Poo dilemmas: How to help a constipated baby.
Constipation is a common problem in babies, toddlers and children of all ages. It can be caused by dehydration, changes in diet or not enough fibre if your baby is eating solid foods. For many babies, there is no specific or worrying underlying cause and usually constipation settles down with hydration and dietary changes. It can be painful for them which is naturally worrying for parents. It can be difficult to know how to help a constipated baby.
Fortunately, there are many ways you can treat constipation at home and relieve some of the symptoms for your baby to get them back on track.
It's important to know the signs for constipation, so you can identify it early on and help your baby before it becomes an even bigger problem. These are a few signs that your baby might be constipated:
- Painful bowel movements.
- Straining during bowel movements.
- Their tummy might feel hard.
- Fewer than three stools per week (although this does not always mean there is a problem).
If there are other concerns such as eczema, blood in the stool or slow weight gain, this may indicate another concern such as a milk allergy, and you should consult your paediatrician for advice.
If your baby is showing signs of constipation, there are a few things you can try at home:
- Whether you are breast or formula feeding your baby, giving regular feeds to keep your baby hydrated is one of the most important ways to help.
- In very young infants, straining when pooing is common and simply due to immaturity. You can massage their tummy in a circular motion and gently move their legs in a cycling motion to get things moving.
- If your baby is weaning, offer them fibre rich fruits and vegetables such as broccoli, avocado, apples and berries.
- You can also offer prunes or prune juice if your baby is over six months old.
Constipation is very common in toddlers and older children too. It may be easier to spot in older children who can tell you what’s wrong and how they’re feeling. The signs to look out for in toddlers and older children are:
- They seem to be straining or in pain when they poo.
- They have little appetite.
- Their poo is large and hard.
- Their poo looks like "rabbit droppings" or pellets.
- They have some bleeding during or after having a poo (because their poo is large and hard).
- They have not done a poo at least 3 times in the last week. (Although this does not always mean there is a problem.)
- Give them lots of fluids, such as water and even prune juice.
- Fibre-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, wholegrain bread and cereals may help.
- Encourage them to be physically active - take them for a walk or play outside to get them moving around.
- Get your child into a regular routine of sitting on the toilet or potty to poo, first thing in the morning, after meals or before bed.
- Child-safe laxatives can be recommended for children eating solid food. It is best to consult your paediatrician for a check-up and advice before starting medication.
Constipation is rarely anything serious. If your baby’s constipation still doesn’t improve after trying to deal with it at home, or if you see blood in their stools, they have a temperature, or they are particularly irritable or in pain, you should see a doctor to have them assessed. They may need to prescribe some baby-safe laxatives to get everything moving again.
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