Constipation, especially in infants, is a difficult problem to treat. It is also heartbreaking for parents to see their babies in discomfort or pain.
The normal amount of bowel movements that an infant passes depends on his or her age and what he or she is eating.
An infant suffers from constipation if his or her bowel movements are less frequent than usual. Other signs include straining more than usual to pass stool, blood in the stool, a firm tummy and refusing to eat because of increasing discomfort.
This problem in infants can be due to the introduction of new solid food, the type of baby formula you are using, lack of activity and dehydration.
Although uncommon, infants also can have constipation due to an underlying medical condition, such as hypothyroidism, botulism, certain food allergies and metabolic disorders.
If your child experiences constipation frequently, consult a pediatrician. However, for mild constipation, you can try some exercise and dietary changes to help deal with this problem.
Here are some of the ways to treat constipation in infants.
1. Light Exercises
To help treat constipation in young babies, you can use certain exercises. They help improve digestion and make the bowel movements regular, thus treating infant constipation. In fact, active babies suffer less from gas, stomach pain and constipation.
- If your baby has started crawling, encourage him or her to do a few laps.
- Leg bicycle exercise also help a lot. Put your baby in a lying position, hold the legs in a half-bent position and gently begin to move your baby’s legs as if riding a bicycle.
- If your baby has started walking, help him or her walk around a bit after eating.
Avoid lying your child down immediately after eating.
2. Tummy Massage
Massaging your baby’s tummy is another good remedy for constipated infants. Gentle stomach and lower abdomen massages stimulate bowel movements. They even help relieve gas and colic pain in infants. In addition, a gentle massage helps your baby sleep well.
- Put your baby in a lying position.
- Put some warm olive or coconut oil on your baby’s stomach.
- Working 2 finger widths away from the navel, gently massage the stomach in a clockwise direction for 3 to 4 minutes.
- Do several massages throughout the day, until your child has a bowel movement.
3. Warm Bath
Giving your constipated baby a relaxing warm bath can also help a lot. It helps things move through the body more quickly and even brings relief from gas pain.
- Fill your baby’s bathtub with warm water.
- Bathe your baby in the water.
- Give a tummy massage as you are drying your baby.
Some constipated infants benefit from probiotics. A probiotic is a dose of live bacteria similar to those present in the gut naturally.
In a 2014 study published in the JAMA Pediatrics journal, researchers found that the prophylactic use of lactobacillus reuteri during the first 3 months of life reduced the onset of functional gastrointestinal disorders, such as constipation, infantile colic and gastro esophageal reflux.
- You can give probiotics to your child by feeding him or her a little yogurt containing live cultures.
- You can also ask your pediatrician for a probiotic supplement suitable for infants.
5. Increase Fluid Intake
Proper hydration is essential for regular bowel movements. For small babies, water and milk are great options to keep them hydrated and help their digestive tract function smoothly. This will ensure regular bowel movements and help prevent constipation and gas pain.
- Give your baby water to drink at regular intervals. To improve digestion, you can give warm water to your baby.
- In addition to water, breastfeed your baby or give him or her milk.
6. Fennel Seeds
Fennel seeds are also helpful in treating constipation in babies. They encourage smooth muscle movement in the digestive tract, resulting in healthy digestion and regular bowel movements. Fennel also prevents gas.
- Add 1 teaspoon of crushed fennel seeds to about 2 cups of water.
- Boil it and allow it to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Strain and allow it to cool.
- Give ½ to 1 teaspoon of this solution to your baby a few times a day.
Breastfeeding mothers should drink fennel tea 2 or 3 times a day.
7. Apple Juice
You can give your baby a small amount of apple juice to help relieve constipation as it has a mild laxative effect. It contains pectin that encourages regular bowel movements.
However, avoid feeding your baby applesauce, which may contain a higher level of pectin that could firm up stools and lead to constipation.
You can give 2 to 4 ounces of apple juice once a day to toddlers and 4 to 6 ounces once a day to older infants. If possible, extract the juice at home from organic apples, instead of buying prepackaged juice.
Prunes are a high-fiber fruit that can help fight constipation in infants. Their natural laxative property helps regulate bowel movements.
- For infants up to 6 months of age, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of prune juice to ½ cup of breast or formula milk or just plain water. Give it to your baby once or twice a day to regulate bowel movements.
- For older infants, add diluted prune juice to your baby’s formula before feeding.
- If your baby is eating solid foods, you can try pureed prunes.
Note: Consult your doctor before giving prune juice to your baby as it contains a natural bowel irritant.
9. Brown Sugar
Some experts even suggest using brown sugar to treat constipated infants. It helps soften the stool, so your baby can produce a bowel movement more quickly and regularly.
- Mix ½ teaspoon of brown sugar in 2 to 3 tablespoons of cooled boiled water.
- Stir thoroughly until the sugar dissolves completely.
- Give this solution to your baby 3 times a day, before feeding any solid food.
10. High-Fiber Foods
Fiber helps soften the stools by drawing water into them, making them bulkier and easier to pass. If your infant has started eating solid foods, try to introduce some fiber-rich foods into their diet.
- Add a few high-fiber foods, such as broccoli, pears, peaches, peas or skinless apples, to your baby’s diet. You can feed these pureed or boiled.
- You can even try baby cereals that contain barley or bran.
- Another option is to give your baby a small amount of cooked grains like barley, oats or quinoa.
Breastfeeding mothers should also include fiber-rich foods in their diet.
- Avoid formulas thickened with rice cereal.
- Avoid feeding your baby constipating foods like rice, bananas and cooked carrots.
- Establish a regular toilet time and encourage your child to pass stool.
- Ensure a good position for your baby while he or she is having a bowel movement.
- Breastfeeding mothers should limit dairy products in their diet.
- Avoid giving cow’s milk to your baby, as it can be difficult to digest.
- Do not give your baby medicines for constipation unless prescribed by a doctor.