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This Poo Shall Pass: Constipation in Babies & Children


Unfortunately, constipation is very common in babies and children. But if you know what to look for and have a couple remedies in your back pocket, the problem can usually be relieved fairly quickly.


Causes:

  • Any change in diet, especially from breast milk to formula, and subsequently from breast milk/formula to solid foods.

  • Too much of certain foods such as bananas, rice, or cheese.

  • Lack of water.

  • Stress.

  • Withholding bowel movements.

  • Another underlying medical condition.

  • A possible food allergy such as to milk protein or gluten.


Signs & Symptoms:

  • Less frequent bowel movements.

  • Hard, dry, or large stools.

  • Pain or discomfort before, during, and/or after a bowel movement.

  • Firm belly.

  • Fussiness or irritability for no other apparent reason.

  • Poor sleep.

  • Back arching and/or stiff legs.

  • Blood in stool.


One of the most important things you can do is be aware of your child’s poop patterns. Pay attention to how frequently they go, so when something changes, you can be prepared to take action as soon as possible to keep the problem from getting worse.

Constipation is usually addressed in the following ways:

  • Always contact your pediatrician if you suspect the problem is too severe for a home remedy.

  • The first recommendation is always pear juice, and if that doesn’t work, prune juice. Contrary to popular belief, never give your child apple juice for constipation, it can actually have the reverse effect.

  • If your child is eating baby food, try pureed peas, pears, prunes, and papaya. A good rule of thumb is if it starts with a “P”, it will help you poo.

  • If dietary changes aren’t helping, your doctor will likely suggest a suppository or laxative depending on your child’s age.


Some unique remedies to try:

  • If your little one isn’t keen on drinking a lot of water, try feeding them ice chips. Most children love it and it’s a good way to ensure they are getting extra fluids.

  • Give your baby a warm bath. Submerge them up to their necks in warm water. The combination of warmth and water pressure can encourage a bowel movement.

  • Try a belly massage. Using baby oil*, massage in small clockwise circles to relax bowels. *Substitute baby oil for castor oil for extra relief. Warm a couple drops of castor oil between your hands and massage your baby’s abdomen. Put them in an old onesie (castor oil will stain) and leave it on overnight. Often times, this will produce a bowel movement within 12 to 24 hours.

  • Sit your baby on the toilet when you suspect they are trying to have a bowel movement. Hold them in a squat position, with their knees near their chest and bottom hovering over the toilet. Rub their back in counter-clockwise circles – this is important so you do not move the blockage further into the intestine. Sometimes good old-fashioned gravity is all that’s needed to help the poop pass and avoid straining. Bonus: if you can get into this habit early, potty training will be much easier!

  • If nothing else seems to be helping, try Miralax. For babies 1-year and up, use one half-cap full twice a day. It is a tasteless powder that fully dissolves in any beverage, including milk.

I am a professional potty training consultant and a mom of two, one being a chronically constipated 2-year old, so I have more experience in this department than most. If you have more questions about constipation, or other potty problems, please contact me!


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