Constipation in Babies and Toddlers

Baby on the move but things aren't moving? Learn about common poo problems.

constipated baby

tali ditye author mommyhood101  By: Tali Ditye, Ph.D., Co-founder
  Updated: April 29, 2023

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Every baby has a different schedule in terms of how often and how much "poop" they produce in a day. Some babies will poop every time they eat, sometimes during the feeding and sometimes immediately after. Other babies, on the other hand, may only poop every few days. The number of poops a baby produces every day can be affected by how quickly he or she digests the food, how much play time the baby gets, and what and how much he or she eats and drinks.

How to Know if your Baby is Constipated

Because every baby has a different poop schedule, only you can really make the judgment as to whether your baby is constipated or not. What you need to do is judge based on what is normal for YOUR baby. Does your baby usually poop 3 to 5 times a day, but now he or she is only pooping 1 to 2 times a day? On the other hand, maybe your baby usually poops once a day but it has been a few days. In both cases, your baby might be constipated.

The other way to tell is by looking at the poop! Take a look at it and see if it is unusually hard or dry, and also keep an eye on your baby's behavior before he or she poops - do they look strained or in pain? If so, your baby might be constipated.

Paradoxically, there also might be cases when a constipated baby produces very watery poop, because the hard poop is clogging the passage in the lower intestine and the only thing that can get by is the watery stuff.

Why is my baby constipated?

There are many reasons why a baby might get constipated. Some of the most usual reasons are feeding with formula, giving your baby solid foods, dehydrating your baby, or a medical condition/illness.

Babies who are breastfed usually poop more frequently than those who are exclusively on a formula diet, and some formulas are better than others in terms of preventing constipation. Ask your doctor for some recommendations, as there are some new formulas that advertise themselves as being easier to digest.

When your baby starts eating solid foods, he or she might become constipated. Rice cereal, for example, is very low in fiber and doesn't promote pooping. Higher fiber foods will help this situation, but ask your doctor before giving your baby new food types.

If your baby is not consuming enough fluids, he or she might become dehydrated. Dehydration can lead to constipation, so make sure you give your baby enough fluids.

nestig cloud crib

Finally, constipation can be caused by a medical illness or condition. These are relatively rare conditions, such as hypothyroidism, Hirschsprung's disease, allergies or botulism. If you suspect your baby's constipation to be caused by a medical condition, contact your doctor immediately.

What are the treatment options for constipation?

If you're a mom, you likely experienced constipation during pregnancy and figured out reasonable ways to deal with it. Some of these methods might be pretty similar to the ones you will use with your baby!

The first thing you should do before starting any treatment plan for constipation is to talk to your doctor, as he or she might have some good recommendations that are better-suited for your particular baby. There are, however, some suggestions that can help relieve your baby's constipation, and they are listed below:

Keep your baby active: whether in the form of tummy-time, crawling, or walking around, your baby needs to stay active to prevent constipation! If your baby is not yet crawling, try lying him or her on the back and pumping their legs as if they were riding a bicycle. If they are crawling, have them crawl around the living room floor, and maybe make a game of it! An active baby is much less likely to get constipated, so keep them active!

Try a baby massage: massaging your baby's tummy can be a great way to relieve gas pain and promote a bowel movement. Try doing a circular motion around the belly button in a soft and gently rotation, for about 5 minutes or so. Sometimes this helps, and even if it doesn't it can be a good bonding time with your baby! Here is a great introductory guide to baby massage.

Try a new formula: some baby formulas can be more or less difficult to digest for your baby, and the only way to figure out which one your baby tolerates best is by trying out different brands and formula types. Some companies advertise new formulas that reduce constipation and aid in digestion, such as the Earth's Best Organic Formula. Also, you can ignore the old wives tale that the iron contained in formula can contribute to constipation, as there is no evidence that this is the case.

Reduce the amount of rice cereal your baby eats: as mentioned earlier, rice cereal is very low in fiber and thus does not promote bowel movements. Try switching from rice cereal to other foods such as oat or barley cereal, like one of our best organic baby foods. You can also get some pureed vegetables or fruits and add them to any of these cereal types (flax can also work well). Be sure to ask your doctor whether your baby is ready for these foods before making the switch.

Give your baby lots of fluids: we mentioned earlier that dehydration can cause constipation, so often one of the easiest fixes is to give your baby more fluids. Try mixing your baby's cereal with some prune juice, apple juice or some pureed fruits such as prunes, pears or apricots. Plum Organic makes some excellent fruit and veggie baby food pouches. Also try giving him or her diluted prune juice (you can do a 1-1 ratio, such as 1 ounce water and 1 ounce prune juice).

Talk to your doctor:there are additional treatment options for constipation that you and your doctor can discuss. Some of these options include suppositories or laxatives. Never give either of those to your baby without discussing with your doctor!

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