Top Tips on What Feed Your Baby to Relieve Constipation
QUESTION: Hi, my 5 and half month old started solid since last week (organic oatmeal cereal) and she’s been constipated for the last day or so. She’s also been rejecting the bottle ( I’ve been exclusively pumping) and it’s a challenge to even give her 2 ounces of milk. Can you please let me know how I can help her relieve constipation and get her back into drinking milk?
ANSWER: The general question about when to start solid food is very individual for each baby, as is what solid food to start with. Here’s what we recommend based on our own experience with eight children, our grandchildren, and our pediatric practice:
The Later the Better
For most babies, follow the guideline of “the later the better”. That’s because the more mature the gut is, the more intestinal-friendlier the feeding is. Around six months of age, a baby’s intestinal lining undergoes a major developmental maturation called “closure”. This means that the intestinal lining becomes less likely to leak potential food allergens into the bloodstream, the most common being wheat.
Salmon at Seven Months
The next concern is: You want to match the nutrients in the solid food you are starting to what your baby most needs at that age, and that nutrient is healthy fat. (Notice there are no healthy fats in rice cereal or even oatmeal – and these grain foods are often the culprits in setting a younger baby up for constipation.) Around six months of age, the fat content of mother’s milk usually starts to diminish, yet a baby’s brain, which is 60% fat, is going through a growth spurt. So, it makes sense to start solid foods that contain “smart fat”. For this reason, our favorite starter food is mashed avocado, at around six months of age. Our next favorite fatty food is wild salmon. Remember, salmon at seven months! One more favorite food for babies between six and seven months is mashed or small bits of baked sweet potato.
Since your main concern right now is relieving your baby’s constipation, you will find a step-by-step stool softening program in our ebook, downloadable from our website: Dr. Poo: The Scoop on Comfortable Poop, where we list Poo-Friendly Solids and how to get babies to like them. You will also find poo-friendly tips for toddlers.
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.”