Is your baby straining each time he passes his stool? Is it firm or pebble-like? Chances are, your little one is constipated. But what causes constipation in infants and what can you do about it?
The Causes of Newborn Constipation
There are three main causes of newborn constipation. They are:
Experts say that a bottle-fed baby has more chances of being constipated than a breastfed baby. This is because a baby’s digestive system is not yet fully mature to process some substances that are present in infant formula.
Another thing worth mentioning is that when a baby is sucking from his mother’s breast, he can get all the milk he needs as opposed to getting only what’s in a bottle. Mother’s milk also contains a variety of substances that encourage bowel movement.
Change in diet
The transition when shifting your baby from breast milk to infant formula can also cause constipation. It may also occur when baby gets his first solid meal. If this happens, give him pureed apples, prunes or other fiber-rich fruits. But be careful – prunes have natural substances that can irritate the bowels. That’s why it should only be given to babies who are more than six months old.
Underlying medical condition
Medical practitioners point out that although rare, several inborn ailments can cause constipation in infants. Among these conditions are: botulism, Hirschsprung's disease, hypothyroidism or cystic fibrosis. If you suspect that your baby has not been passing stool for a week or more, it would be best to consult his pediatrician.
Newborn Constipation: Home Remedies
If you notice that baby has a hard time passing or his stool is very firm, you can do the following:
Massage his stomach gently with olive oil. Put a few drops of olive oil on your thumb and forefinger, rub your fingers together to warm it, then massage carefully onto baby’s stomach. Your gentle touch coupled with the warmth of the olive oil can relax him. I do this whenever my babies are constipated and it works very well. Here's a great article about baby massage and it's benefits.
Give him more water. Water, the universal solvent, helps the intestines process foods faster and stimulates healthy bowel movement.
Give him a warm bath. A constipated baby may feel tense. This can make it even harder and painful form him. Give him a quick, warm bath to relax his muscles and make it easier for him to pass.
Check if your baby’s formula is prepared the right way. If your hubby, nanny or someone else is making his formula, remind them that they should put the exact amount of water first into the feeding bottle (make sure it’s BPA free) before adding the right amount of milk. Otherwise, baby’s formula might end up stronger.
If these remedies don’t work for your baby, consult your physician. Never give him over-the-counter medication.
Newborn constipation may be due to bottle-feeding, change in diet or an underlying medical condition. You can remedy this by massaging him gently with oil, giving him more water, giving him a warm bath and checking the preparation of his formula.
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