What’s inside your baby’s diaper is one of the key topics among new parents. (I remember the nurses at the hospital telling us what to watch for in our first daughter’s diaper before they released us from the hospital.) Parents pay attention to stool frequency, consistency, color, and smell. One of the most common problems they complain about to doctors or each other is constipation.
Fortunately, in most cases, constipation in babies is temporary. This is especially evident in the first months of life because of your baby’s insufficient neuromuscular system development. However, it is better not to panic but to figure out what the problem is and how to help your infant cope with it. Being prepared with knowledge and a few postpartum essentials will make it easier to handle whatever comes in your baby’s diaper.
What is constipation?
The normal frequency of stool in newborns and breastfed infants is 1 to 7 times a day (after each feeding), rarely more often. In children over four months and up to two years of age, this number decreases to 1 to 3 times a day. At the same time, babies who receive formula tend to empty their bowels less often than naturally-fed babies. Thus, the stools of formula-fed infants are usually 1-3 times a day. If your baby does it with this frequency, there is no need to worry.
Constipation is difficult defecation caused by a disorder of the intestines when babies have an increased interval between bowel movements and/or systematic incomplete bowel emptying. This condition can be triggered by poor diet, psychological factors, or organic pathology.
The common reasons for constipation in babies
Constipation in breastfed babies may be a sign of serious diseases, such as food allergies and lactase deficiency. Therefore, if constipation bothers your baby for a long time, be sure to see your pediatrician, who will help identify the possible cause and make recommendations to change the diet.
Immaturity of the digestive system
Due to the fact that the gastrointestinal tract of the newborn is still only adapting to new conditions, there may be various functional failures in its work.
Immaturity of the nervous system
Insufficient maturity of the baby’s nervous system prevents him from correctly recognizing the signals for defecation.
If the baby is breastfed, the mother’s diet may affect the function of the gastrointestinal tract. Doctors recommend breastfeeding women eliminate pastry, fatty broths, cheeses, and nuts from their diet. In nursing women, constipation can be caused by a lack of fluid. Make sure you are getting extra water while breastfeeding.
Often constipation affects children whose parents are constantly in nervous tension, often irritated, and violently solving some family problems.
Symptoms of constipation in babies
There is no general norm for the frequency and consistency of stools for babies because they vary at different stages of development and are strongly influenced by food. Newborns have four or more liquid yellow defecations a day. This usually occurs more frequently when breastfed than when fed formula. In general, infants who are breastfed are less likely to be constipated.
Constipation itself is an isolated symptom that can accompany a number of GI diseases.
The critical characteristics of constipation are a decrease in the number of bowel movements up to 2 times a week or their complete absence and a feeling of incomplete bowel emptying.
Signs of constipation in babies include:
- delayed stools longer than usual;
- difficulties or pain when emptying (the baby pushes for a long time, cries, or does not poop or sit on the potty at all);
- restless sleep and poor appetite;
- dry and hard feces;
- blood droplets on the surface of the stool.
Other disorders can also lead to similar symptoms, so you should always consult a doctor to make a diagnosis.
Choice of formula for constipated babies
Constipation is a common problem among formula-fed babies, which can be solved with the help of properly selected formula and baby probiotics, but only after your pediatrician’s advice.
Parents should remember that babies are only prescribed milk formula in the first year of life, the composition of which is almost identical to that of breast milk. They include vitamins and minerals, which are carefully chosen according to the age and needs of the baby. For example, organic baby formula is specially designed with the characteristics of the child’s body in mind, enriched with probiotics and other nutrients, and therefore easily tolerated. Choosing the right formula with a natural and safe composition without added preservatives, dyes, and artificial substances is the main thing.
Looking for more pregnancy and baby advice? Check out Beginner’s Guide to Growing Baby: Tips to Help You Through All Four Trimesters, a book about pregnancy, birth, and baby’s first three months. Written with my good friend Anna Eastland (mom of 9 kids!), Beginner’s Guide to Growing Baby is an honest, practical look at pregnancy and beyond. We share what’s worked for us in growing, birthing and loving thirteen babies.
Beginner’s Guide to Growing Baby is available on Amazon.