How To Help A Constipated Baby
There is nothing as uncomfortable as having to deal with a bout of constipation, and this is even worse for babies. You may suspect that an infant is constipated when the poop does not come as usual or you can see the baby straining to poop.
Constipation is a medical spectrum that refers to the degree of compactness of one's stool and the difficulty in passing it from the body. It accounts for nearly 2.5 million annual visits to healthcare centers.
Constipation in babies will vary from one baby to another in relation to the age. Generally, newborn babies will pass stools several times in a day, which is usually soft and with some consistency. Babies who feed on formula pass out stool that is firm and darker. So once solid food is in the diet the stool becomes more firm and less frequent and here is where the babies may develop constipation problems.
How to Know if Your Baby Has or is Developing Constipation
You will be able to know if your baby has developed a constipation problem through the following signs:
- The baby's poop will have a dry and hard texture.
- Due to the texture, the baby will show signs of pain while releasing the stool.
- When passing out the hard and pebble-like poop the baby will tend to draw their legs upwards towards the abdomen, grunt, and sometimes even cry, resulting in a red face.
- Stains or spots of blood will be seen on the baby's poop.
- The baby will have a red and grumpy face due to the abdominal discomfort.
- Bowel movement will be infrequent (not more than 2 times)
How It Comes About
Normally, as digested food moves down the intestinal tract, there is an absorption of water and nutrients, and what is not absorbed is considered waste material that is eliminated out of the system as a stool. F
or soft and moist poop to be formed, a sufficient amount of water must be retained in the waste. In addition, for the poop to be eliminated properly, the muscles in the lower intestines and the rectum must contract and relax accordingly. In case this does not happen, then it will result in little or no water in the material waste or cause the required muscle movements to stop taking place properly. This results in what we call constipation.
How to Treat Constipation in Babies
This is how to help a gassy baby:
- If your baby is still on formula feeding, then you could try giving it different formulas and keenly observe which one is kinder to its digestive system. To be able to do this you will observe the poop produced after every feeding time.
- Try feeding your baby small amounts of formula or food but at a more frequent rate. This will give the baby's intestine time to digest the food fully. Pediatricians will tell you that it is good to feed your baby half as much or twice as often.
- Ensure that you delay introducing solid foods, especially ones that are known to cause constipation like bananas, prunes, barley cereal, pears and rice.
- Try to ease the movement and passage of the stool using liquid glycerin.
- Be sure to give your baby water regularly, especially after feeding periods. It will help ease the digestion of food.
- Using a natural laxative. You can ask your doctor about how to go about adding small quantities of corn syrup, malt extract or flax oil to breast milk, formula or to foods your child eats.
- Try to bathe your baby in warm water, as it will help stimulate bowel movements. Then, after drying the baby, you can apply some petroleum cream or jelly around the groin, lower regions of the tummy and the lower back and massage gently for a few minutes.
- In case you are using infant formula, ensure the food is correctly mixed and has all the necessary components. Too much formula will result in the food being concentrated.
- Try doing exercise with your baby. You can massage the tummy gently or even try moving the legs in a certain way like the bicycle legs.
- Going the herbal way can also be a very good alternative to remedy constipation effects in people, especially in babies. Herbal medicines are excellent because they are natural and do not have any side effects. This guarantees smooth poop movement without any form of discomfort.
- If all of the above does not work, then you should visit the doctor. The constipation could be a sign of a serious underlying medical condition.
Causes of Constipation in Babies
- Introduction of solid food very early – the introduction should be gradual. Babies who are breastfed are more likely to suffer from constipation if they are introduced to solid food as their tummies have been used to processing simple soft foods.
- Diets low in soluble fiber levels.
- Diets that are high in dairy products such as yogurt and cheese.
- Foods like raw and ripe bananas, sauce made from apple, certain cereals, bread and potatoes may contribute or cause constipation.
- Certain medications can at times cause constipation to babies. Painkillers containing Paracetamol, acetaminophen and ibuprofen, antibiotics, antacids and at times iron supplements.
- Abnormalities in terms of physical aspects
In case of any abnormalities such as anal fissure and stricture, Hirschsprung's, disease and spina bifida, then the chances of getting constipation are high.
To ascertain this, you have can have rectal, lower region of the spine and perineum tests conducted. Some babies have gone on to develop constipation several weeks after being born. You can do a study of your family history for possible chances of heredity transmission.
- Psychological and physiological factors
A number of psychological and physiological factors can bring about constipation. Babies with any mental problem can experience constipation. In addition, a change in environment can lead to constipation in terms of change in food diet, work-related duties, and sickness, among others.
How to Spot the Signs of Constipation in a Baby
First, you should try looking for any signs of pain during your baby's stool movements. If your baby happens to show any signs of pain while trying to pass out stool, it could be a symptom of constipation. If the baby makes painful faces or cries during the bowel movement then most likely he or she is experiencing a problem.
Secondly, try to keep tabs on the number of times your baby passes out stool. A normal healthy baby will pass stool several times in a day, meaning all is well. If you notice the timespan between poop periods is longer than usual then this can be a sign of constipation.
Try to examine carefully the stools your baby passes out. The baby might pass out stool normally several times a day but still could be suffering from constipation. Look out for the following poop characteristics: dark colored, grey or even black stool, small and pellet-like stools and dry pieces of stool that have very little or no moisture at all.
Finally, try to look out for any signs of blood spots in the stool. This can be brought about because of tearing of the very sensitive rectal wall due to the friction caused by the hard stool.
Diagnostic Tests to Check for Constipation
To fully understand the cause of your baby's constipation and treat it effectively the doctor can perform a number of medical tests. There are numerous tests that can be done to find out how to help a constipated toddler. We will look at a few of them below
- Rectal examination test – The doctor inserts a gloved finger into the baby’s rectum to have a feel if there is anything abnormal or unusual.
- Anorectalmanometry – This procedure is carried out with the aim of measuring the total strength of the anus muscles, reflexes by the nerves, sense rectal ability and muscle coordination during bowel movement.
- Rectal biopsy – This is a simple procedure. It involves taking sample of cells from the rectum region and examining them under the microscope.
- Sigmoidoscopy – With this test, the doctor will be able to observe and analyze the inside walls of the colon. It is carried out using a sigmoidoscope that is inserted inside the rectum.
Other diagnostic test includes a colonoscopy, barium anema, anorectalmanometry, colorectal transit study and abdominal x-ray.
Constipation can be a very uncomfortable affair especially for babies who in most cases do not have much control over what happens to them. Therefore, it is important for parents to be very keen in checking for any signs of constipation.
Ensure to give the right diet to the baby at all times. Give them regular water occasionally, as this will help moisten the food properly. Check out for poop characteristics and the intervals between the poops.
If the problem persists for a long time, even after trying out the home remedies, then urgent medical attention should be sought. This could be a sign of a more serious underlying condition. In the case of long periods of constipation, ensure detailed diagnostics tests are carried out to fully understand the problem.