Constipation In Infants Or Babies – 10 Causes, 11 Symptoms & 4 Treatments

constipation in infants & babies

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Constipation can be a ‘tough’ problem for your little angel, pun not intended. Irregular bowel movement can lead to many complications. The problem occurs when your infant starts consuming formula milk and solid foods.

With the right line of treatment, you can help your baby feel much better. If your baby seems to be suffering from constipation, you might want to read our post about constipation in infants or babies, and find out how you can help him!

What Is Constipation In Babies?

Constipation in infants is a common problem, and the early symptoms include irregular bowel movements or hard, dry, dark-colored stools. There are many factors that can lead to constipation in your baby. But some vital factors are changes in diet, inadequate quantity of fiber in food and dehydration. Constipation is a temporary health condition, and you can treat the disease implementing effective remedies and curative measures.

Encourage your growing baby to eat fiber-rich fruits and vegetables and adequate quantity of fluids. With suitable dietary changes, you can alleviate the symptoms of baby constipation. If the doctor approves laxative intake, you can also give them your little one.

It is not only the frequency of bowel movements or straining that symbolizes your baby’s constipation, but it is also the consistency of the stool. When your baby‘s poop appears firm, dry or pebbly it is a clear indication of constipation. Soft and watery poop indicates that your baby is not suffering from constipation. Excessive crying while pooping, abdominal pain, reduced appetite and bleeding from the anus are some of the common signs of constipation in babies (1).

What Causes Constipation In Babies Or Infants?

Some of the common causes to alleviate constipation in your baby are:

1. Inadequate Fluid:

Is your little angel gaining enough weight for her age? Is she not wetting six or more diapers every day? If your answer is yes, your baby is not getting an adequate amount of fluid. Inadequate amount of fluid in the body can lead to constipation. Your breastfed baby does not require any extra fluids until she starts eating solid foods. As soon as you introduce solid foods or formula milk in your baby’s diet, try to feed her sufficient quantity of water daily. Water and other additional fluids keep her hydrated and digest the food easily. Depending upon the atmospheric condition, you can decide the quantity of fluid. If you live in warmer climate, you have to feed extra fluids to your growing baby.

2. Consistency Of Formula Milk:

While preparing formula milk for your baby; make sure to add the right number of scoops of formula powder to water. It is advisable to follow the dosage as recommended by the manufacturer. Do not overfill the scoop and thicken the consistency. Concentrated formula milk becomes difficult to digest for your little one and result in constipation.

3. Switching Formula Milk:

The constant switching of formula milk brands or opting for cow’s milk changes the consistency of your baby’s stool. In some cases, the stool becomes hard, while, in other cases, the stool turns loose and runny. Until your baby’s tummy gets used to the formula milk, the problem continues for a shorter span of time. Some types or brands of formula milk appear more constipating than others. If constipation persists for longer days, try to avoid that formula milk completely.

4. New Foods:

It is common for your breastfed baby to experience constipation when you introduce solid foods into her diet. Her little tummy cannot digest anything other than breast milk. Try to introduce the foods slowly and allow her adequate time to adjust to the dietary changes.

5. Low Fiber:

Fiber is present in cereals, fruits, and vegetables. When your baby consumes breast milk and formula milk, her body does not get enough fiber, and she becomes constipated.

6. Medications:

There are certain medications that induce constipation in your little one. The list includes antibiotics, painkillers (containing Paracetamol, Acetaminophen, and Ibuprofen), iron supplements, and Antacids containing aluminum.

7. Changes In Routine:

Any significant change in your baby’ routine like travel, hot weather or stress can affect the bowel movement. In such conditions, your little one is prone to suffer from constipation.

8. Allergy To Cow’s Milk:

Some infants cannot easily digest cow’s milk or other dairy products, which can lead to constipation.

9. Family History:

Babies having a family history of constipation are more likely to develop the troublesome condition. It is due to the shared genetic or environmental factors.

10. Medical Conditions:

Constipation in babies clearly indicates an anatomic malformation and digestive problem. Other medical conditions linked to constipation are Hypothyroidism, Diabetes, Down syndrome, nerve disorders and Cystic Fibrosis (2).

