Baby constipation and weaning – best foods and advice

Introducing solid food may affect your baby's digestion and pooing. Find out if it's constipation or just normal, what steps to take and how to make prune juice

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Is your weaning baby constipated or is this normal?

“Your baby may poo anything from once every few days to 6 times a day,” says GP Dr Philippa Kaye. “When you change your baby’s diet at the beginning of weaning, his poo will also change so he may go more or less often and the poo itself change to become more like yours. Some babies may become constipated as their intestines get used to handling the new foods.”

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  • The main thing to understand is that every baby and child is different. So what is ‘normal’? The reality is that normal can vary quite a bit. So what you’re looking for is a change from what is normal for your baby and this will suggest there might be a problem.
  • There’s no right or wrong number of poos per day. The frequency of bowel movements is not very important. What is important is that the poo is soft and easily passed. 
  • If your baby cries and strains to produce small amounts of hard dry looking poo, and he does this less frequently than normal, then he may well be constipated. 
  • Your baby’s poo can vary in colour and consistency from day to day. Any prolonged change to harder, less frequent poos might mean constipation.
  • As babies are weaned to solid foods, their poo will change in colour and smell. The frequency may again change. Generally, your baby’s poo will become thicker, darker and smellier.
  • You will notice that your baby’s stools will alter depending upon what you have fed him.
  • As your baby grows up, into a toddler and then a young child, you may see further changes in his poo frequency and consistency, often dependent on what he is eating.

What are the symptoms of constipation?

  • Difficulty or straining when passing stools
  • Pain when passing stools, sometimes with a tiny amount of blood in the nappy due to a small tear in the skin of the back passage
  • Passing stools less often than normal
  • Stools that are hard, and perhaps very large, or pellet-like and small
  • Tummy ache
  • Poor appetite
  • A hard belly
  • Behavioural changes, such as being more irritable

Mums share their advice when weaning a constipated baby

“I noticed a changed in my little ones bowel movements at 6 months when he started on 3 meals a day. After about a week the poo was like adult poo, no longer the runny slop that was presented for me in his nappy when he was just on breast milk,” Harjeet shares in her detailed forum post.

“Also, at times he was making straining noises when pooing and making funny faces. I felt bad for him as he at times looked like he was really struggling. Sometimes he would have tiny hard pellets for poo.

“I gave him extra water throughout the day to make his stool softer and after his meals started giving him a little bit of fennel water to help with digestion.

“Ingredients: 1-2 tablespoons fennel seeds, 1 litre water, Add fennel seeds to 1 litre of water, bring to boil. Once at boiling point, let to simmer for 10-15 minutes. Remove from the flame. Strain the water into container. Allow it to cool before giving to baby.

“In the early days, prior to food, he would get build up of gas, I would get him lying on his back and move his legs in a circular motion. Other things that I tried was massaging his tummy after a warm bath.

“Starting at the belly button massage outwards in circles in a clockwise direction (oil or cream on your fingers will help to lubricate the skin and keep movements smooth and gentle). The bath would relax him and then the massage would help pass the stools much easily.

“My friend has said that she has passed the area around the outside of the anus area and this has helped relieve symptoms of constipation. Prune juice is a good way to relieve constipation.

“There are certain foods that give rise to gas and constipation – potatoes, kidney beans, chick peas, cauliflower,pasta, white bread. I would not give these foods while the has constipation or gas.

“Also, if you are breastfeeding, it is important what you eat as I found if I ate some of the above foods, my little one would end up getting gas.”

Jodie-lou adds: “We were pretty lucky that he only suffered a little once he got to three meals a day.

“I found water the best solution, once we found the right cup and he started drinking more things soon started getting better. Also a little warm orange juice seems to do the trick.”

While Babyarama had success with: “I found moving my little ones legs gently in a bicycling motion would help as well as offering more water and lots of fruit such as pureed/stewed plums and prunes, as well as blueberries, pears, grapes, peaches and apricots.

“When weaning my first LO I went to the Dr when she had a particularly bad bout one time, and he gave me lactulose (a mild laxative for LOs-I used this when all else failed and LO was in real discomfort) a little of this also helped to get things moving.”

“My DD has suffered some constipation with weaning and I have given her pureed dried fruits (prune/raisin/apricot). Apricot is our favourite, I soak overnight, plump them up then boil them in fresh water for 5-10 mins and then puree. She wasn’t keen the first time, but loves them now and they usually work quickly!” adds MrsP.

7 ways to relieve constipation when you’re weaning

  1. Fruit – make sure your baby is eating lots of different types of fruit and vegetables, such as apples, apricots, pears and grapes. These can be eaten as purees or chopped and eaten as finger foods.
  2. Vegetables – again, your baby should have a variety of vegetables. However, you don’t need to give your young baby vegetables in their skins as this will probably be too much fibre for his little stomach and will fill him up too much.
  3. Water – keep your baby well hydrated. Give your baby a little water in between feeds, but don’t dilute formula milk if you’re bottle feeding.
  4. Not too much baby rice – it’s thought that baby rice can make constipation worse, so keep baby rice to a minimum during a period of constipation.
  5. Diluted fruit juice – some babies get relief from diluted fruit juice such as orange juice diluted with water, though once they are better go back to plain water.
  6. Diluted prune juice – can be a good remedy for constipation in weaning babies. See our recipe for creating your own diluted prune juice below.
  7. Baby massage – may relieve constipation and can be comforting for your baby. Gently move your baby’s legs in a cycling motion to help move the hard poo along his intestine.

If you’re concerned about constipation and your baby is not improving despite the measures above, then see your GP as some babies may need some laxatives to help relieve constipation.

How to give your baby prune juice

Prune juice is a natural laxative that works for many babies to promote soft, easy-to-pass poos. Prune juice may work more quickly for some babies than others, so use carefully Dilute 1-2 tablespoons of prune juice in 2-3oz of water.  

How to prepare prune juice for your constipated babies:

  • Choose dried organic prunes – avoid any which have been dried using sulphite preservatives
  • Soak in warm water overnight to soften
  • Simmer the prunes gently for about 5 minutes until tender.
  • Once the prunes are tender, blend the fruit in a food processor until they start to form a puree.
  • Add all the cooking liquid from the prunes to your puree and blend once more to make a smoother, runnier and digestible puree.
  • Alternatively, if you don’t want to puree the prunes, you can dilute the cooking liquid in water and feed your baby with that.

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