Relieving baby constipation

Find out what causes your older baby to be constipated, how to ease the problem, and when to seek help.

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What can cause constipation in my baby?

Constipation in your baby can be sparked off by any change in diet, such as:

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  • Changing from breastfeeding to bottlefeeding
  • Changing from one formula to another
  • Changing from milk to solids

This is why is constipation is more common during weaning.

However, if your baby doesn’t poo every day, or strains when going, he isn’t always constipated. It’s only a problem if he is in discomfort, or if the poo is very hard.

Dr Lowri Kew, GP, says: “Babies often strain and grunt when passing a stool – though they aren’t necessarily constipated. But if your baby passes hard ‘rabbit pellet’ poo that seems to hurt, he may be. This is more likely in formula-fed babies.”

How do I know if my baby has constipation?

Wet nappies are a sign that feeding is going well. Expect six or more wet nappies in 24 hours. Pooing is a little more varied! As a general rule in the early days, it will resemble yellow, grainy mustard, or a putty colour.

If your baby’s bottlefed, his stools will be darker and more solid. Don’t get too hung up on colour – it’s what’s normal for your baby that matters.

If your baby is breastfed, he may have a soiled nappy after every feed, or only poo once a week. If your baby is formula-fed, he may poo a couple of times a day, or once every 2-3 days.

You’ll soon learn your baby’s pattern, and notice changes. As long as your baby isn’t in discomfort, is passing wind, isn’t vomiting unusually and the stool is passed fairly easily, then relax!

To stop constipation in your baby it is important to give him lots of water, or diluted juice, when your baby stops having milk at every meal and ensure he’s eating fibre-rich foods.

“Some babies don’t have enough liquid to drink,” says Dr Eileen Nolan, GP, “and young babies sometimes don’t get enough fibre.”

What else can I do?

If constipation is a problem, it’s a good idea to make a special effort to include high-fibre foods in your baby’s diet.

“You can see the fibrous strands in some foods, such as the ‘bits’ in an orange,” says Dr Nolan. “Other kinds of high-fibre foods are things that have ‘skins’, like peas and sweetcorn, or beans and pulses.”

Remember, it’s recommended you avoid feeding your baby cereals, citrus fruit and beans and pulses (among other foods) before 6 months.

You can also:

  • Check formula instructions
  • Try gentle tummy massage or gently ‘cycling’ his legs
  • If he’s over 6 months, try diluted fruit juice and puréed fruit or vegetables
  • If he’s under 6 months or not settling, talk to your health visitor

Mums’ stories

“Massage and Weetabix helped relieve my baby’s constipation”

“Whenever Elliot had constipation, I’ve found that a bit of massage really helped. I ‘cycle’ his legs in the air and rub his tummy in a circular motion, and it seems to get things moving. I find an extra helping of Weetabix also helps!”

Lisa, 30, mum to Elliot, 2, and Rory, 5 months

“Our baby didn’t poo for days”

“David was constipated and didn’t poo for 3-4 days. Being married to a doctor still didn’t stop my worrying!”

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Aneeta, 28, mum to David, 3

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