When it comes to constipation – it’s all about knowing what’s normal and what’s not for your baby and when it might be time to seek help.
Constipation – what is it?
There are many things that can affect your baby’s bowel movements (poos) such as whether they are breast or bottle fed, not drinking enough fluids or eating different solids. So, it can sometimes be difficult to tell when things aren’t normal.
Things to remember when deciding what’s normal:
- There’s a wide variation in ‘normal’ bowel function and each baby will be different – during the first 3 months from birth your baby could pass anywhere from 5 to 40 poos in a single week!
- The frequency of ‘poos’ will naturally slow down as your baby gets older – by the time your baby is a 1 year old they may only be producing between 4 and 20 poos per week
- It can be normal for many babies to strain and turn red when they poo – but they are not considered constipated unless the poo is hard and painful
- Breastfed babies don’t usually become constipated, but if they do they may still have soft poos.
Constipation is not just about how often your baby ‘poos’, but whether there is any change in their normal frequency and how hard their poo has become.
Constipation – what are the cause?
If your baby becomes constipated their poo will start to look pellet-like and be dry and crumbly. This can be caused by a number of things including:
- Not having enough fluids during warmer weather
- If they are formula feed, their formula may have been made up incorrectly – it’s important to make sure there is the right amount powder added to the right amount of water
- The type of milk or formula has changed – for example, constipation may sometimes occur after introducing ‘follow-on’ formula from 6 months, or changing from one type of formula to another, or when introducing cow’s milk from 12 months
- When different types of solids are starting to be introduced into their diet (from around 6 months)
- If passing a poo becomes painful (for example, there is a small tear in the skin around their anus caused by a previous hard poo) then your baby may ‘hold on’ and the poo becomes harder and makes things worse.
Constipation – what can you do?
Make sure your baby is getting enough fluids:
- Breastfed babies may need to be fed more frequently
- If your baby is formula fed check the formula has not been made up too strong (this can occur when too much powder has been added to the water when the formula was made)
- You may need to offer your baby extra drinks of water.
Moving your baby’s legs up and down in a gentle cycling motion may help stimulate their bowels. You can also help your baby relax with a gently tummy massage or a warm bath.
Constipation – what not to do
Constipation in babies needs special care – here are a few things you shouldn’t do to try and relieve their constipation:
- Don’t give your baby any medications other than those prescribed by your doctor
- Don’t add sugar or other cereals to your baby’s formula.
If you’re concerned about your baby, be sure to seek advice from your healthcare professional.
Constipation is when bowel motions become difficult to pass, and may cause pain and discomfort in babies. Here's some helpful information on the causes, symptoms, and possible treatments