Poop Matters: Babies, Constipation and Solid Foods
The milestone of babies beginning solid foods can be exciting, but the appearance and smell of their stools will change the diaper routine dramatically. This is particularly noticeable in breastfed babies, whose stools were previously of a smooth texture and relatively “sweet” smelling! First foods are often rough on a digestive system that has been used to only breast milk or formula.
But do not worry. Once babies are introduced to solids, their stools will often be the color of the food they ate. They may also contain small pieces of undigested food, and this is perfectly normal.
The frequency in which babies pass stools may change as well; sometimes babies go a few days without a bowel movement. This does not necessarily mean your baby is constipated. Check the stool’s softness when it finally appears. If it is soft and pliable, then it is very likely that all is well.
Straining and grunting does not necessarily indicate constipation in babies, either – these are actually quite common reactions, as your baby’s body adjusts to the new texture and firmness of his stools.
But baby constipation can arise as his intestines learn to cope with this new form of nutrition. The resulting hard stools can sometimes tear the delicate skin around the anus. These tiny but painful tears can cause your baby to sub-consciously hold back his stools. Unfortunately, this compounds the problem – his body will absorb the water from these stools, making them even harder, plus the large amount of stools in the intestine will cause discomfort and pain.
BABY CONSTIPATION – THE SIGNS TO LOOK FOR
☸ Stools are hard and dry. This is probably the clearest indication of constipation in baby.
☸ Your baby cries as he “poos” – straining might be normal, but crying indicates a greater discomfort that needs investigating.
☸ Your baby seems unwilling to feed and is generally unhappy.
☸ Blood is visible in, or on, the stools.
Certain foods are more likely than others to trigger constipation. Below is a list of constipating foods:
☸ rice cereal
☸ unripe bananas
☸ cooked carrots
☸ white bread
☸ large amounts of potato
Possible causes of constipation can include:
☸ another underlying illness
☸ possible food allergies
☸ dehydration, particularly in warm weather
☸ certain types of medication that your baby may have been prescribed
☸ switching from first stage formula to a “follow-on” formula
If your baby is eating rice cereal, try switching to an oat, barley or mixed grain cereal (though may not be suitable if your baby is under 6 months of age).
Mix the cereal with a little prune juice, or give him fruit juice diluted with cooled, boiled water. Try 1oz of juice in 4oz of water initially – if this doesn’t help, try diluting the juice with 2oz of water. Offer this diluted juice every morning and evening, until the stools soften.
Add pureed fruits or vegetables to his cereal.
If baby is bottle fed, offer him cooled, boiled water to prevent dehydration, particularly in warm conditions.
If baby is breastfed, increase the frequency of feeds.
Give baby a warm bath – this will make your baby feel relaxed and you can continue the massage technique to get internal matter moving, and relieve discomfort. Massage baby’s tummy gently, in a clockwise direction, starting at his navel and moving outwards.
If hard stools have caused tears to your baby’s anus, Vaseline can be used to protect the delicate skin.
Some more traditional medical advice may include an over-the-counter suppository to soften poop, or Asians like to use a sliver of soap.
But first try these simple changes first!
☸ Feed your baby more fiber-rich and laxative foods that help soften stools
These include pears (a gentle but effective option that we recommend trying first), peaches, apricots, plums, avocado and peas. Once they are eating finger foods, offer rice puffs or organic O’s (Cheerios) or small cubes of apple, fig, or peach. (For now, limit bananas, rice cereal, and cheese, which can be binding.) You can even add a little ground flax to your baby’s meals from around 7 months of age.
☸ Increase fluids
It’ll help move the fiber through his system. Start with more breast milk or formula. Once your baby is on solids, he/she can have two to four ounces of water a day. If your baby is still having a problem after a couple of days, try the same amount of water-diluted juice (apple, pear, and prune).
☸ Get physical
Bicycle your baby’s legs while on his/her back. This exerts gentle pressure on his intestines by moving the muscles in his tummy. Simply put him on his back, hold his legs and turn them gently, but quickly, in a cycling motion. Give your baby more space and time to crawl, cruise, or walk when he/she is ready for it.
Resources: Baby Center, WebMD, Baby Zone, Wholesome Baby Food, Parents.Com, Wise Geek.com