Symptoms Of Constipation In Infants Or Babies:

Here are some of the common symptoms of infant constipation you should remain alert of:

  1. Less than three bowel movements a week
  2. Experiencing severe pain while passing stool
  3. Stool appears hard and dry
  4. Nausea
  5. Abdominal pain
  6. Blood on the surface of hard stool
  7. Decreased appetite
  8. Reappearing urinary tract infections
  9. Vomiting
  10. Urinary incontinence or bedwetting
  11. Infants experience painful bowel movements (3)

Complications Associated With Constipation In Infants Or Babies:

Constipation makes your little one feel uncomfortable, and she becomes more fussy and irritable. Though infant constipation is a temporary condition, if it turns chronic it induces these complications:

  • Stool withholding
  • Painful breaks appearing in the skin around the anus region
  • Due to irregular bowel passage, the stool accumulates in the colon and rectum and imposes severe health discomfort (Encopresis) (4)

Diagnosis Of Constipation In Infants Or Babies:

To diagnose baby or infant constipation, the pediatrician will gather complete medical history and ask questions about your baby’s past illnesses. The doctor further interrogates about your little one’s diet and physical activity patterns. After completing the verbal investigation, the doctor conducts a physical examination. He places a finger in your baby’s anal region to check for any abnormalities.

Some of the other extensive medical tests to diagnose chronic constipation in infants are:

1. Abdominal X-ray:

The standard X-ray diagnosis helps the doctor in the detection of any unwanted tumor or blockages in your baby’s abdomen.

2. Barium Enema X-Ray:

In the following test, barium dye coats the inner lining of your baby’s bowel. The X-ray clearly pictures the rectum, colon and other parts of the small intestine and detects any abnormalities easily.

3. Anorectal Manometry Or Motility Test:

In the test, the placement of a thin tube known as catheter occurs in your baby’s rectum. The tube measures the coordination of the muscles that your baby utilizes for stool passage.

4. Rectal Biopsy:

In the test, doctor extracts a small portion of the tissue from the lining of the rectum. The tissue extract is closely examined to check if the nerve cells are normal or not.

5. Transit Study Or Marker Study:

In the test, your baby needs to swallow the capsule containing markers. With the passage of time, the marker slowly moves through your baby digestive tract, and the doctor keeps a track of the route through X-rays.

6. Blood Tests:

Blood tests like thyroid panel help to check if your baby is a victim of hypothyroidism or not. Such elevating thyroid levels triggers constipation in babies (5).

How To Treat Constipation In Infants Or Babies:

Depending upon the severity of the disease, the doctor prescribes effective treatments to cure constipation:

1. Over-The-Counter Fiber Supplements:

When your infant doest not acquire an adequate amount of fiber in her diet, the doctor prescribes intake of over-the-counter fiber supplement, like Metamucil or Citrucel. It is also crucial for your little one to intake plentiful amounts of fluids and get rid of dehydration. According to your baby’s age and weight, the doctor prescribes an appropriate dosage of the supplements.

2. Stool Softeners:

Popular stool softeners such as Glycerin suppositories soften your baby’s stool and ease your little angel’s bowel movement.

3. Laxatives:

When your little one suffers from severe constipation, the doctor suggests a laxative. The accumulation of the fecal material in the rectum induces severe abdominal pain and blockage. The laxative helps to clear the blockage. Some of the recommended laxatives for babies are polyethylene glycol (Glycolax, MiraLax, others) and mineral oil.

4. Acupuncture:

The traditional Chinese treatment procedure treats baby constipation effectively. The treatment involves insertion of fine needles into various parts of your baby’s body. The therapy helps your baby to overcome severe abdominal pain. (6)

Preventing Constipation In Infants Or Babies:

Follow the effective preventive measures to soothe your baby’s condition and help her overcome constipation easily:

  • Include fiber-rich foods including fresh fruits, green vegetables, whole-grain cereals and beans in your baby’s diet. As your little one adapts the dietary changes, she recovers from constipation eventually. However, if you intend to introduce fiber rich food in your baby’s diet, add few grams of fiber in the initial days to prevent gas and bloating.
  • Always encourage your little one to drink the plentiful amount of fluids including water, fruit juices, and soups. Fluid maintains the pace of digestion and helps your angel to overcome constipation.
  • As your baby reaches to 7-8 months, incorporate some physical activities in her daily regime. Slow walking or crawling stimulates the normal bowel function.
  • It is important for your growing baby to follow a strict toilet routine. Set a time for toileting every day (7).

