What Causes Constipation in Breastfed Babies? Alarming Signs & Ways to Deal
Created by Ambili S Kartha Updated on Feb 20, 2019
Most of the mothers track their baby's bowel movements, especially during the initial months. Baby poop color and consistency is often a topic of discussion between mothers. Colostrum, which has laxative properties, will entirely vanish from the mother's milk, about six weeks after delivery. Therefore, unlike the newborn who poops five to six times per day, in one and a half-month-olds, the bowel movement will reduce automatically to less than three times per day. The quantity and frequency of a breastfed baby's bowel movement are one of the major indicators of his or her health. Therefore, the absence of poop or any noticeable change in its consistency can stress parents out. The fact is that unlike formula-fed infants, the babies who are exclusively breastfed are rarely constipated.
Constipation in kids can be a sign of an underlying health problem. So, it is important to recognize the signs and causes of constipation in breastfed babies and know how to treat it.
What Causes Constipation in Breastfed Babies?
- Dehydration: Dehydration can cause constipation in breastfed babies. If the intake of the fluid by the mother is reduced, it can affect the quality of the breast milk which is around 90% water. Also, if the baby refuses to drink an adequate amount of breast milk, it can cause dehydration in babies that can end up with constipation. For babies older than 6 months, make sure they have enough water and other fluids
Mother's diet: What mother eats or drinks passes to the baby through breastmilk.
- Increased caffeine intake of the mother can result in an increase in caffeine level in the blood of the baby, which slows down the baby's bowel movement thereby resulting in constipation
- Milk protein allergy of the mother or the baby can give rise to constipation in breastfed babies. The milk protein that passes to the baby through breast milk will be difficult for the baby to digest. This can affect the bowel movements and end up in constipation
- Introduction of Solid Food: When an exclusively breastfed baby is introduced to solid food around six months, he or she may encounter constipation as there are many solid foods that are low in fiber, which can cause constipation. Rice cereals, unripe banana, cooked carrots, applesauce, potatoes, fried items like French fries are a few examples. Read: Initial Solid Foods for 6-12 months babies
- Physical Reasons: Sometimes, the rectal opening of the baby will be small so that it prevents the passage of the stool smoothly thereby causing persisting constipation in babies
- Congenital Diseases: Congenital diseases such as Hirschsprung's disease very rarely can cause constipation in breastfed babies
- Illness: If the baby is ill, it will adversely affect the feeding and result in constipation
- Medicines: If the baby is given high-dose iron supplements or narcotic pain medicines they can cause constipation in babies
What Are The Signs Of Constipation In Kids?
Passing a bowel movement is more of a challenge for the infant as he or she is lying flat on their back while doing poop. As a result, the help from the side of the gravitational force will be absent. Therefore, it's normal for infants to strain, make grunting noises, and turning red in the face while pooping. These signs don't mean the infants is constipated. Also, it is found that some healthy babies have only one bowel movement a week. When it comes to constipation in breastfed babies, consistency is the key rather than the frequency. Babies who poop once in a couple of days or even more may not experience constipation. But then again, babies having a frequent bowel movement can be constipated.
Some warning signals of constipation in breastfed babies
- If a breastfed baby passes firm stools or less than one stool per day for a period of about two weeks
- If a breastfed baby who has frequent bowel movement normally, experiences a sudden prolonged absence of poop
- Dry and hard stool that is hard to pass (or) small and firm pellet-like stools, instead of smooth stool (irrespective of the frequency) in breastfed babies indicates constipation
- The baby often cries in pain before and during bowel movements as the hardened stool passing through the anus cause small tears in the soft rectal wall of the baby
- Belly of a constipated baby can appear firm and painful when touched
- Constipated baby, sometimes, declines to feed
- Dashes of blood in the stool may also indicate constipation since small tears in the rectal wall bleed as the hardened stool is pushed out
What Can I Do If My Kid Is Constipated?
Mother's diet: As already mentioned above, what the mother eats influences the bowel movement of the baby. Therefore,
- If the caffeine intake of the mother is causing constipation, stop it or reduce the intake considerably
- If milk protein allergy is the culprit, substitute soy products for dairy
- If the mother eats prunes, it will help to relieve constipation in breastfed babies
- Baby's diet: If you recently introduced solid food to the baby, includes fiber-rich food like broccoli, skinned apple, pears, peaches, prunes, barley, oats etc. preferably in pureed form. Also the baby should have enough water and other fluids
- Rectal stimulation: Using your finger, or with the tip of a rectal thermometer, or with a cotton swab, gently press on the rectum of the baby. This will stimulate a reflex that produces a bowel movement within several minutes of stimulation
Hope these tips help you!