Nothing can be more distressing to a new mother than to see her baby suffering, and not knowing what the problem is can add to that stress. If it’s your first child, every little thing seems like a crisis and learning how to deal with them can be overwhelming, but once you learn to recognize the signs, things do get easier.
Newborn constipation is a common problem and there are some signs and symptoms to help you determine if your baby is suffering from it. If your baby’s bowel movements have become less frequent than normal and if they are small hard pellets, these would be indicators your newborn is suffering from constipation. Other signs would include a bloated and hard stomach, straining, grunting noises and crying while trying to pass a stool, evidence of blood in the stool, or small cracks or fissures around the opening of the anus. Newborns start out having several bowel movements a day and gradually decrease as they get older. As with adults, what’s normal for one infant is not for another, so you will need to be aware of his or her pattern from the beginning.
The most probable reason for infant constipation is because of a diet or diet changes. Bottle fed babies are more prone to constipation, as formula milk is more difficult for them to digest than breast milk is. Or if your are weaning your baby from breast milk to formula or regular milk, the change can be difficult for your baby’s digestive system to adjust to.
Now that you have determined your newborn is constipated, there are a number of ways you can help her or him to pass the stool. Some methods involve adding laxative like foods or food products to either the formula or solid food if they have advanced to solids. Others involve using manipulative techniques to gently encourage or stimulate the muscles of the colon to contract and help pass the stool.
Place your baby on hers or his back and gently bend the legs at the knees and upwards. Move the baby’s legs as if peddling a bicycle very gently being careful not to create too much discomfort. This should help stimulate peristalsis of the sphincter muscles of the anal canal.
A warm bath may help relax the baby and at the same time you can be gently massaging the abdominal area in a circular motion to help stimulate movement.
Give your baby a bit of apple juice or prune juice in a bottle diluted with water if you feel it is too strong for your baby.
If your baby has advanced to solid foods, you could try feeding her or him fibre rich foods like prunes, plums, pears, spinach, apricots, etc. There are a number of foods which might help to add bulk to your baby’s stools, but these are not immediate solutions, however it is always wise to include these types of foods in their daily diet for health reasons and preventative measures for constipation. Adding a bottle of water to a daily feeding schedule will help prevent infant constipation as well.
Other possible things you might add to your baby’s food or formula include a little bit of milk of magnesia or flax oil.
If within 2 days your baby’s constipation has not been alleviated, you need to contact your paediatrician for further action.
You will eventually learn your baby’s pattern of bowel movements and quickly learn when she or he is beginning to experience constipation, and armed with these preventative measures and solutions, you and your baby will discover a rhythm which works.