When To Consult The Doctor?

Get in touch with the doctor immediately when you see the following symptoms of constipation in infants or babies:

  • When your baby cries while straining
  • When your baby does not gain weight with growing ages.
  • When the number of wet diapers starts decreasing, it indicates that your baby is probably a victim of dehydration.
  • When your baby’s poop looks unusual and appears pebbly with strains of blood.
  • When you notice any bleeding from the anal region of your baby.

Before the inclusion of laxatives, it is further recommended to consult with the doctor and get adequate information about the dosage.

Diet For Your Constipated Baby:

You can minimize the risks of constipation and also the associated symptoms, by giving a proper diet to your growing little angel. With the inclusion of dietary foods and lots of fluids, it eases the symptoms of constipation effectively.

Let us pay a closer look to the recommended diet of your growing baby:

1. Less Than Two Months:

As your baby is too young to ingest solid foods or formula milk, try to breastfeed your little one at a regular time interval. If constipation persists for the longer time span, it is better to consult the doctor as soon as possible.

2. Older Than Two Months:

As your baby becomes two months, older include at least 3 ounces of water in his daily diet. Additionally, you can also include two ounces of diluted grape or apple juice.

3. Older Than Four Months:

When your baby reaches the age of four months, you can think of including formula milk in her diet. But it is extremely important to pay attention to the consistency of the formula milk. Use the recommended scoop of formula milk, as suggested by the manufacturing brand. Higher amounts of milk powder induce constipation.

4. 5-10 Months Old:

At this age, you can introduce solid foods into your baby’s diet. Make sure that the foods are in perfect puree form. Ensure that there are no lumps in your baby’s food, as it becomes difficult to digest.

5. 1-Year-Old Infant:

As your baby reaches the age of one year and above you can include dietary food elements like fresh fruits and vegetables (8).

Natural Remedies To Cure Constipation In Infants Or Babies:

The painful and irritable syndrome of constipation makes your baby’s life more stressful. It is very difficult for you to see your little angel suffering from this health ailment. The introduction of solid foods, dehydration, and usage of dairy-based products or formula milk are some of the major factors to trigger dehydration in your infant. But before opting for natural remedies for constipation in babies, it is advisable to consider the age.

Let us check out some effective, natural and simple remedies to treat infant constipation:

1. Stomach Massage:

Stomach massage is an effective way to soothe your baby’s abdominal pain or cramps and aid in smooth bowel movements.

  • Gently massage your baby’s little tummy in a clockwise direction using your fingertips.
  • Massage around the naval region and rotate the fingertips in a spherical motion.
  • Stomach massage eradicates the tummy pain and helps your child feel relief from the severe painful symptoms of constipation.
  • However, avoid pressing your baby’s tummy too hard, as it makes her feel uncomfortable (9).

2. Increase Water Consumption:

Dehydration is one of the crucial factors to lead constipation in your infant.

  • Whether your little one is breast or bottle fed, try to make sure that she consumes adequate amounts of water daily.
  • If you notice any of the signs of constipation in your baby, feed her an additional 2-4 ounces (1/4 -1/2 cup) of water every day.
  • Elevating the amount of water consumption helps to regulate the bowel movements (10).

3. Sugar Solution:

Sugar solution soothes infant constipation and helps in regulating the irregular bowel movements.

  • Add a half teaspoon of sugar in a single ounce of plain water.
  • Feed the solution to your little one, thrice a day. Your baby can have the solution before intake of formula milk.
  • It is advisable to use brown sugar, instead of white sugar for the preparation of the sugar solution.

4. Prune Juice:

Prune juice serves as an effective home remedy to relieve constipation in infants.

