Babies often go a long time between bowel movements. Most of the time, it is normal for a baby to go days or even more than a week without a bowel movement. However, a baby may sometimes be constipated and need a little help.
The normal amount of bowel movements an infant passes varies depending on his or her age and what he or she is eating. Infants also have weak abdominal muscles and often strain during bowel movements. If your baby passes a soft bowel movement after a few minutes of straining, he/she is unlikely to be constipated.
Exclusively breastfed babies can go several days without a bowel movement but aren’t constipated. As a matter of fact, they will be generously releasing loads of farts. This should not cause worry or panic for mums as long as the bowel movement (whenever it chooses to show up) is soft and pasty not hard. If your newborn seems constipated, contact his or her doctor for advice.
Infant constipation is not common. However, your baby might have infant constipation if he or she has:
- Hard or pellet-like bowel movements
- Bowel movements that appear difficult to pass, causing your baby to arch his or her back or cry
- Infrequent or less frequent bowel movements
Infant constipation often begins when a baby starts eating solid foods. If your baby seems constipated, consider simple dietary changes:
• Give small amounts of water (child should be above 6months ideally) and fresh fruit juices (apple, prune or pear)
• Give foods/fruits rich in fiber – prunes and pear purees, multi-grain cereals, whole wheat, etc.
If your baby is still struggling, it’s been a few days since his or her last bowel movement and dietary changes haven’t been effective, it might help to place an infant glycerin suppository into your baby’s anus. However, glycerin suppositories are only meant for occasional use. Don’t use mineral oil, stimulant laxatives or enemas (pouring warm water in the anus) to treat infant constipation.
Other home remedies include:
- Exercise (dancing, move baby’s legs in lying position like riding a bicycle.
- A warm bath can relax abdominal muscles
- Gentle abdominal massage
- Taking a rectal temperature using a clean and well lubricated thermometer can help babies pass stool
Rarely, infant constipation is caused by an underlying condition, such as Hirschsprung’s disease, hypothyroidism or cystic fibrosis. If infant constipation persists despite dietary changes or is accompanied by other signs or symptoms — such as vomiting or weakness — contact your baby’s doctor.