Infant Constipation Relief Tips
Infant constipation is a very common problem and is frequently seen by both pediatricians and family doctors. Constipation is usually diagnosed when an infant or child has hard stools or has difficulty pooping. Infants are noted to strain excessively and have difficulty passing stools, even though their stools are of normal consistency. The difficulty in passing stools is thought to represent a delay in maturation of intestinal motility.
Before we dive into our infant constipation relief tips, let's discuss symptoms and what constitutes a normal bowel movement frequency.
Symptoms of Constipation in Infants
- Hard and/or dry stools that are difficult to pass, regardless of frequency
- Grunting or visible discomfort when passing a bowel movement
- Reduction in the frequency of bowel movements, particularly when your infant hasn't had one for more than two days
What Causes Infant Constipation?
Your child should be checked by a pediatrician if the bowels do not move daily.
Normally, as digested food travels down the intestines, water and nutrients are absorbed and the waste material becomes stools. For a soft stool to form, enough water must remain in the waste material, and the lower intestinal and rectal muscles must contract and relax to move the stool along and out. A malfunction of either of these mechanisms, too little water, or poor muscle movement can cause constipation.
Being plugged up with a hard stool for three days can be very uncomfortable, so of course your baby might become quite colicky.
Your infant should be checked by a pediatrician if his or her bowels do not move daily.
How Much and What Sort of Poop Is Normal?
The first poops that come out of a newborn are the thick, sticky, tarry meconium stools. The newborn infant should have his or her first stool within 24 hours after birth. Failure to pass a stool by 48 hours of life may signify a more serious condition, such as Hirschsprung's disease, meconium ileus due to cystic fibrosis, or hypothyroidism. Further evaluation of the infant is needed if no bowel movement has occurred within the first 48 hours.
During the first week of your baby's life, these give way (in breast-fed babies) to soft, yellow, breast-milk stools. By the time a baby is one week old, an average of 8 to 10 of these pleasant (as stools go) stools should occur each day.
For most breast-fed babies, the number drops to about four stools per day by four weeks old (although many kids have a different pattern). Formula-fed babies usually poop less often at this age; the stools do not change much with time, at least not until solid foods are introduced (because unlike breast milk, formula doesn't change over time). Formula-fed stools are often tan or yellow at this stage, and a little firmer than breast-milk stools. For any baby, tan, yellow, green, or brown stools can all be normal. By eight weeks old, the average amount of stools drops to one to two per day.
Unfortunately, many doctors erroneously tell parents that many babies will go only every three to eight days or less, and that this can be completely normal. One train of thought is that breast milk is an amazing food that leaves very little in the way of waste.
Just like grown-ups, children need to move their bowels daily. In "Childhood Diseases," Dr. John R. Christopher states that "over ninety percent of all diseases and malfunctions of children's bodies (as with adults) stem from the unclean intestinal tract, constipation with infrequent or difficult evacuation of the feces, retention of the feces, and lack of coordination in the nerve and muscle functions of the colon and bowel." I agree that in order for your child to maintain optimal health throughout life and avoid many common childhood health-related problems, your child needs to move the bowels daily.
Solutions for Infant Constipation
When it comes to constipated infant home remedies, the most important advice I can give to you is to not start your baby on any kind of laxative whatsoever. Regular laxative use can result in many, many problems over your child's life. Instead, use the following baby constipation remedies.
If you want to do something when babies grunt, push, or strain, try picking them up to get gravity to help them in their efforts, or try holding the knees against the chest to help them "squat" — the natural poop position.
Breast milk is the easiest food for babies to digest. If at all possible, breast-feed for as long as possible.
Babies need water. As a newborn, offer a small eye dropper full of water. When your baby is ready, give him or her a bottle of water to sip on throughout the day. You might add a bit of cooled-off Rooibos tea to the bottle. Aspalathus linearis, commonly known as Rooibos, is a natural herb unique to the South African Cederberg Mountains. Rooibos is rich in nutrients and caffeine-free.
The best tool I have found to use is magnesium. The formula I recommend is largely magnesium citrate. Magnesium nutritionally stimulates the peristaltic muscles to evacuate the lower bowel. It also nourishes and strengthens the intestinal muscles so they will work better on their own and bring water into the bowel. With the Reacted Magnesium that I recommend, I have parents start with 1/16 of a tablespoon in some water, and work their way up until a daily bowel movement consistently occurs.
Baby massage is a fulfilling way to nurture your child. It aids digestion, relieves colic, eases tension, regulates breathing, and spurs growth. To help your baby's bowels move with a simple constipated baby massage, try the "I love you" technique. With "I L U" in mind, start at bottom right of your baby's abdomen and, using small, gentle circular movements, gently rub toward the top right, forming the letter "I". Stop when you feel the rib cage. Repeat this action, but then move across the abdomen immediately above the belly button toward the left side, forming the letter "L". Repeat this action, and then go down toward the bottom left to form the letter "U". Repeat the entire "I love you" massage five to ten times.
To administer an enema to your baby, lubricate the tip of a bulb syringe with olive oil. Insert the tip of the bulb syringe half an inch into your baby's rectum. The bulb should contain approximately 1–3 tablespoons of lukewarm water. Gently squeeze the water into the colon. Assure that only the water goes into the colon, not any air that might be in the bulb. Wait a few minutes for your baby to pass a stool. Repeat this process if necessary.
Useful Items for Baby Enemas
Celtic Sea Salt
Adult Bulb Syringe
I know from personal and professional experience that parenting an infant through constipation can be very trying. I know these tips will help you and your baby. No matter what baby constipation treatment you choose, keep in mind the following misconceptions to avoid potentially harmful methods.
A glycerin suppository could be useful at the outset to get that first stool moving, but even doctors discourage its regular use. A small amount of water inserted into the colon with an infant bulb syringe is just as effective, and healthier.
Karo syrup – sugar in any form is not healthy for babies.
Mineral oil is a mixture of hydrocarbons dried from petroleum products. It is not safe. It has no nutritional benefits. This oil can interfere with vitamin absorption.
Many encourage parents to use fruit juice when an infant or toddler is constipated. I believe that babies, as well as adults, should limit the amount of juice that they drink, as this can lead to all sorts of over-consumption of sugar problems. Too much juice can cause tummy aches, tooth decay, and perhaps obesity. In addition, kids can fill up on juice and miss other important sources of nutrition. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics issued recommendations in May 2001 to limit the amount of fruit juice for children.