Tips to Ease Baby Constipation
What can I do to help my baby’s constipation? He also has silent reflux. I have tried pears and prunes, and they seem to make the reflux worse.
Constipation is painful for children to have and painful for mothers to watch. As I have said many times in my Mondays with Martha, parenting is giving your children the tools to succeed in life. Instilling good-gut-health tools into your child early on is one of the healthiest habits and tools you can help them develop.
Constipation is a Painful Cycle
Follow me closely as to what’s going on in his gut. As digested food travels down his intestines, water and nutrients are absorbed, and the waste material becomes his bowel movements. For a soft and painless stool to form, enough water must remain in the waste material, and the lower intestinal muscles must contract and relax to move the stool along and out. Malfunction of either of these mechanisms – too little water or poor muscle movement – can cause constipation.
When your baby’s bowel movements become hard and painful, this causes him to hold them in, which makes them harder and more difficult to pass. Over time, the bowel muscle weakens, which further aggravates the problem. Next, the passage of hard stools through a narrow rectum often tears the rectal wall (called a “rectal fissure”), accounting for streaks of blood you may notice in your baby’s diaper. This cycle explains why it often takes about six weeks of stool-softening for the bowel muscle to regain its strength.
Stool-Softening Techniques for Baby Constipation
Drink to Go
While breastfed infants seldom need extra water, formula-fed babies are more prone to constipation because the formula is more concentrated. In fact, not drinking enough fluids is one of the most common contributors to constipation. Hard stools are basically those that are water-deprived.
Constipation is common between six and eight months of age when babies transition from solely breastfeeding or bottle-feeding to starting solids. When babies begin to eat more, they often drink less, which is just the opposite of what you want them to do. This can make the stools harder and more painful to pass.
Babies who are prone to constipation often become more constipated when solids are introduced, which is why years ago in our writings, we substituted the usual and more constipating rice cereal with avocados and other pureed fruits, or what we call the four “P’s”: pureed pears, plums, peaches, and prunes. You could also try giving him diluted prune juice, such as a tablespoon in eight ounces of water a day. Another option is you could try flax oil. Besides containing healthy omega-3 fats, flax oil is a natural laxative. Start with a teaspoon a day. I discourage the use of mineral oil in infants even though it is a popular laxative. Besides providing absolutely no nutritional value, mineral oil, if overused, can deplete the intestines of some vitamins.
Feed Baby More Frequently to Avoid Baby Constipation
Reflux and constipation are often uncomfortable partners in intestinal health. The slower the food empties from the intestines, the more likely is the reflux. Since many of our babies seemed to have “pains in the gut,” I tried what I called the “rule of two’s” – feed twice as often and half as much. This gives the intestines more time to digest the food and milk, which contributes to softer stools.
Watch for About-To-Go Signs
As soon as he begins to grunt, draw up his legs onto a bloated, tense abdomen or get red-faced (which are signs of straining), quickly insert a glycerin suppository as far into the baby’s rectum as you can. As you insert the glycerin suppository, wiggle it a bit, which stimulates baby’s tense rectal muscles to relax. Hold baby’s buttocks together for a few minutes to dissolve the glycerin. The suppository will also lubricate the area and eases the passage of the hard stools. Harmless fissures he previously may have gotten during straining will heal after a few days to a week of suppository use. (You can consult your baby’s healthcare provider for the use of other types of laxatives or suppositories.)
B&B Technique (Bath and Bowel Movement)
Oh, do I remember this scene – sometimes messy, but pain-relieving. Immerse your baby in a warm bath with the water about chest high. When baby is relaxed, massage his abdomen and get ready for what I dubbed the “mudslide.”
Journal Your Progress
Journal which foods trigger baby’s constipation and which ones don’t. Stop the foods that are causing constipation and reintroduce them in a few months. Little gut brains, like head brains, are unique. Find the foods and the way of feeding that is most gut-friendly for your baby.
Martha is the mother of Dr. Bill’s eight children, a registered nurse, a former childbirth educator, a La Leche League leader, and a lactation consultant. Martha is the co-author of 25 parenting books and is a popular lecturer and media guest drawing on her 18 years of breastfeeding experience with her eight children (including Stephen with Down Syndrome and Lauren, her adopted daughter). Martha speaks frequently at national parenting conferences and is noted for her advice on how to handle the most common problems facing today’s mothers with their changing lifestyles. Martha is able to connect with both full-time, stay-at-home mothers and working mothers because she herself has experienced both styles of parenting. Martha takes great pride in referring to herself as a “professional mother” and one of her favorite quips when someone voices their concern about her having eight children in an already populated world is: “The world needs my children.”