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Constipation in Babies

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How do I know if my baby is constipated?

Each baby is different when it comes to the frequency of bowel motions. However, it is the type of bowel motion not the frequency that matters. A baby who has hard or lumpy stools may strain or have difficulty when they pass a motion and stools. They may have pains due to stools remaining in their body and they might also go off their food. Because passing the hard stools may hurt, your baby might also subconsciously try and stop passing bowel motions too, which can make the problem continue or get worse.

Giving your baby cooled, boiled water between feeds can help ease constipation

What causes constipation or hard stools?

Constipation or hard stools may be caused by a number of things including a change of diet, dehydration, medication or a minor illness like a cold. It is rarely seen in breastfed babies because breast milk is more easily digested.

What can I do to help my baby with constipation?

There are several things you can do if your baby has hard stools.

  • Give your baby extra drinks of cooled, boiled water (30-50 mL) between feeds
  • Underfeeding may lead to hard stools – make sure you are feeding your baby enough to satisfy their growing needs
  • If your baby is formula feeding, make sure you make up the formula correctly (read the label instructions carefully) as too much infant formula powder will make the feed too concentrated
  • Gently massage your baby’s tummy in a clockwise direction after a warm bath. Some baby oil on your hands may help. Only continue if your baby seems relaxed and comfortable.
  • Move your baby’s legs in a cycling motion
  • For babies over 4 months of age, some diluted prune juice can be given for a short period of time. Ensure you discuss this with your health care professional first.

To make prune juice

To make prune juice, in a small saucepan, bring to the boil one cup of water with four to five moist, stone-less prunes. Simmer, covered, for 10-20 minutes or until prunes are very soft. Rub through a clean, fine sieve. Discard the pulp in your sieve. Reheat the prune juice to the boil, tip it into a sterilised container, cover and refrigerate. Use the juice within two days or cool it, then pour it into an ice cube tray and freeze.

Give baby one teaspoon of prune juice mixed with one to two tablespoons of cooled, boiled water a day. It is important to stop using prune juice once regular bowel motions return. If you have any worries about your baby’s health, it’s always best to talk to your health care professional.

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