What to Do if Your Baby is Struggling to Poop + Baby Constipation Remedy
When baby is constipated it is not only rough for them but also rough for parents who want to help but don’t know how. This can feel overwhelming especially when baby is upset and unsettled. I struggled along with my youngest son who was constipated often, I found myself researching everything possible to try to find some relief for him, and to be honest us as well. I came to find that constipation in babies is very common had nothing to do with anything I did wrong. It comes with hitting certain milestones in their growth. I began to learn the signs and triggers for constipation and was able to learn how to prevent instead of just alleviate the symptoms.
Normal Stool and Bowel Patterns
Breast fed newborns stool that is “textbook normal” is runny, soft (like an applesauce consistency) and stringy, and varies in color. It is normal for a breast fed baby to go as often as after every feed or as little as once per week.
A formula fed baby’s stool that is normal is like a soft paste but can be runny as well, and also varies in color. They can go as often as 1-3 times a day or once every 2-3 days.
These are all signs of healthy working bowels. If baby’s symptoms are less frequent than they may be experiencing constipation.
Signs of Constipation in Babies
Some indications your newborn could be constipated are crying, grunting, painful farts, discomfort, going longer than 3 days without a bowel movement, and when they do go it is hard or uncomfortable to pass, dry or hard stool, loss of appetite, and a hard belly.
Why My Newborn is Constipated
Something to look for that can potentially cause constipation is starting a new diet, like adding solids, especially rice cereal–it is common for babies to experience some constipation in addition to some dehydration. Formula fed babies can get constipated if the protein component in the formula doesn’t settle with their bellies; this is in most cases why babies end up switching formula brands so ask your doctor their recommendation on that!
There are some more serious factors that could be causing constipation like hyperthyroidism, botulism, food allergies, or metabolic disorders. These scenarios are more uncommon but if constipation persists ask the doctor their opinion on investigating them further.
Baby Constipation Remedy: How To Help A Newborn Poop
1. A belly massage.
Measure 3 finger widths below babies belly button down to the lower left side and apply pressure. Press until you feel a firmness or mass, keep pressure there for roughly 3 minutes.
If you’re uncomfortable applying pressure, try this technique:
- Have your hands in a paddle motion and sweep the palms of your hands on baby’s abdomen, making a scooping stroke downward. Start it from just below the ribs and stop just above the pubic bone.
- With your fingertips, move your fingers around your baby’s belly button in a circle. Move clockwise, to follow the natural path of digestion systems.
2. Bicycle legs.
Lay baby on his back and bicycle his legs forwards and backwards in a circular motion.
3. Topical Castor Oil
Massage baby’s tummy with castor oil, topically, while performing a belly massage.
While this is marketed as a remedy for gas, often just the stimulation will help a baby to poop! (You may get a few farts out of it too.)
5. For formula fed babies adding a dark corn syrup to the bottle can help.
Start with ¼ tsp per 4 oz of formula, if that doesn’t work you can gradually increase it until you get to 1 tsp per 4 oz. Do not do more than that.
6. A fruit juice is also a good option, like prune, pear or apple.
Remember babies younger than 8 weeks shouldn’t have any fruit juice.
7. If your baby is eats solid foods try cutting back on constipation inducing foods like cooked carrots, rice and bananas.
A good option is to give your baby a belly massage and then follow it up with high fiber foods like pears, prunes, and apples.
8. If your baby is mobile encourage them to do some exercise.
Crawling is a really good option!
What to Give a Constipated Baby
- Babies up to 8 weeks should only have 30 ml of cooled boiled water twice a day, between morning and evening feeds.
- Ages 8 weeks to 6 months can have 30-60 ml cooled boiled water twice a day between the morning and evening feeds.
- Babies 6 months – 12 months can have 60-120 mls of freshly drawn tap water twice per day.
- Sugar is used in constipation remedies because it draws additional fluid into the baby’s bowels to soften hard stool.
- To add sugar to a bottle prepare a minimum of 7 oz with infant formula in the regular way, then add one formula scoop of brown sugar to bottle, shake to dissolve sugar it will dissolve better in a warm bottle. For the next 24 hours you can do this for every other feed. If constipation continues you can do this for every feed until the baby passes a bowel movement. Between sugar bottles do the water formula to keep baby hydrated.
- Once baby passes the stool reduce the brown sugar bottles to every third, then fourth then fifth before stopping it all together.
- Do not try these sugar added bottles for more than two days in a row. This option is for emergency situations.
- Laxatives might be a necessary measure if other options you have tried are failing to work. Picking the right one is important though because not all laxatives are the same in the way they work. Some laxatives soften the stool or stimulate the contraction of the bowel, where others do both of those things and then there are some that also offer additional fiber.
- A suppository is medicine in a solid form administered by inserting it into the anus. They are used to treat constipation because they are effective in getting a bowel movement to pass normally within 15-60 minutes.
- Glycerin suppositories draw water to the intestines which encourage a bowel movement. Follow directions on package to insert, if used too frequently this will cause loss of normal bowel function.
As always follow up with your doctor to ask more specific questions and to rule out anything more serious, but my hope is that something on this list is helpful to you and your baby and it gets “things” moving again!