Where's the Poop? Relieving Your Baby's Constipation
As the mother of a newborn baby, you're probably changing a lot of dirty diapers. Sometimes, you may notice a change in your baby's bowel movements. Maybe the poop in his diaper doesn't look the same, there's less of it than usual or he seems to be in pain when having a bowel movement. Constipation may be to blame for these changes. If you think your newborn is struggling with going number two, here are some tips on how to help.
Normal Bowel Movements for a Newborn
A baby who drinks formula usually has at least one bowel movement on most days. For breastfed babies, what's considered a normal amount of poop depends on her age. Breastfed babies who are less than 1 month usually poop at least once a day. Beyond that age, it's not uncommon for a breastfed baby to go several days or even a week without pooping. That's because much of the breast milk consumed is being used by the baby's body for growth and development rather than ending up in her diaper.
Symptoms of Constipation in a Newborn
Symptoms of constipation in a newborn include infrequent or less frequent pooping and hard or pellet-like poop in her diaper. Your baby may also seem to be in pain when pooping, such as arching her back, crying and straining so much that her face gets red. While it's common for a baby to struggle to poop sometimes, it shouldn't be a big struggle every time. A baby who struggles to poop for several minutes without success is another indicator of constipation. Other signs that your baby may be constipated is if she is fussier than usual, spitting up more than usual and seems to have a lot of gas.
Reasons for Constipation in a Baby and Ways to Relieve It
It can be hard to pinpoint an exact cause for constipation in a baby. If your baby is drinking formula, he may be constipated because of a milk protein intolerance. Try switching to a different formula, such as a soy formula, to see if that helps. Newborns less than 2 months of age may also benefit from more frequent feedings to increase fluid intake.
It's not uncommon for a baby to have some constipation when her diet changes, such as when she goes from drinking only breast milk or formula to also eating solid foods. Your baby may be constipated because she's not getting enough fiber or liquids with her new diet. Try feeding her foods high in fiber, such as pureed peas, pureed prunes and multi-grain or whole grain cereals. Water may help move things along, so offer your baby a small amount of water with every meal.
If your baby is past 1 month of age, you can also try giving her a small amount of 100 percent pear, prune or apple juice. These fruit juices help with constipation because the sugars in them act as a laxative, drawing fluid into the intestines and helping to loosen stool. Offer 1 ounce of fruit juice a day for every month of life, with a max of 4 ounces. A 2-month old baby, for example, can be offered 2 ounces of fruit juice.
You can also try infant glycerin suppositories, small tubes of glycerin that you place into your baby's anus and which work by drawing water into the intestines, but it's best to seek your doctor's advice before using them. Be aware that even if your doctor gives you the go ahead to use them on your baby, glycerin suppositories are still meant to be used only occasionally. Also avoid giving your baby laxatives or enemas yourself as doing so may cause more harm to your baby than good.
When to See Your Baby's Doctor
Sometimes, constipation in a newborn may be a sign of a serious disease or structural obstruction in the intestines. Contact your baby's doctor immediately if there's blood in his stool, if the constipation is accompanied by other worrisome conditions, such as vomiting, fever or weakness, or if the constipation doesn't go away despite dietary changes.