5 Steps to Cure Constipation in Babies
One thing you’re going to have to get used to as a parent, is talking about poop. Since having a newborn, I’ve never had to spend so much of my day dedicated to poop. In my case it’s all been a bit stressful and I actually spend a significant amount of time waiting for poop to happen, because I’ve got a constipated baby. He has been constipated since he was 1 month old and now, he’s over 6 months old, started solid foods and is even worse. Constipation is a pain for parents and for little ones.
At first, here is what we were told about constipation:
- Babies have an immature digestive system and all work differently.
- Don’t worry if your baby is different or a movement takes longer.
- Some go every day, but some go every 5 days.
- Expect different colour and texture every day.
In short, I was assured that there is no “normal” and not to worry too much about constipation.
But as time went on, it was clear that my 1 month old baby was constipated, my 2 month old baby was constipated, my 3 month old baby was constipated – you get the idea and now, my 6 month old baby is constipated. 5 days was usual, but it can be more. It’ll be accompanied by straining, red faced gasping, groans, a stomach that can get sensitive to the touch and hard, and crying because he’s in pain and discomfort. I’ll then get a hard poop, dark green in colour, often fully formed like an adults, or sometimes round like a golf ball. When he finally does go, everyone in the house knows it. How does such a tiny thing produce such a smell? He can also fart louder than his father. We’ll be out and about and he’ll let one rip and we’ll get a dodgy look, “It was the baby, I swear!”
This is my life now, examining baby poo and wishing I had a breathing mask.
If your baby experiences any of the following, then it could well be constipation:
- A hard stomach, or pain in the stomach when picked up.
- Dry or hard poop.
- Crying, irritability or other signs of pain.
- Very smelly poop.
There are some risk factors for constipation, which mean you baby is more likely to be constipated if:
- He’s on formula milk.
- He’s started solids.
- They’re dehydrated.
- There’s an underlying medical condition.
Now if you’re reading this and thinking your baby is constipated, you need to get them checked out by your health professional and make sure there’s nothing weird going on. You need to get tailored health advice for your situation. I am not a medical professional, just in case you’re not aware, so all I’m offering is advice from my personal experiences of having a very constipated baby.
Step One – Pretend your baby is a bicycle
Lay your baby on his back and sit in front of him. Take both legs and pump them around as if he was riding a bicycle. This gets the digestive system moving, and will often ease any trapped wind as well. This is actually really good for windy babies who are crying at night. We used to cycle every night before bed and it seemed to offer him some comfort.
Step Two – Massage
Take your second and third finger and place them on his belly. Push gently and move them around in a clockwise motion. The bowel and intestines work clockwise, and this can stimulate the muscles by massaging them. We were told not to use the first (index) finger as you tend to push down quite hard as that is a dominant finger. By using your weaker fingers, you know you’re not pushing. If you’re not sure, ask your health visitor to show it to you, or book in for a relaxing baby massage class locally – they are really good for both of you.
Step Three – Hydration baby
Pump up the hydration levels. Water helps bowel movements in people of all ages. Even as an adult, if you’re constipated, the first port of action is to chug a pint of water. In babies this can be a bit of a challenge, but adding a couple of oz of water each day may be the most natural and easy solution. I personally sterilized my water first, which can be done by boiling it and letting it cool although my health visitor told me this wasn’t actually necessary. I don’t have a home or jug filter, so I err on the side of caution.
William did not particularly enjoy the taste of water at first and it was quite hard to get even a few mouthfuls down him. We persevered, but it was not helpful.
Step Four – Fruity
Fruit gets things moving, in particular – apples. This is a bit of a catch 22 for parents, because being constipated is obviously not good, but giving babies fruit juice is also not advised. That being said, you can get a pure, 100% natural apple juice which only contains natural sugars. These sugars are still bad for them in large quantities and can cause tooth decay so make sure you’re brushing, but it’s a very lesser evil on the grand scale of things. I was repeatedly reassured by my health visitor that this was a healthy and natural option and much preferable to chemical medication or suppositories. So from 1 month old, we started giving William apple juice.
The quantity I was told was 1 oz per month of age, diluted to 50% but if you have a very small baby I would ask your health visitor for quantities. At first he needed this warmed, so we popped the bottle in a bowl of hot water for a few minutes just to warm it up a bit. He still spat most of it out. Now he chugs cold apple juice like a champion. It absolutely does help him, but it has to be done a little every day to keep things moving. As soon as we stop, so does his digestive system.
Fibre for Weaning helps Constipation too
If your baby is over 6 months and started weaning on solids, you can introduce a bunch of fruit into the diet.
You can puree or chop apples, apricots, pears, prunes, strawberries, raspberries and blueberries as these are all high in fibre and will help get things going.
You can also feed a high fibre breakfast – weetabix in particular is an excellent source of fibre and is fortified with iron which is very important for weaning babies. I mush it up and then warm it in the microwave with some formula milk, although babies can drink full fat cow’s milk from 6 months of age.
Step Five – Doctor Time
If all else fails, you need to go see the doctor. We were advised to go and get things sorted after he had gone 5 days with quite a bit of pain and straining with no result so that we had medication on hand should it be needed. One of the risks is hemorrhoids, another can be tearing both internal and external. The doctor can either prescribe a laxative which is taken orally, or a suppository that is inserted into the rectum. Don’t buy anything over the counter without consulting a doctor as there are quite limited options for babies, and at this point you’ll also want to double check there are no other problems.
We were told that if it continued past 12 months old, we would get a referral to a specialist and there would be some hospital tests involved just to make sure there was no underlying cause. So you definitely want to get this checked out. Fingers crossed our problem sorts itself out over the next few months, if it doesn’t, I’ll be documenting our journey to find the cause here when the time comes.
So I hope that’s been helpful. If you’ve read all the way down this far you are probably dealing with an upset, constipated baby and looking for advice. It’s horrible seeing our kids in pain but I really hope that some of the natural remedies I’ve written about here have helped you. If not, fingers crossed for the doctors visit and feel free to let me know how you’re getting on in the comments. I’m always happy to talk about poop these days. I never thought that would be something I’d say!