The best treatments for baby constipation are usually exercise, increased fluid intake, and a slow introduction of naturally fibrous foods, typically in that order. Babies under one year of age have very sensitive digestive tracts, and occasional constipation is often just a part of the growing process. Treatments should usually start as gently as possible and build incrementally in order to get results. Babies who seem very uncomfortable as a result of constipation or who don’t have a bowel movement in more than three days should usually be referred to a medical professional.
Understanding Infant Constipation
Constipation in infants usually happens because of a change in diet. For babies who are exclusively milk-fed, the culprit may be something in the mother’s diet that has impacted her breast milk, or else a change in formula brand or ingredients. Babies who are starting solid foods usually experience constipation as a result of something new they’ve tried that their bodies are having a harder time processing. Most experts recommend that, to maintain the delicate balance of the baby’s digestive system, natural remedies should be used as soon as a change in the baby’s stool is noticed.
Sometimes baby constipation can be detected by feeling the abdomen. The baby’s lower right stomach region can be rubbed, and if it’s hard, then the intestines may be impacted and could be the reason the baby is feeling constipated. If gently rubbing the baby’s stomach does not cause the fecal matter to move, the baby’s anus can be rubbed in a light circular motion to stimulate a rectal response. Once the sluggish intestinal track has begun moving, the bowels should move also, though this can take some time.
Infant exercise is one of the easiest and least invasive methods of getting things moving in the baby's system. One of the best exercises is done by laying the baby on his or her back, then making the baby’s feet move in a bicycle motion — which is to say, the baby’s feet should move as if he or she were pedaling a bicycle. Movements can go both forward and backward. This exercise can be done several times a day to prevent baby constipation. Most infants will find it enjoyable and it will help keep things moving through the intestines, which is particularly important for young infants who don’t otherwise move around very much.
Increase Fluid Intake
For most babies, formula and breast milk contain all the essential nutrients, including water. Constipation often happens as a response to dehydration, though, so getting baby to drink more milk often helps. If the baby's doctor permits the infant to consume water, it should be given to the infant in small sips throughout the day. Water nipples can be purchased for the baby's bottle in these cases; these special nipples are thicker than normal milk nipples and will prevent the baby from taking in too much water. This can cause him or her to become prematurely full, thus missing out on the important nutrients in milk and any other foods.
A small amount of glucose syrup also can be added to formula or breast milk to alleviate constipation. Most experts recommend starting with just a few drops for each ounce of milk. The amount of syrup can be increased if necessary, and it should be discontinued if the baby's stool becomes too loose.
Older babies who have already started solid foods might also benefit from increased fiber. Cooked pears or peaches are a great source of fiber that should be well tolerated by the baby’s delicate system. Unsweetened applesauce is another popular choice. In all instances, though, it’s important to start very slowly, offering no more than one new food per day and not overloading a baby with fiber. This could overwhelm the baby's digestive system and cause diarrhea, which comes with problems all its own.
When to Get Help
Young babies and infants don’t always have regular bowel movements, and in some cases it’s normal to have just one poop every two or three days. A lack of dirty diapers doesn’t necessarily mean that a baby is constipated, though it can be a cause for concern in an infant who was otherwise very regular up until that point. Medical experts usually recommend that babies come in for a check up if they haven’t had a bowel movement in more than three days, particularly if they seem uncomfortable, bloated, or in distress.