Infant Constipation: Causes & Symptoms

by Meenakshi Nagdeve last updated -

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Infant constipation is a time when babies cry a lot and as parents, you should notice the tears, which are not ‘crocodile tears’. And remember as babies, they can only express their emotions in limited ways, namely crying and making noise. The most common affliction which affects not only babies but also their parents; going to the bathroom!

What is Infant Constipation?

Infant constipation is a serious problem and happens when your baby has hard, unmoving stool that is difficult to pass. Also, less frequent or irregular bowel movements means that your infant is constipated. There are a number of things that can bring it on; also at certain times in infancy and early childhood, constipation is common.

Normal bowel movements in infants occur 4-5 times per day in the period directly after birth, and these should be soft stools, which easily pass through the digestive system. Breastfed children typically have more consistent bowel movements than formula-fed babies. As they age, the rate of BM (bowel movements) will drop to 2-3 per day, and then again around two years of age, reducing to 1-2 per day.

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It is important to recognize the symptoms because babies often resist passing hard or painful stools, which only exacerbates the problem. You need to understand what might be going wrong, and then actively work to fix it. First, let’s look at the causes and traditional examples of infant/childhood constipation.

Causes

There are a number of causes of infant constipation, and knowing which cause that is can help you treat the symptoms and prevent a similar condition from occurring again in the future.

  • Changes in diet: As infants, our organ systems are warming up and getting used to the normal metabolic functions and activities that we will continue for the rest of our lives. The digestive system is one of these, so drastic changes, like a switch from breastfeeding to formula or processed foods. This change can be disruptive to your child’s system and cause it to become constipated.
  • Dehydration: This form of constipation is often due to decreased fluids that the infant is taking in (particularly after you stop breastfeeding them), and without fluid to make the stool soft and easy to pass through the digestive tract, it can harden and become more and more painful to the child.
  • Nutritional intake: Just like in adults, a baby’s diet can have a huge impact on constipation. Infants need fiber to add bulk to the stool in order for it to pass through their digestive tract.
  • Emotional stress: Again, babies are not so different from adults. When we are stressed or anxious, it can often manifest as constipation. Infants that are going through a rough “stage” or a negative patch of behavior can often stress themselves out into not creating passable bowel movements and cause themselves to become constipated.

Symptoms

It is important that you approach a doctor if any of the following symptoms of infant constipation take place:

  • Continuous stomach pain
  • Pain while relieving a stool
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Spitting up food
  • Continuous vomiting
  • Swelling of the stomach
  • Weakness of muscles
  • Stools are ‘blocked’
  • Pellet-like stools
  • Foul-smelling wind
  • Hard belly
  • No improvement with a change in diet

Although there are many ways to cure constipation in adults, there are limited options for infants. It is very important to be observant of your child’s diet and behavior to determine the cause of constipation.

About the Author

Meenakshi Nagdeve is a health and wellness enthusiast and started working on Organic Facts since 2012 and is currently responsible for managing it. She follows naturopathy and believes in healing with foods. She holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from IIM Bangalore and B. Tech in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science from IIT Bombay. Prior to this, she worked for a few years in IT and Financial services. In her free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.

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