It can be scary when your baby is struggling to poop. We’re taking a look at what causes constipation and sharing some safe and effective baby constipation remedies.
How to Help a Constipated Baby
For every child, there is a range of factors that influence overall health. We’re learning more about how the gut is connected to many other body systems, such as the brain, skin, and the immune system. Setting your baby up with a healthy gut may go a long way to laying a foundation for overall health.
So, what about when little ones get constipated?
Constipation is common, with up to 30% of children experiencing symptoms. While there is a range of normal bowel habits for little ones depending on age, baby constipation usually comes with uncomfortable tummy troubles, poops that are infrequent, too hard, or painful to pass.
Natural Remedies for Baby Constipation
The majority of cases of constipation in babies are functional, meaning there is no organic cause or disease. Fortunately, functional constipation often responds well to gentle, natural remedies including diet and lifestyle factors.
Dr. Ashley Weber is Naturopathic Doctor with a special interest in pediatric health and nutrition. She received her bachelor of science degree from McMaster University, and went on to attend the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto, Canada. Here she shares medically reviewed ways to avoid and relieve baby constipation.
Swap out cow’s milk
Functional constipation may be tied to diet and studies have shown that cow’s milk may be a trigger for some little ones.
Formula-fed babies may be more likely to experience constipation than those who are breastfed. For those consuming cow milk based formula, finding an easier to digest option may be helpful.
Partially hydrolyzed cow milk based formula (containing proteins that are already partly broken down) may be helpful, however some parents increasingly have concerns about the processed proteins and refined sugars often present. Goat milk based formula is another option. It is a naturally-easier-to-digest alternative, when safely adapted and fortified.
For older babies consuming cow’s milk, cheese and yogurt, finding fortified and nutritionally suitable alternatives such as goat or plant-based milk, cheese and yogurt may be helpful.
Make sure your baby is getting enough fiber
For babies eating solid foods, ensuring adequate dietary fiber may improve constipation. Children 1-2 years old should consume 19 grams of fiber each day.
Vegetables and fruits are an excellent source of fiber, as well as whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes such as beans.
Keep your baby hydrated
Hydration is key to avoid hard poops and improve constipation in little ones. While babies under 6 months old get all the hydration they need from breast milk or formula, sips of water can be introduced when babies start eating solids.
More water can be offered throughout the day as children age and in hot weather. Homemade popsicles and smoothies, as well as high water content fruits like watermelon can also be great ways to improve hydration.
Feed baby’s gut with pre- and probiotics
The gut is lined with healthy bacteria that serve many functions, including supporting digestion. Prebiotics, such as galactooligosacchards (GOS), are dietary fibers that feed beneficial gut bacteria.
For formula-fed babies, choosing a formula that includes GOS has been shown to support the gut and improve frequency and consistency of poops. Additionally, a probiotic (a supplement of beneficial bacteria) given directly to mom or baby may be beneficial for breastfed little ones; a children’s probiotic may support the gut for older kids.
End the day with a tummy rub
Regardless of age, starting or ending the day with an infant belly massage can bring constipation relief to many children. Using gentle but firm pressure, use the flat pads of your fingers to massage slowly clockwise up and around the belly. Using a small amount of oil, such as coconut oil will make the massage more comfortable and easier to perform.
Simple diet and lifestyle factors may go a long way to ease symptoms of baby constipation, but always be sure to consult with your healthcare provider to determine the cause of constipation and before making feeding changes or starting new supplements.