How will you know if your baby is constipated?
There's no such thing as a normal number of bowel movements per day. When – and how often – your baby moves his or her bowels can depend on when and what your baby eats, the level of activity, and how rapidly your baby's body digests food.
Constipation occurs when stool backs up in the intestines, either delaying bowel movements or making them hard for your baby to pass. Your baby may be constipated if any of the following is the case:
• Stools are hard and dry or have blood in them.
• Three or more days have passed since the last bowel movement.
• Your baby seems uncomfortable when having a bowel movement.
What causes constipation?
Constipation is rare in babies who are being fed only breast milk. Talk to your baby's doctor if your breastfed baby's stools are hard, dry, or painful: When combined with other symptoms such as vomiting or a swollen tummy, this could indicate a more serious condition like a blocked intestine.
If your baby takes only formula, the particular brand may not agree with him or her. Ask your doctor about switching brands.
If you've introduced rice cereal to your baby's diet, that could be the culprit – rice cereal is low in fiber. Try adding pureed veggies or fruits such as pears or prunes (not bananas, which are constipating) to your baby's meals. Or switch to oat or barley cereal instead.
Constipation can also be caused by dehydration, so giving your baby more fluids can help. If your baby's already eating solid foods, try offering some prune or pear juice. You can feed your baby 1 ounce of juice diluted with 1 ounce of water, or add the juice to a bottle of formula or pumped breast milk.
How can you help?
Aside from making changes to your baby's diet, here are a few more tricks for getting your baby's bowels back on track:
• Wiggle your baby's legs in a gentle pedaling motion while he or she is lying on a flat surface looking up at you.
• Gently but firmly massage your baby's belly below the navel. If you feel a firm area, keep a steady pressure there for a few moments.
• If you see your baby straining to make a poop, draw a warm-water bath to relax his or her muscles.
• Use a glycerin suppository or stimulate his or her rectum with a rectal thermometer lubricated with petroleum jelly as a temporary measure, but only with the doctor's approval. If the constipation doesn't respond to these interventions, the doctor may recommend a baby laxative.