In babies, constipation refers to hard bowel motions and not infrequent bowel motions. Babies may have several bowel motions per day which is normal or 1 every second or third day, which is also normal.
The most common cause for constipation is when a baby/toddler associates passing a stool with pain, so they delay toileting and the problem gets worse.
It’s quite rare in breastfed babies to be constipated. It usually start when:
- you start introducing solids
- you start introducing formula or
- when your baby is not getting enough fluids in their diet.
The most common signs of constipation is:
- The poo is hard, dry or crumbly and looks like marbles. You can use he Bristol Stool Chart:
- Baby is crying and looks uncomfortable before doing a poo
- The poo or wind smells bad
- Baby is not eating enough
- Baby has a hard belly
If the poo is very hard, it can sometimes cause small tears around your baby’s anus (back passage). These little tears can bleed and course more pain and discomfort.
What to do:
- Never give your baby medication for constipation unless prescribed by your doctor.
- Breastfed babies: Feed your baby more often. See your doctor.
- Formula fed babies: Make sure the formula has been made up correctly (Enough water). Make sure you’re adding water to the bottle first, then the powder of the formula.
- Solid fed babies: Offer water/diluted fruit juice (especially prune juice) between meals. (1 part juice to 3 parts water. Encourage your baby/toddler to eat more fruit and vegetables. Many different foods can contribute to constipation. Too much applesauce, bananas and cereal (especially rice cereal)
Other things you can do:
- Gently move your baby’s legs in a cycling motion – this may help stimulate their bowel
- Gently massage your baby’s tummy
- Gentle rectal stimulation with the use of a cotton swab or rectal thermometer
- Glycerin suppository
- Encourage your toilet trained child to develop the habit of sitting on the toilet regularly and pushing. Two times a day for 3 – 5 minutes each time. Try this 20 – 30 minutes after meals
- It can help if your child has a footstool/ box
If your baby is constipated, try to get this under control before thinking to do sleep training. It’s very difficult to sleep train a constipated baby.
Good luck and sleep well