Constipation may be associated with a change in milk for tiny babies, the introduction of solids and countless other factors for older children. Parents of tiny babies describe these children as irritable, gassy, poor feeders, crying when needing to pass a stool and the tendency to pull their legs upwards towards their tummies. Naturally it causes parents a lot of distress. Older children present with tummy pain, overflow diarrhoea and extreme discomfort. Soiled underwear is often reported by parents.
I would like to stress that constipation in this age group does need to be assessed. There are medical conditions that can cause constipation and your healthcare practitioner would need to exclude such conditions before it is labelled constipation.
Method of feeding is really important.
- Ensure that you are mixing the formula correctly, according to the instructions on the tin.
- You may need to try a different type of formula. Formulas containing higher amounts of casein may aggravate constipation.
- One or two drops of olive oil added to the formula may help to soften the stool
- After about 4 weeks of age you may give baby a little apple or pear juice. Work on about 30mls per day for this age group. The juice contains sugars which are not broken down but instead draw water into the bowel. The presence of water aids with constipation. You may give 30ml of apple or pear juice for each month of age, up to the age of 4 months. In other words a baby of 4 months could have 120ml of apple or pear juice in 24 hours only while constipated. Juice is not recommended for babies under normal circumstances because you do not want them to have too much sugar in the diet.
- Your doctor may recommend a ¼ to ½ teaspoon of treacle sugar, once a day, melted into the water before a bottle is mixed. This will also aid with constipation. As soon as the stool returns to normal it is important to stop the sugar in the diet.
4 months to 1 year
Babies in this age group may become constipated with the introduction of solids. It is important to include foods which are high in fibre to assist your baby to pass a stool.
In addition to the massage, knees to chest and pear or apple juice described above, ensure that your baby’s diet includes foods such as:
- Skinless apples or apple puree
- Strained prunes
- Whole grained cereals such as quinoa, oats or barley. These should be cooked and given to baby instead of refined cereal.
- Water can also be introduced. This will ensure that the increased fiber moves through the tummy easily.
In addition to these foods I would also recommend a good probiotic. A child’s gut health, as with many other things can affect his or her ability to pass a stool.