As a parent, you’d watch for your little one’s every laugh, coo, and hiccup. But it might happen that all your baby seems to be doing is crying and that too is a sign that your little one is trying to communicate something to you. Infant constipation is one such condition that might be making your baby teary-eyed.
Infant constipation is something that you have to be observant about as babies’ stool schedules can swing on either end of the spectrum. A baby who is exclusively breastfed will almost never suffer from constipation, but formula-fed babies may experience 3-4 bowel in a day or need to move their bowels only once every few days. The rate of BM (bowel movements) even in healthy infants vary widely depending on their diet.
Infants have to work hard to have a bowel movement, so straining isn’t that worrying even if your baby cries or gets red-faced. Imagine having to have a bowel movement on your back! Understanding the possible signs as babies will often resist having a bowel movement if the stools are hard or painful, which only adds to the problem. You need to be watchful to understand what might be amiss, and then actively try to fix it.
Some traditional approaches to infant constipation are:
- Delaying the introduction of solid food or formula after breastfeeding
- Increasing the amount of liquid they consume
- Adding fibrous foods to their diet
- Calming them during stressful situations
Let us explore other useful home remedies that have worked for generations, and are often connected with nutritional or dietary issues.
Home Remedies for Infant Constipation
Here are the most popular and trusted home remedies and alternative strategies that many people find helpful:
Prunes and prune juice contain high levels of fiber, which will help to bulk up stool content and promote its passage through the digestive tract. Also, they are mild sources of sorbitol, which is a colonic stimulant and will help the creation and release of bowel movements. Combine 3 parts water with 1 part prune juice in a bottle and mix thoroughly. Give your baby the bottle and wait for the prune juice to do its magic!
Warm Bath/Baking Soda
Warm water helps to relax muscles all over the body, but for babies that are constipated, it can relax the rectal muscles that have been tensed from the pain of constipation. The baking soda (approximately 2-3 teaspoons added in the bathwater) can further soothe the child into having a bowel movement.
Milk of Magnesia
As a short-term solution for constipation, milk of magnesia can be added in small amounts (1 teaspoon) to the baby’s bottle. Milk of magnesia forces the colon to slightly distend and absorb water from the body, causing the muscles to contract and release a loose stool. However, this should not be done on a regular basis, as it is dehydrating and can cause dangerous electrolyte imbalances.
As with adults, movement keeps the body’s organs working, and the digestive system is no exception. Movement can often loosen hardened bowels and stimulate a bowel movement. For infants, bouncing and rocking can sometimes stimulate a bowel movement. Rubbing their stomach and giving abdominal massage can sometimes help as well, by manually stimulating peristaltic motion in the child.
Metamucil and Bran Flakes
One of the best natural solutions for constipation is the addition of psyllium husks, more commonly known as bran flakes, to the baby’s soft foods. This high-fiber stool softener should stimulate the bulking up of the bowel movements that will stimulate a bowel movement. These psyllium flakes can be commonly found in the form of Metamucil at most grocery stores.
Sometimes, certain types of formula or processed foods can cause constipation in children. If you notice that a new food is causing a problem, try switching varieties to see which one is most compatible with your child’s system.
If the constipation is caused due to dehydration, a quick fix is to simply switch back to the more fluid diet, which will loosen the stool to normal levels and relieve the infant’s discomfort. Overly active children become dehydrated more quickly, so they should be given extra water or diluted juice daily to stimulate healthy bowel movements.
A proper diet of fruits and fiber-rich vegetables, particularly once they have stopped breastfeeding is essential to healthy bowel movements. Adding fibrous foods to their diet can be a quick fix for this common reason for constipation in infants.
Due to the inability to properly communicate their distress, it is a good idea to see a doctor before beginning any at home treatments of constipation, just to be sure that there is not a more serious problem like a rectal tear or bleeding. In some rare cases, constipation can also be the result of a more serious, chronic disease where serious medical procedures or modern medicines must be employed.
Basically, keep your eyes and ears open, and keep your baby happy!