Parenting

Newborn Constipation: What to Do?

Constipation in Newborns: Know the Causes and Treatments

What is Newborn Constipation?

As a new mom, it would be a journey full of surprises when it comes to taking care of the baby, encountering each of their developmental milestones and also when it comes to their health. Constipation in a newborn is also one of the challenges which many parents would be facing. For some kids, this would be a smooth journey, but for some it would be a difficult time.

If you feel that the baby has been straining to pass stools or if the diaper is filled with hard pellets most of the times, then it is a warning sign that things are not as fine. When you find that the baby is suffering from a chronic case of constipation or there are traces of blood in the stools, then it would be better to call up the doctor immediately and let them know since these can be turn out to be symptoms of something which is much more serious.

First of all, it is important to understand what is normal for the baby and what is not normal. There can be times when the baby may be passing stools after every feed or at times the baby may wait for a day or even more in between. Every baby is different, hence their pattern would also differ and is mostly based on what the baby eats or drinks and how active they are.

It also depends on how well and how quickly the baby is digesting their food. If the baby has been eating solid foods or is currently on formula milk, then probably there are chances that they would have regular bowel movements which can be at least one bowel movement in a day. When the baby is breastfed, then there is no fixed schedule or a normal schedule for bowel movements.

After a few months as a parent, you would be able to understand and be accustomed to your baby’s unique pattern or habit. Watch out for the below signs if you feel that the baby is constipated:

  • Occurrences of dry or hard stools which the baby would find very difficult to pass no matter how frequently they are passing it.
  • The bowel movements would be less frequent and this would mostly happen in those scenarios when the baby has not had a bowel movement for three or more days and hence would also be feeling uncomfortable when they do try to pass stools.

Causes

There can be many reasons as to why the baby is finding it hard to pass stools or why the baby is feeling constipated time and again. Below are few of the causes which can trigger the issue:

  • Use of solid foods: It is not surprising enough that the baby would start to feel mildly constipated the moment they are started on solid foods or when they consume more of solid foods. This is because rice cereal is generally considered to be one of the common choices of food for a newborn and it is also considered to be low in fibre, leading to cases of constipation. Constipation is also known to occur when you start to wean the baby from breast milk since it can also lead to signs of dehydration.
  • Use of formula food: It has been seen that those babies who are exclusively breastfed are known to get constipated quite rarely since breast milk is considered to be a perfect balance of proteins as well as fats due to which it is known to produce stools which are soft and easy to pass even when the baby has not passed stools for several days. But it is not the same case for formula fed babies.It would be possible that something in the formula milk or food is making him constipated. It is not quite uncommon for the protein component in various formula milks to lead to constipation. Hence, you can always check with the doctor about a possibility of switching to a different brand that the baby can tolerate well. Note that the iron present in the formula milk will in no way lead to constipation in babies.
  • Suffering from any medical condition: Although this case would be quite uncommon, but constipation is also known to be caused due to any kind of underlying medical issue, for example hypothyroidism or botulism in the baby. At times, the baby can also turn out to be allergic to certain kinds of foods or suffering from a metabolic disorder which again is known to cause constipation. In rare cases, the baby would suffer from constipation due to Hirschsprung’s disease. This is known to be a medical condition that is mostly caused due to a certain kind of birth defect that would prevent the gut of the baby from functioning as it should normally do.
  • Signs of dehydration: For a baby, it can be quite easy to get dehydrated and if the baby is dehydrated, then there are chances that the system would respond by absorbing more of the fluid from whatever the baby has been eating or drinking and it can also take in from the waste present in the bowels of the baby. As a result, you would find the baby straining hard while passing stools or there would be hard and dry stools.

Treatment

Below are few of the tips or ideas which can be used by parents for getting the baby to pass smooth stools without any problems. But at the same time, it is also advisable to consult the doctor.

