Saturday, May 28, 2005

Constipation

You might wonder if your baby is constipated if baby doesn't pass a stool in a couple of days. Unfortunately babies do get constipated and constipation can make things rather uncomfortable for both baby and baby's parents. So how do you know if baby is constipated? There is no set frequency of bowel movements when it comes to babies. Some babies may pass a stool after nearly every feeding, some may go once per day, and others may skip a day or two. The frequency of bowel movements is often related to what baby eats.

For example, breast fed babies tend to have bowel movements more often than formula fed infants. Exclusively breast fed babies tend to have loose, yellow stools several times a day as young infants, tapering off to once a day or even once every three days. Formula fed babies tend to have firmer, darker bowel movements. The frequency of baby's bowel movements depends both on what baby consumes and how quickly baby's digestive system works. Once baby has begun to consume solid foods, baby's bowel movement pattern may change again, to become both more formed and less frequent.

To determine if your baby is really constipated look at type of stool rather than the frequency. If baby is truly constipated baby's stool will consist of dry, hard pellets or large, hard, and difficult to pass stools. Your baby is most likely constipated if he or she is having bowel movements at less frequency than is normal for your baby and is experiencing difficulty and discomfort passing them. Other signs baby is constipated include tummy discomfort coupled with hard infrequent stools and blood on the outside of the stool.

Constipation can be caused by too little water in the waste material that needs to be passed, not enough muscle movement, or a combination of both these things. New foods or drinks can contribute to constipation. Often the addition of cow's milk to a child's diet will cause constipation. If you believe a certain food or drink has caused your baby to become constipated, discontinue using it and consult your baby's doctor. If your baby is formula fed try switching to a different formula to see if that helps. Ask your baby's pediatrician about what brand you should try.

Rice cereal, a very common first baby food, is low in fiber and could contribute to constipation. Consider switching to oatmeal or barley infant cereal or add fruits or vegetables (pureed) to baby's cereal. In constipation prone babies, it is wise to avoid offering bananas and rice cereal or at least reduce the amount consumed. Give more pureed prunes and pears instead. If you have an older baby ask your doctor if it is okay to add bran or flax seed oil to baby's cereal.

Make sure your baby is getting enough fluids. This suggestion may seem rather obvious, but it is possible for baby to receive less fluid than he or she needs. If baby is wetting less than six diapers per day and is experiencing constipation, add extra fluids by giving baby apple or prune juice diluted with water.

Get baby moving! Activity is key in preventing constipation, so make sure your baby gets around plenty. If your baby is crawling get down on the floor and make a game out of getting him to crawl around with you. If baby isn't able to crawl yet help baby move by bicycling baby's legs. To do this lay baby on his back and move his legs up and forward in a pedaling motion.

If fiber, extra fluids, and activity don't help ease baby's constipation, talk to baby's doctor about using glycerin suppositories or glycerin liquid to help stimulate your baby's rectum and help her to have a bowel movement. Avoid using glycerin suppositories or liquid too often, however, because baby could become dependent on them to be able to pass her stools.

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