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Constipation can be a pain – quite literally – especially in little babies. They can’t communicate what is wrong and simply cry whenever there is something not quite to their liking. It’s up to you to play detective in order to determine what is causing their discomfort and how to relieve it.
How to Tell If Baby Is Constipated
Bowel movements in infants can be very unpredictable. The frequency and consistency often depend on their diets – whether they are on breast milk, formula, or a mixture of solid foods. That being said, going a day or two without pooping is not a sure sign of constipation.
Instead, you are going to want to look out for these symptoms:
- Going more than 5-10 days without pooping
- Hard/solid stool consistency
- Straining, grunting, and pushing – particularly for more than 10 minutes without success
- Firm belly causing by bloating and pressure
- Refusing to eat due to discomfort; they may also spit up more often
- Occasional blood in their stool may be a sign of too much strain on their anal walls
Before your baby starts on solid foods, they will likely have very thin, watery bowel movements that resemble mustard in some ways. Once they start solid foods, including rice cereal and purees, that consistency will start to firm up a bit more.
It is recommended that you wait until your baby is about 5-6 months old before introducing solid foods in order to allow their digestive system to mature. However, this age will vary as eat child is different. Some may not be ready for solid foods, which may cause them to experience constipation.
Speaking from personal experience, I introduced my son to rice cereal when he was about 5 ½ months old. After a short period of time, I noticed he was crying a lot and was having difficulty passing stool so I decided to stop in case he wasn’t ready yet.
I waited until he was at least 6 months old before trying solid food again. However, instead of rice cereal, I made plum and banana puree. Not only did he like the taste, but he also pooped about an hour later.
How Long Can a Baby Go without Pooping?
It’s really hard to pinpoint exactly how long is too long when it comes to babies’ bowel movements. It really depends on what’s normal for your baby and what they are eating.
Babies who are strictly on breast milk can go for a few days without pooping since most of the nutrients in breast milk are absorbed. On the other hand, babies on formula may go up to 3-4 times per day. These aren’t general rules though; the same can be true vice versa.
Age also plays a huge role in how often a baby poops on average. Newborns may poop after every feeding while a baby around 3 months old can go up to 10-14 days without a bowel movement (due to their rapid growth and bodies’ absorption of all nutrients).
So how do you know when it’s been too long?
By the time your baby may be experiencing constipation, you should have an idea of what is normal for them. If you know your baby poops every morning when they wake up and suddenly you haven’t changed a poopy diaper in 3 or 4 days, it may be too long.
The key is to pay attention to symptoms in addition to an extended period of time between bowel movements. Going 5 days without a poop and finding that it’s soft is different than going 5 days only to pass a hard, clay-like stool.
Natural Remedies Baby Constipation: How to Help Your Baby Poop
Once you determine that your baby is truly constipated, what can you do to help move things along and bring relief to the discomfort?
- Switch Milk
First, if your baby is formula-fed, consider changing it. Some formulas have ingredients that are difficult for underdeveloped digestive systems to break down. Opt for something gentler or more natural, or consider switching over to breast milk if possible.
Fluids are a must to maintain a healthy digestive system, and while it may seem like your baby is on an all-fluid diet with formula or breast milk, you may need to consider a little something extra.
Try adding a little bit of dark juice (like prune) to your baby’s bottle, making sure you don’t exceed more than 1-2 ounces per day. If your baby is over 4 months old, you can also consider giving them some water to drink throughout the day as well.
- Solid Food or Puree
Sometimes adding solid foods (or purees) to your little one’s diet can help relieve constipation. Choose foods that are high in fiber like broccoli, pears, prunes, peaches, and apples. Some of these foods work better than others, so just watch for your child’s reaction to each and adjust as needed.
- Too much Rice Cereal?
Staying away from refined cereals and rice may also be a better choice for your little one like it was for mine. Instead, choose grains like barley, oats, or quinoa. Whole grain bread and crackers are also good choices.
Baby massage works wonders for the digestive system. Just start by rubbing your baby’s belly in a clockwise motion then move to the back and do the same thing. Finish by running your hands down their arms and legs and giving plenty of cuddles.
Finally, encourage movement and exercise. This can be done no matter your baby’s age, but of course, the older they are, the easier movement will come with rolling, crawling, scooting, and walking. If your little one isn’t mobile yet, try bicycling their legs or allowing them to bounce in a jumper or with you supporting their body.
Voicing Your Concerns
As always, with any concerns you may have about your baby’s health, don’t be afraid to contact their pediatrician. They will be able to give you guidance on what is normal as well as suggestions to help relieve your baby’s discomfort.
Has your baby ever been constipated? What did you do that worked (or didn’t) to relieve their constipation?