Infant Constipation

If you plan to bottle feed your newborn, there is some likelihood that the child will have constipation within the first few months of it’s life. Breast milk is more easily digested by infants than formula, which leaves more residue in the infants colon. The colon builds up, dries and becomes hard and pellet-like. This can make it difficult for an infant to pass it out of their system and can make them very uncomfortable. Breast fed babies might have a stool once a day, whereas a bottle fed child may go days without a bowel movement.

There are a few signs of infant constipation. If your infant does not have a bowel movement for three or more days, shows signs of discomfort and pain when passing a stool, a swollen or hardened abdomen, or hard and pebble-like stools. A little grunting or straining is to be expected, but if it is excessive, you might be dealing with constipation. If you suspect infant constipation, you should always first consult your doctor or pediatrician.

Unfortunately, there are no medications available for infant constipation because of how young they are. Infants will usually outgrow constipation in a few months after birth, but until then, there are things you can do to help your baby feel better and have more natural stools.

First of all, you can try gently massaging your infant’s tummy. Some babies may enjoy this, while other may not. If you child seems displeased, immediately discontinue. You can try the “bicycle” with your baby, which is essentially pumping their legs up and down as if they were riding a bicycle. This can help things “get moving”. Give your baby water in their bottle. Typically, it’s not recommended to give infants juice, such as prune juice, before they are 4 months old.

If these things don’t seem to be helping your infant’s constipation, you may want to consider glycerin suppositories. You should always follow the instructions on the package and your doctor’s guidelines. It is highly recommended that you purchase some latex gloves first. Use exactly as directed, usually wetting the gyclerin suppository first. Inserting the gylcerin suppository into the rectum should stimulate it and initiate the defecation reflex. This should be only temporary and not done on a daily basis, so as to not lead to the infant’s dependence on having to have a suppository in order to have a bowel movement.

Most children’s laxative are for those at least 6 months and older. I specifically asked my pediatrician if there was anything he could prescribe for my daughter’s constipation. Unfortunately, the only thing he could recommend was a product called Colace. He told me to give her 1/4 of the dosage for children. This actually did help a little and I gave her a little every day, which made the stools a little softer and easier to pass.

You could also consider doing a baby enema. I was a little hesitant on trying this, as I was afraid to damage the rectum. It’s simply a matter of gently squeezing a little water into the anus. You can even perform this using a plastic bulb.

Iron is NOT the cause of infant constipation, so don’t throw out your regular formula just yet. All formula has some level of iron in it. Personally, I had looked everywhere with something that didn’t contain iron and could not find anything. This was prior to the pediatrician letting me know that iron is not the culprit. Infant constipation is caused by their diet or changes of the diet, metabolic disorders, not drinking enough fluid and drinking cows milk.

Before doing anything, have your doctor or pediatrician confirm that it is indeed infant constipation. Your pediatrician will most likely perform a simple rectal exam in order to discover if the infant is constipated or if there is any physical obstruction. Always follow the recommendations of your doctor.

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