Wondering what to do when your baby gets constipated? This is a question asked by all parents looking for signs of a happy baby when all they’re getting are distress signals.
Know that you are not the only one worrying about it. Your first impulse may be to call your pediatrician, and you would be right in doing so. Although most baby digestive problems are caused by nutritional changes that come with time and growth, there are illnesses which can cause the same problem and should be crossed off the list before taking any further action.
Once you’re confident there’s nothing more serious going on, consider the following:
– Is it really constipation?
Babies’ bodies are still adapting. This includes going from very easily digestible breastmilk or special formulas to solid foods, which are harder to process. If the periods between stools are not longer than three days and the stools are consistent yet soft, don’t panic.
– Is he fussy because he is constipated?
Babies can get fussy about the smallest things. Excessive fussiness paired with a lack of bowel movement is a pretty good indication of constipation.
– Is he straining and looking distressed?
One thing to bear in mind before looking up what to do when babies get constipated is that babies’ stomach muscles – the ones we use when we “help” the bowel movement along – are not developed. This means that they will strain a little bit, but this is normal. If they look unusually distressed, or they look like they’re in pain, it means that they’re dealing with more than just normal effort.
– How’s the consistency?
Dry and hard stools are a sure sign of constipation. Mucus and blood in the stool mean a visit to the doctor. Soft stools mean there’s no reason for immediate alarm.
So, what to do when babies get constipated?
If you’re now feeling pretty confident that your baby is constipated, here are some tips to help your baby move things along.
1. Cut back on the solids and give baby more breastmilk. It may just be that your baby’s digestive system isn’t ready for solid foods yet. Although there are indicators of when babies are ready for solid foods, your baby’s needs may just be different. Therefore, a quick first step is to alternate between his former eating habits, the ones which help the bowel movements, and the new ones.
2. Reduce the dairy products in your diet if you are still breastfeeding. There may be a slight chance your child is allergic to a protein in cow’s milk. The protein usually takes between 10 days and 3 weeks to eliminate. According to www.kellymom.com, you should avoid dairy for at least that long before drawing a conclusion. Note that this is not connected to lactose; it is completely separate from lactose intolerance.
3. Change the formula. If your baby is formula-fed, this could be the reason your baby is constipated. Some formulas have this effect. Talk to your doctor about it. You may just have to try a few different brands.
4. Water it down. If baby’s stools are dry and hard, water should be among the first solutions that come to mind. Ask your doctor just how much water you can give your baby.
5. Try fruit juice. Your very reliable, fast-working allies in the pooping game are plums, pears, peaches, and watermelons. Dilute them so you don’t give too much sugar to your baby and watch them work their magic.
6. Puree this, puree that! Vegetables to the rescue! Fiber-rich vegetables will help your baby with the transition from breastmilk/formula to solids. Start off with spinach, sweet potatoes, and avocado if the doctor says it’s OK. You can mash them, puree them, or stew them in unsalted soups. If your baby is already eating rice cereal, cooked carrots, dairy products, pasta, bananas, white bread, or potatoes give them up for a while. They may be contributing to baby’s constipation.
7. Work it out. We’ve covered food. Are you still wondering what to do when babies get constipated? Release abdominal pressure by helping your baby with a light workout. Move his little legs like he’s taking an invisible bicycle ride. It will help the bowel movement move along and ease your baby’s need to strain.
8. Try tummy rubs. These are both effective and pleasant! With the palm of your hand, make small, smooth circles starting from the baby’s navel and moving outwards and clockwise. This massage helps alleviate tummy aches.
9. Try warm baths to soothe the muscles and help them “let it go”. The weak muscles in your baby’s body may be contracting in an effort to push. This may have an opposite effect and cause the bowel contents to get stuck due to contracted muscles blocking it. Give the baby a warm, soothing bath, then add a tummy rub as a bonus and see your baby go from straining to relaxing, and hopefully releasing.
10. If everything else fails, try glycerin suppositories. This may also be your doctor’s first answer when asking him what to do when babies get constipated. This is a measure to be taken only by asking your doctor how much of the suppository to administer and for how long. This should not be used regularly; only as a last resort when your baby is obviously straining and/or in pain.
It is normal for your baby’s digestive system to go through changes; constipation may be one of them. Check with your doctor to make sure it’s nothing more than that and then decide what could be the possible cause of the problem.
The next time you hear a new parent ask what to do when babies get constipated, you will know how to advise them like a pro!
Featured image source: Donnie Ray Jones/Flickr