  • Increase the intake of water: When the baby is feeding on breast milk or whether the baby is being bottle-fed, then it would be easy to assume that the baby might be getting enough of water since liquid is their primary diet. But when the baby shows signs of constipation, then it would be better if you can try giving them additional water, something about ¼ to ½ cup of water after every feed so that it can help in proper flushing of the bowels and reduce the strain the baby has to put.
  • Use of fruit juices: The juice of prune fruit is considered to have a natural laxative effect. If not prune, then you can also go in for apple juice or pear juice which can help in providing relief from a minor case of constipation. Many times, it has been seen that small babies tend to quickly develop a liking for juices due to its sweet taste. Hence, it would be ideal to offer fruit juices to the little one upon the consultation of the doctor based on the age of the baby. Fruit juices are also known to provide strength to the already constipated baby. It is better to start it slow with less than two ounces of fruit juice after every feed for avoiding the case of gas in the little one.
  • Feeding foods which are rich in fibre: There are certain foods which are considered to be rich in fibre. Foods such as cereals, cheese, bananas and carrots are considered to be the main foods given to infants and they are also known to contain that binding effect on the stools, thus reducing the instances of constipation. For avoiding the cases of constipation, it would be better to go in for foods such as apricots, peaches, pears, plums and prunes.
  • Going in for a little exercise: At times, carrying out small movements in the baby’s body would help the baby to get their bowels moving smoothly. For this, place the baby on its back in front of you, then slowly lift up his or her legs and move them in a circular motion which is very similar to the cycling exercise. This movement can help in releasing the abdominal pressure.
  • Check the formula feed: For those babies who are being fed formula milk and suffering from constipation, the parents can switch to another one to check if that helps the baby in obtaining relief from constipation. Every baby is known to react in a different way to the various ingredients of each type of formula, so you can also try out different brands just to find out which one would suit your baby the best or your baby can tolerate it well. There are lots of brands which are coming up with a low-lactose option that could be something well tolerated by the baby.
  • Keep a check on the temperature of the baby: Rectal stimulation is known to help in smooth bowel movements. You can make use of Vaseline for lubricating the tip of a rectal thermometer and it can then be inserted into the baby’s bottom. Wiggle the tip of the thermometer very gently a few times before you remove it out. This stimulation is known to cause the smooth bowel movement to occur.
  • Massaging baby’s tummy: Gently massaging the tummy of the baby has also proved to be beneficial in smooth bowel movements. Place the baby on its back facing you, now place your hand on the belly button of the baby and gently massage the tummy of the baby in big circles in a clockwise motion. You can also follow the cues of the baby as to how much of the pressure you can use while carrying out this massage. If you feel that the baby is uncomfortable or is crying, then it’s a signal that you are pressing too hard and it needs to be slowed down a bit.
  • Warm bath: Warm bath is known to soothe any person whether it is an adult or a small baby. The main idea of giving the baby a warm bath is to make the baby calm and relaxed, thereby allowing their body to let go of whatever is being held inside. Also, when you are drying the baby after the bath, you can make use of the tummy massaging technique.
  • Make use of glycerine suppositories: One can check with the doctor on how much of the glycerine suppository can be used. The doctor would provide the correct measurement based on the age, size of the baby and also how long they have been suffering from constipation. The doctor can mostly recommend anywhere from 1/4th to a whole suppository. The use of glycerine suppositories is known to cause bowel movement in the baby within a period of 15 to 20 minutes most of the times.
  • Aloe vera lotion: If the baby has been pressing too hard for passing the stools, then there is a possibility that you may also see blood or slight tear in the delicate skin which is at the opening of the anus. At such times, you can apply aloe vera lotion to that region which would help it to heal faster. Ensure to keep the area as dry and clean as possible.

Since babies are small, they can get dehydrated easily and quickly. Hence, one should bear in mind to constantly feed them with liquids to prevent them from getting dehydrated. It is always recommended not to use enemas, mineral oil or any other form of stimulant laxatives since it can cause further damage than relief. In case none of the above mentioned tips prove to be helpful, then it would be better to consult the doctor at the earliest to rule out the possibility of any other serious conditions.

Key Takeaways

  • Constipation in newborns is a challenge that many parents have to deal with.
  • There are various causes of constipation such as dehydration, existing illness, formula food, etc.
  • You should reach out to the doctor when you notice that the baby has not passed stool for a few days.