a bowel movement?
- Does your child complain of pain when having a bowel movement?
- Have you been trying to toilet train your toddler lately?
- What foods does your child eat?
- Have there been any stressful events in your childs life lately?
- How often does your child poop in his or her pants?
Your childs provider may also want to do some tests to see if there are any problems. These tests may include:
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Constipation In Breastfed Babies: Symptoms Causes And Treatment
Breast milk is easy for babies to digest. In fact, its considered a natural laxative. So its rare for babies who are breastfed exclusively to have constipation.
But that doesnt mean it cant happen.
Every baby poops on a different schedule even ones who only are fed breast milk. Read on to learn more about constipation in babies, including symptoms, causes, and how to treat it.
Q When Is It Normal For Breastfed Babies To Stop Pooing As Often
Any age from about three weeks and over, but more commonly from six weeks, breastfed babies may start to space out their poos even as much as a week or more apart. This can seem alarming, but in a healthy baby, its usually nothing to worry about and doesnt usually suggest that your infant is constipated.
The poo, when it comes, will be soft and easy to pass because of the way the gastro-colic reflex has changed. This is the reflex that is stimulated by food going into the top of the digestive tract causing a reflex action at the other end and its very sensitive in a newborn. So its quite normal for a new baby to poo virtually every time he feeds.
As your baby gets a bit older, that reflex is nothing like as sensitive, and they can hang on to their poo, storing it in the lower bowel for some time. This is why you sometimes get a very large amount of poo when your baby does finally go!
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What To Do When Your Baby Strains
Its not necessary for you do anything when your baby strains while trying to poop. However, if you feel he is straining because of constipation you may find lifting his knees to his chest, which is a natural squatting position, by holding his ankles can help him to exert enough pressure to push it out.
Alternate this with gently moving his legs backwards and forwards in a bicycle movement. Also try
How To Recognise The Signs Of Constipation
The main signs of constipation are hard, dry poos. The following are other signs of constipation:
- Your baby may show signs of straining when trying to pass a poo.
- Your baby may be unsettled, may seem fussy or irritated.
- Your baby may be eating less or feeding less well than usual.
In some cases, if your child is constipated, they may look bloated or their stomach may appear larger than usual. It can be possible to feel their poo while pressing softly on their stomach.
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What Is Normal For Your Baby
If you’re concerned that your baby may be constipated, first consider what her normal pattern is. How often she has a bowel movement depends on factors such as what she eats and drinks, how active she is, and how quickly she digests food. She may poop after every feeding, or she may wait a day or more in between.
Babies who breastfeed exclusively are rarely constipated. Breast milk naturally balances fat and protein, so it produces stools that are almost always soft even if your baby hasn’t pooped for several days. If your baby is breastfed, there’s no “normal” number or schedule only what’s typical for your baby. It’s not unheard of for breastfed babies to have one bowel movement a week.
If your baby drinks formula or eats solid food, she’ll probably poop at least once a day.
What To Expect At Your Office Visit
Your childs provider will perform a physical exam. This may include a rectal exam.
The provider may ask you questions about your childs diet, symptoms, and bowel habits.
The following tests may help find the cause of constipation:
- Blood tests such as a complete blood count
- X-rays of the abdomen
The provider may recommend the use of stool softeners or laxatives. If stools are impacted, glycerin suppositories or saline enemas may be recommended also.
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Get Help With Lubrication
Constipation is a common childhood ailment, so theres a good chance your baby or toddler will deal with a bout of it at some point. Thankfully, the issue tends to be easy to fix with at-home measures.
From the What to Expect editorial team and Heidi Murkoff, author of What to Expect When Youre Expecting. What to Expect follows strict reporting guidelines and uses only credible sources, such as peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions and highly respected health organizations. Learn how we keep our content accurate and up-to-date by reading our medical review and editorial policy.
When To Contact A Medical Professional
- An infant goes 3 days without a stool and is vomiting or irritable
Also call your childs provider if:
- An infant younger than 2 months is constipated
- Non-breastfeeding infants go 3 days without having a bowel movement
- A child is holding back bowel movements to resist toilet training
- There is blood in the stools
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Is Baby Constipation Normal
Well let you in on a little secret: many times when parents think theyre baby must be suffering constipation, theyre not actually constipated at all.
So whats going on here?
What many dont realize is that its actually extremely common for babies to go a few days without passing stool. This is especially true for babies that are exclusively fed breast milk. This is because breast milk is highly saturated with digestible fats and proteins, meaning your baby may simply have less to get out of their system . You know your baby best however if its been a few days since their last bowel movement, keep an eye for signs that theyre uncomfortable or even in pain. Otherwise, a few days without poop is completely normal .
It is important to note, however, that baby digestive systems are extremely underdeveloped in their first few months, and so sometimes they can be more sensitive, causing tummy aches or actual constipation.
For example, formula, though tailored as well as possible to infant tummies, can be more difficult for babies to digest than breast milk. Furthermore, some babies might react more to components of their mothers diet through breast milk. Therefore, sometimes its hard to pinpoint the exact cause of your babys tummy troubles, but it helps to know that it wont last forever pretty soon youll be cleaning stinky diapers once more.
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Constipation In Breastfed Babies
Babies who are breastfed can often go several days without a bowel movement. Even though their stool is soft, it may seem like they have many days of no stool followed by a blow-out.
