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Infant Constipation is when the stools become firmer and harder and your baby may be uncomfortable or in pain when he needs to empty his bowels or the bowels are not being emptied as often as normal.
Up to the age of 6 months, the frequency of bowel movements varies a great deal, which effects a great deal whether your baby is constipated. Some will have a bowel movement several times a day while others as little as once a week. Stools of breast-fed babies are usually yellow in appearance (and frequent) while those of formula-fed babies are often thicker and greenish. Breast-fed babies are less likely to suffer from infant constipation because breast milk is more easily digestible. Babies’ large intestine has the right bacteria to -break down some of the harder-to-process proteins in the milk, making the stools softer and easier to pass. Breast-fed babies also have higher levels of the hormone motiline and this hormone stimulates bowel movement and reduces infant constipation. A young baby will strain from time to time to move the stool along through the intestines. If you see this happening, you can pick your baby up to get gravity to help him in his efforts or try holding the knees against the chest to help him squat – which is the natural bowel movement position.
After the age of 6 months and once your baby starts eating solid food, the frequency of bowel movements and the consistency and appearance of his stools will depend on the food he eats. Your baby’s stools will begin to look a bit more like ordinary stools in both consistency and smell. The pattern in bowel movements will also change to anything from several times a day to once every 2 to 3 days. At this point, some babies may become slightly constipated because their intestines have to get used to the composition of the new food. You need to be aware at this point that constipation could be caused by dehydration. Is your baby still taking in plenty of liquids?
When a baby is constipated, the stool in the intestines has backed up more than it should. The longer this stool sits in the colon, the more water is absorbed back into the body. It can be the start of a vicious circle. This is because it will hurt your baby to pass the large hard stools that have gathered in the intestine. Cracks around the anus may appear; these may start to bleed and cause more pain. To avoid such pain, your baby may subconsciously start holding back stools.
How to help treat constipation:
A warm bath can make your baby relax so the stools are passed more easily. Then……..
Massage your baby’s tummy. With some oil on your fingers, start at the tummy button and then massage outwards in circles in a clockwise direction.
Move your baby’s legs in a quick cycling motion while he is lying on his back.
Give your baby extra fluids with bottles of cooled, boiled water.
Once your baby is older, you can start introducing more cereal (oats) and fruit or vegetable purees into their diet. These are rich in fiber and will help prevent baby constipation.