This problem is rare in breastfed babies (even if they move their bowels infrequently and their movements seems difficult to expel), because their moments are never hard. In a breastfed newborn, infrequent movements – no matter how soft – can be a sign that baby isn’t getting enough to eat. Constipation can, however, plague formula-fed infants.
Symptoms: Infrequent bowel movements with stools that are hard and hard to pass; infrequency alone, however, is not a sign of constipation and maybe your baby’s normal pattern.
- Stool streaked with blood, if there are anal fissures (cracks in the anus caused by the passage of hard stool)
- Gastric distress and abdominal pain
Season: Any time
Cause: A sluggish digestive tract, illness, insufficient fibre in diet, not enough to drink, insufficient activity or an anus fissure that makes defecation painful; rarely, a more serious medical condition.
Duration: May be chronic or occur just occasionally.
Treatment: Though constipation is not unusual in bottle-fed infants, symptoms should always be reported to the doctor, who can, when necessary, check for any abnormalities that might be causing it. Occasional constipation or mild chronic constipation is usually treated with dietary changes; an increase in exercise may help (in infants, try moving the legs in a bicycle fashion when you see your baby having difficulty with a movement). Do not give laxatives, enemas, or any medication without the doctor’s instructions.
Dietary changes: Make these only after consultation with baby’s doctor:
- If they’ve been introduced, give 30 to 60ml of prune or apple juice by bottle, cups or spoon.
- For a baby on solids, increasing intake of fruits (other than banana) and vegetables.
- In older babies, cut back on dairy products (but not breast milk or formula).
Prevention: When solids are added to the baby’s diet, be sure to include mostly whole grains, plus plenty of fruits and vegetables. Also be sure fluid intake is adequate and that baby has plenty of opportunity for physical activity.
- Impacted stool (stool that is not passed naturally and may be painful to remove manually)
- If it continues chronically through the toddler and preschool years, difficulty with toilet training can result.
When to call the doctor: If your baby seems to be constipated often or regularly; if the problem suddenly arises when it has not been noted before; or if there is blood in this stool.
Chance of recurrence: The problem can become a ‘habit’ if it isn’t dealt with when it first occurs.
Condition with similar symptoms: Intestinal obstructions or abnormalities.