  • The natural juice extracted from prunes acts as a laxative to help your baby get rid of constipation easily.
  • If your baby’s age lies above four months, mix four ounces of breast milk with one ounce of prune juice. Feed your baby the diluted mixture of prune juice twice a day.
  • If your baby’s age is less than four months, mix one tablespoon of prune juice with four ounces of breast milk and feed your baby. The mentioned proportion is sufficient to regulate bowel movements of your little one (11).

5. Dark Corn Syrup:

Dark corn syrup is a perfect combo to treat baby constipation effectively.

  • Take four ounces of water in a saucepan and bring the water to a boil.
  • Add one teaspoon of dark corn syrup to the cooled boiled water and mix well.
  • Feed one teaspoon of the mixture to your baby twice daily.
  • If you’re already feeding your baby the sugar solution, avoid using dark corn syrup.

6. Warm Bath:

A warm bath helps relax the stomach muscles and helps baby constipation.

Utilize lukewarm water to bath your little one. While drying your baby try to massage the tummy gently using soft circular movements.

7. Include High-Fiber Foods:

During the early years, some of the common foods fed to your infant are a banana, carrots, cheese and rice cereal. All these food elements contain fewer fibers and exhibit a binding effect on the stool. As a result, your little one becomes a victim of constipation.

Include high-fiber foods in your baby’s diet like peaches, plums, prunes and apricots. These are better choices to avoid constipation in childhood days.

8. Give Your Baby “Bicycle Legs”:

Regular exercising aids in smooth bowel movement and help to overcome constipation easily.

  • As your small one cannot practice jogging, walking or swimming you can think of some other effective exercising technique.
  • Making your baby’s leg swirl in bicycling or paddling motion eases in a smooth bowel movement.
  • Place your baby on her back on the bed. Lift up her legs and move them in circular motions. The movement exerts an abdominal pressure, and your baby feels the urge of popping.

9. Rectal Simulation:

Rectal simulation eases the bowel movements and helps your baby to pass the smooth comfortably.

  • Use a small amount of Vaseline to lubricate the tip of the rectal thermometer.
  • Carefully insert the lubricated thermometer into your baby’s bottom portion.
  • Gently wiggle the tip of the thermometer for few times.
  • The effective wiggling of the thermometer initiates the urge of passing stool, and your baby gets relief from severe constipation (12).

10. Lubrication To Anus:

Gently apply a water based lubricate around your baby’s anal region.

  • The lubrication aids in a smooth bowel movement and decreases the discomfort around the anal region of your baby.
  • At the time of changing the diaper, rub the anus and wipe out the lubricant gently. It encourages your little one to poop.

11. Castor Oil:

Castor oil serves as a common home remedy to treat constipation in baby effectively.

  • Take a betel leaf and dip the leaf along with its stalk in castor oil.
  • Smoothly inject the soaked leaf stack inside your baby’s rectum. The castor oil lubricates the passage and aids in relieving severe constipation.
  • If your baby’s age lies above two years, you can mix one teaspoon of castor oil in a glass of milk and feed it to your little one. The dosage of castor oil solely depends on the age of your baby (13).

Important Points To Remember:

  1. Always try to keep your baby hydrated. Feed her adequate amount of fluids at regular interval of time.
  1. Set a regular toilet time for your little one and encourage her to poop and eliminate the wastes.
  1. Before giving any variation of fruit juices such as apple, grapes, pear or prune dilute them with plain water. Concentrated juice imposes diarrhea or gas.
  1. If your baby cannot digest dairy products or cow milk, try to eliminate these foods from her diet.
  1. Use few exercising techniques like rotating your baby’s legs or massaging her tummy to initiate bowel movements. Try to include physical activities like jumping running and walking in her daily regime. Physical activities regulate the digestive system functioning.
  1. Avoid feeding cow’s milk to tour little infant, as she faces difficult to digest the compounds of cow’s milk. Alternatively, try feeding soy milk as it is nutritious and easily digestible.
  1. While switching to distinct brand formula milk, never choose a low-iron formula. It does not affect in constipation, rather in hampers your baby’s growth processes.
  1. Avoid giving bananas, dairy products, white bread, potatoes or pasta to your constipated baby. It is better to include high-fiber foods in her diet.

Did your little angel suffer from constipation during her childhood days? What measures did you take to comfort your adorable baby? Share some constipation remedies with other mommies here!

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