by Dr. Edward F. Group III
Are you up all night with a fussy infant? Have you noticed that
it has been a while since your baby has had a bowel movement? If
this is the case, he or she may be constipated. Here are some
answers to questions you may have about constipation in infants
and babies. They may help relieve both you and your baby.
What exactly does ďinfant constipationĒ mean?
Constipation in infants and babies occurs when the stool becomes
more dense and hard. An infant with constipation wonít move his
or her bowels as often. The baby may also have painful bowel
movements as a result of constipation.
What could be the cause of my infant's constipation?
In very young infants, constipation is usually directly related
to the type of milk they drink. Babies that are breast-fed
rarely experience constipation. Thatís because a motherís breast
milk is much easier for a baby to digest than commercial formula
Babies who are breastfed also have higher levels of hormone
called motiline that helps keep the bowels moving. Breastfeeding
has the added benefit of adapting to the growth of the child.
Itís constantly changing in composition to accommodate the
changing needs of a developing baby.
In bottle-fed babies, constipation is much more frequent. Babies
who are bottle-fed will usually have fewer bowel movements that
are harder than breastfed babies.
As babies grow and begin to start a diet of solid food, the
intestines have to get used to this new type of nutrition. At
this time, itís common for a baby to experience fewer bowel
movements and slight constipation.
Changing to a diet of solid foods can also be a time of
dehydration in babies. Dehydration is another trigger for
constipation. Usually constipation in infants and babies is
infrequent and mild.
In some cases, constipation becomes a vicious cycle. If a baby
is constipated and itís painful or uncomfortable to have a bowel
movement, he or she may try to hold bowel movements in. This
causes the feces to stay in the intestine longer, where it
becomes even harder.
How do I treat infant constipation?
When am infant is constipated, itís usually not a good idea to
give him or her a laxative. Instead, there are several methods
for helping make your child more comfortable and able to have a
Here are a few tips for your constipated baby that will help him
or her relax and pass a bowel movement:
- Try massaging your babyís tummy gently Ė as long as the baby
- Move your babyís legs in a bicycle motion.
- Give your baby a warm bath.
- Give your baby plenty of water to drink.
If youíve tried all of these methods, and your baby is still
experiencing constipation, consult your doctor. Your
pediatrician may want to prescribe a special laxative for