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Constipation can be a serious problem for newborn babies.
Left untreated, it can cause a bowel blockage that might require surgery.
Constipation in a newborn can also be a sign of a more serious medical problem.
That’s why it is very important to know how to spot constipation in your newborn and how to treat it. Luckily, there are a number of measures you can take to alleviate your baby’s constipation.
Spotting the Signs
Look for signs of pain during your baby’s bowel movements.
If your baby exhibits signs of pain while trying to have a bowel movement, it could be a symptom of constipation.
Look if your baby makes painful faces, arches their back, or cries while trying to have a bowel movement.
Keep in mind, however, that babies often strain during bowel movements because their abdominal muscles are underdeveloped.
If your baby strains for a few minutes and then produces a normal stool, then everything should be okay.
Keep track of your baby's bowel movements.
An indication of infant constipation is long periods without a bowel movement.
If you’re concerned, try to remember when your baby last had a bowel movement.
Write down whenever your baby has a bowel movement if your are worried your baby may be constipated.
It isn’t uncommon for babies to have several days in between bowel movements.
Typically if your baby doesn’t have a bowel movement after five days, this could be a cause for concern, and you should contact your doctor.
If your baby is less than two weeks old, contact your doctor if it has been more than two to three days between bowel movements.
Examine any stools that your newborn passes.
Even if your baby produces stool, she still may be suffering from constipation.
Look for the following characteristics in your baby’s stool to determine if she may be constipated.
Small, pellet-like pieces of stool.
Dark-colored, black, or grey stool.
Dry pieces with little to no moisture.
Watch for any signs of blood in the stool or on the diaper.
A small tear in the sensitive rectal wall may have occurred from your baby forcing the passage of a hard stool.
Treating Infant Constipation
Increase your baby’s fluid intake.
Constipation is often caused by a lack of fluid in the digestive tract. Offer the breast or formula more frequently than you have been, up to every two hours.
Use glycerin suppositories.
If dietary changes aren’t effective, you can try using a glycerin suppository.
This is gently placed into your baby’s anus and helps lubricate stool.
These are only meant for occasional use, however, so do not administer a suppository without first speaking to the baby’s healthcare provider.
Try massaging your baby.
Try massaging your baby’s tummy in a circular motion close to their navel.
This may offer some comfort to your baby and help promote a bowel movement.
Try bicycling their legs to see if this helps.
Give your baby a warm bath.
This may help him to relax enough to allow the passage of stool. You can also try placing a warm face cloth on your baby’s tummy.
Visit your doctor.
If any of these remedies don’t help your baby’s constipation, you should take them to the doctor right away.
Constipation can cause a blockage of the bowel, which is a serious medical problem.
Constipation in a newborn can be a sign of a other serious health problems.
Your baby’s doctor will perform a full exam and can prescribe a treatment that will alleviate your baby’s constipation.
Seek emergency medical care in serious circumstances.
Constipation can be a serious problem if paired with certain symptoms.
Rectal bleeding and/or vomiting can indicate a bowel blockage, which is a life-threatening condition.
If your baby exhibits constipation with these symptoms, visit the emergency room as soon as possible.
Other concerning symptoms include:
Excessive sleepiness or irritability
Swollen or distended abdomen
Buying for More Experienced Eaters
Move to “Stage 3” foods.
Stage 3 food is for babies who are about 11 to 12 months old and not completely ready to switch to table foods.
They contain larger chunks of food to help older babies learn to chew and become familiar with varying textures, easing the transition to full solids.
By 8 or 9 months, most babies have developed enough coordination, finger dexterity, and swallowing skills to move to finger foods.
Babies in this age group are also learning to mash and chew their food with gums or first teeth.
Look for added textures, flavors, and ingredients.
Babies who have reached this point can eat chunkier textures, larger portions, and more foods overall.
This includes foods that have “bits” in it, like softened muesli.
Try pre-prepared foods that mix several ingredients, like Beech-Nut Organic’s mango, pineapple, and granola or sweet potato and barley.
Earth’s Best has soups, chunky vegetable combos, and also “chunky blends” like peach apricot muesli and spaghetti with cheese.
Do it yourself or use table food.
As always, you can also prepare the food on your own for your baby.
You’ll still usually need to cook the fruit and vegetables, but you can mix in finger foods as well as chunky purees. Finger foods should be cut into small pieces.
Table food – also cut into small pieces – is OK, too.
For instance, for breakfast you might make your baby a quarter to half cup of mashed eggs and cereal with some diced fruit.
Lunch could be diced meat or chunky cottage cheese, with a quarter to half cup of diced meat and fruit and veggies for dinner.
Eating the same food as your baby is a easy way to save, as well. Your grocery bill will be smaller if you aren’t cooking two separate meals – yours and the child’s.
Continue to avoid non-nutritious foods
Keep it healthy. Added sugars or empty calories won’t help your baby grow the way she needs to. Make sure that foods don’t have added sweeteners or salt.
Go for lean meats like chicken.
Limit sweets such as cookies, candy, or sweetened fruit drinks like punch. These should be saved for special occasions only.