For an older infant or child, going 5 or 6 days without a bowel movement would usually be a problem. In an exclusively breastfed baby who is gaining weight normally, however, this behavior is usually normal. As long as the blow-out appears painless, most parents have nothing to worry about.
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A Reaction To A Certain Formula
Formula-fed babies, in general, dont poo as often, so theres no need to worry if its been a few days. Talk to your GP if youre concerned as they may recommend trying a different kind of formula. Specific hydrolysed formulas contain protein that is broken down into smaller pieces, so are easier for babies to digest.
Can Switching From Breast Milk To Formula Cause Constipation
If youve recently switched to formula after exclusively breastfeeding your baby, you may notice changes in your babys poop. Its not uncommon for it to become harder or change color.
You may also notice an increase in gas, particularly if your baby is transitioning to using a bottle. Every baby is different though, and you may not notice much of a change.
Looking at supermarket formula displays can be enough to set your head spinning.
First, there are three different forms of formula you can choose from:
Then, within these forms, they may be:
- milk-based formulas
- specialty formulas, like organic options
Some formulas advertise themselves as easier to digest.
This can be because they are homogenized, which means theyre processed in a way that breaks down molecules for easier absorption. Or they may be made with ingredients designed to be easier on the digestive system.
For many parents, the answer lies in asking fellow parents and caregivers about their experiences with formula and researching the ingredients to find one that feels right.
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Does My Child Need To See A Doctor
Constipation is common. Often it will pass without intervention, or with the help of the strategies listed above. If you are worried that your baby has constipation, is uncomfortable or is in pain, their doctor can assess them and recommend baby-safe strategies. There are medical treatments for constipation that your doctor may consider, based on your babys circumstances.
If your baby was previously treated for constipation but still struggles to poo, it is important to go back to your doctor for a review. There are several treatments they can try.
How Do Doctors Treat Constipation In Children
Your childs doctor may recommend giving your child an enema or laxative to help treat his or her constipation. Most laxatives are over-the-counter medicines taken by mouth until your childs bowel movements are normal. Your childs doctor may recommend stopping the laxative once your child has better eating and bowel habits. You should not give a child a laxative unless told to do so by a doctor.
If your child is taking an over-the-counter or prescription medicine or supplement that can cause constipation, your childs doctor may recommend stopping it, changing the dose, or switching to a different one. Talk with your childs doctor before stopping any medicines.
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How To Tell If Baby Is Constipated
When baby constipation is wreaking its havoc, babys poop comes out in hard balls. We often use the Bristol Stool Scale, which shows the range of stool textures from one to seven: One is rabbit-like, pellet-shaped poop, and seven is pure liquid, Santo Domingo says. We define constipated stool as anything that falls into levels one through three, with three looking like a collection of grapes or corn on the cob.
Baby constipation can cause a child to be irritable and fussy, refuse food and push away the bottle. Toddlers who can walk may start going to a corner and squatting or hiding, or tip-toeing. The most prevalent cue is when a child starts tip-toeing, Santo Domingo says. Its like an instinct they have, feeling that the straighter their body, the better theyll be able to withhold pooping, which may be painful or scary for constipated children. Even babies who are able to pull themselves to stand will try to straighten out as much as possible when theyre dealing with infant constipation.
Contact Doctor During Office Hours
- Suppository or enema was needed to get the stool out
- Infrequent stools do not get better after changes to diet. Exception: normal if breastfed infant more than 1 month old and stools are not painful.
- Stool softeners are being used and have not been discussed with your doctor
- Toilet training is in progress
- Painful stools occur 3 or more times after changes to diet
- Constipation is a frequent problem
- You have other questions or concerns
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Can A Newborn Recognize His Mother
From your smell and voice, your baby will quickly learn to recognise youre the person who comforts and feeds them most, but not that youre their parent. However, even from birth, your baby will start to communicate with signals when theyre tired and hungry, or awake and alert. Your baby is learning all the time.
How To Treat Your Childs Constipation
If you think your child may be constipated, take them to a GP. The treatment for constipation depends on your childs age.
The longer your child is constipated, the more difficult it can be for them to get back to normal, so make sure you get help early.
Laxatives are often recommended for children who are eating solid foods, alongside diet and lifestyle changes.
It may take several months for the treatments to work, but keep trying until they do. Remember that laxative treatment may make your childs overflow soiling worse before it gets better.
Once your childs constipation has been dealt with, its important to stop it coming back. A GP may advise that your child keeps taking laxatives for a while to make sure their poo stays soft enough to push out regularly.
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Does Bottle Feeding Cause Baby Constipation
2AH4A92 Mother bottle-feeding baby boy on a park bench
All babies can get constipated, but exclusively breastfed babies are less likely to suffer from constipation. As a general rule breastfed babies do poos that are loose, squirty, and dont smell too unpleasant. One of the reasons for this is that when breastfeeding your milk contains a hormone called motilin which aids bowel movements.
Bottle-fed babies can be more likely to get constipated. Formula milk can be harder for babies to digest and their stools tend to be firmer, darker and smellier. Its easy to not add enough water to formula milk, which can subsequently lead to dehydration and constipation.
Treatments For Constipation In Babies
Prune and pear juice are age-old recommendations for helping babies pass stool when theyre constipated. The sorbitol in these types of juices act as a mild laxative. These should be offered in addition to regular feedings but not as a replacement.
After babies have begun eating solids, pureed prunes or peas can help with constipation, as they contain more fiber than other types of produce. Replacing rice cereal with oatmeal may also help, as can the occasional use of water.
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