Infant constipation: what to do when baby is constipated?

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Infant constipation: what to do when baby is constipated?

Infant constipation: what to do when baby is constipated?

Constipation in young children is often temporary and not very worrying. A somewhat modified diet, combined with an increase in the volume of water to moisten the stools, often makes it possible to relaunch the transit. In rare cases, however, specific symptoms should alert parents and lead them to seek medical attention.

Symptoms of constipation in babies

Above all, it is essential to remember that each child, as well as each adult, has their digestion rate and that we cannot, therefore, draw hasty conclusions by comparing the transit of a baby to that of another.

On the subject of transit, the critical element to consider is how the child is fed: is he bottle-fed? Is he breastfed? Has he started food diversification?

Be that as it may, infants before six months rarely suffer from constipation, especially if they are breastfed. Some babies grunt, squirm and cry with every bowel movement without necessarily being constipated.

Breastfed babies

While exclusively breastfed babies usually have several bowel movements a day for the first few weeks (up to 6 to 8), it is pretty standard that they only have one bowel movement every 3 – 4 days, or even every 10-15 days. This could be a serious concern if newborn not pooping but passing gas. This is entirely normal and should not worry the mother. This change in transit rhythm can be brutal and happen overnight. In France, we recorded the record of a breastfed baby – in perfect health – who did not have a bowel movement for 27 days!

Bottle-fed babies

Bottle-fed children generally tend to have between one and three firm stools daily, although others only pass a stool every three or four days. This is not abnormal unless the chairs are very compact and very dry, similar to balls. Constipation is absolute when the muscles of the lower intestine contract and block the stool, which then remains in the intestine and tends to be hard and dry.

Diverse Babies

As soon as the child begins to have a diversified diet, often after six months, episodes of constipation are not uncommon. They manifest themselves through these symptoms: Check out more at our Faith Blog.

  • irritability, abdominal pain and stomach discomfort
  • bulky stool production and painful defecation
  • a bloated, swollen, stiff and painful belly: if you feel your baby relieved when you put him on his belly, this is a sign that he has stomach pains
  • abdominal pain that persists after a bowel movement
  • blood-streaked stools, usually due to anal damage caused by passing hard stools
  • chairs that look like small, hard balls

Causes of Constipation

The majority of constipation in children is said to be “functional”: this means that it is not linked to a specific pathology. Most of the time, they are only temporary and due to simple dietary factors:

  • Inadequately prepared baby bottles: the quantity of water is not sufficient concerning the amount of formula milk powder
  • Change of diet during food diversification
  • Insufficient water intake, especially in the summer when the risk of dehydration is high
  • Diet too low in fibre – when the baby has a diversified diet

Constipation can also be a child’s way of expressing stress, often triggered by a change in environment (entering a nursery, for example).

If the baby is constipated: see a doctor.

Although it is a significant concern for parents, constipation is common in babies and is not considered a medical condition. In most cases, it suffices to monitor the evolution of the child’s transit because the slowing of the transit is often only temporary.

However, if the symptoms persist, it is crucial to have your child examined by your doctor or your baby’s paediatrician to rule out any medical or surgical condition. Especially if your child:

  • suffers from constipation that has lasted for more than a week
  • has blood-tinged stools
  • has a horrible stomach ache (the prone position relieves it)
  • throws up

In the case of chronic constipation, the main complication is the anal fissure, which is at the origin of the aggravation of constipation: the child suffers during defecation and therefore tends to hold back to avoid pain.

If the stools are not sufficiently evacuated, there is also a risk of bowel obstruction. The latter’s symptoms are generally quite characteristic: sudden and sharp abdominal pain, pallor, vomiting, and sometimes traces of blood in the stool. If in doubt, consult a doctor immediately.

What food to fight against infant constipation?

With the proper diet, your baby’s bowel habits should return to normal within a few days.

Here are the rules of conduct to follow:

If he does not have a big appetite, split his meals into several small meals.

Increase the amount of fibre in these meals by offering more:

  • complete or integral cereals (pasta, bread, rice, flour in homemade preparations such as cakes)
  • green vegetables in the form of purees (green beans, white leeks, spinach)
  • fruits in the form of compotes (apple-rhubarb or apple-prunes, for example)

Make sure your baby drinks enough water during the day: offer him something to drink often, especially in summer. For the preparation of milk bottles, as for water consumed in isolation, prefer plain water, rich in magnesium such as Hépar®, Contrex® or Courmayer® water, for example.

Eliminate chocolate in all its forms

Eliminate flour in baby bottles

Possibly offer a few spoonfuls of prune juice to your child during the day

Add a few teaspoons of vegetable broth, apple juice or freshly squeezed orange juice to the bottle.

Limit foods that constipate, such as rice, bananas, carrots and quince

Moreover, abdominal massage can help speed up transit and provide relief regardless of your child’s age. To do this, raise his legs towards his belly by making small movements. Several times a day, you can gently massage your baby’s belly around his navel in a clockwise direction. This can stimulate his bowels and help the stool go down.

On the other hand, self-medication is to be avoided: suppositories with a laxative effect should only be administered on the advice of your doctor or the paediatrician who follows your child. Do not be tempted to use an aggressive method on your own, such as an enema or the introduction of a thermometer rectally to stimulate the natural reflex of expulsion, at the risk of causing lesions and increasing your child’s pain.

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