Unfortunately, starting solids can also cause a not-so-fun side effect: constipation. We’ve mentioned before that your baby’s poop will most definitely change when he starts solids. Colorful poop, or poop that contains small bits of undigested food, is nothing to worry about.
But days and days of no poop? Or poop that’s hard and dry? That’s cause for concern. In this article, we’ll explore the signs of baby constipation, as well as ways to treat and prevent it.
Signs of Baby Constipation
So how can you know for sure if your baby’s constipated? After all, how many times your baby poops in a day changes as she grows. It’s normal for older babies to go a few days without pooping, so how often your baby poops isn’t always a great way to tell if she’s constipated or not.
Or you may notice that your baby’s grunting and getting red-faced as he tries to poop. Does that mean constipation? Not necessarily. Your baby’s poop is becoming a little more compact now that he’s eating solids, and that grunting and straining can simply be a sign that he’s adjusting.
Here are some better indicators that constipation might be a problem:
- Hard, compact, infrequent stools. If your baby’s pooping only a few times a week, and the poop itself is hard and dry (it may look like small pebbles), then your little one may be suffering from constipation.
- Pain during pooping. Again, some grunting and straining can be normal, but if your babies cries in pain as she poops, that might mean she’s constipated.
- Streaks of blood in or on the poop. Sometimes, the hard, dry poop your baby passes can actually cause small tears on his anus. If you notice any blood in his diapers, it may be because he’s constipated.
- General fussiness and refusal to eat. This isn’t the best indicator (after all, there are about a million causes of “general fussiness”, right?) But if your baby seems cranky and unwilling to eat, AND she has any of the symptoms listed above, it’s likely she’s suffering from constipation.
Treating Baby Constipation
It’s best if you consult with your baby’s doctor about how to treat constipation. This is especially important, since the constipation could be the result of an underlying medical condition, like an illness or a food allergy.
But there are some gentle, natural things you can do at home to try and ease your baby’s constipation:
- Offer more fluid. If you’re breastfeeding, try to nurse a little more; if you’re bottle feeding, offer an extra bottle. You can also offer small amounts of water in your baby’s bottle or cup.
- Offer diluted juice. Some fruit juices, like apple juice and prune juice, are natural laxatives. Start small — offer one or two ounces of diluted fruit juice (fruit juice mixed with water) in your baby’s bottle or cup. If that doesn’t work, gradually offer more. Be careful about offering too much, though — many pediatricians and pediatric dentists warn against offering lots of juice, since it can increase the risk of cavities./li>
- Offer high-fiber “P” foods. Fruits and vegetables are full of fiber, so try working more of those into your baby’s diet. And it just so happens that some of the highest-fiber fruits and veggies start with the letter “P”: pears, peaches, plums, prunes, and peas. You can serve these to your baby alone or mixed into other foods, like cereal.
- Take a break from constipating foods. Some foods are natural laxatives; others are natural “constipators”! And if your baby is already suffering from constipation, you certainly don’t want to feed him anything that’s going to make it worse. See the section below for a complete list of constipating foods.
- Apply some Vaseline. You can apply a small amount of petroleum jelly to your baby’s anus; that may help keep the tissue from tearing when she poops.
*Note: Never use laxatives or other medications without consulting with your baby’s doctor first.
Preventing Baby Constipation
Perhaps the best way to “treat” constipation is to prevent it from happening in the first place Use the tips below to help keep constipation at bay:
- Make sure your baby’s getting enough fluids. Dehydration can cause constipation, so make sure that your baby’s getting enough breastmilk or formula. Check her diapers frequently; if she doesn’t seem to have enough wet diapers, offer more breastmilk or formula. You can also offer small amounts of water or diluted juice. See our Types and Amounts of Solid Foods By Age charts for details.
- Offer fiber-rich foods. Fruits and veggies are great for warding off constipation (see the section above for details). Whole grain foods are full of fiber, too, so be sure to offer plenty of those.
- Don’t offer too many constipating foods. Constipating foods include rice cereal, bananas, applesauce, cheese, yogurt, white bread, white pastas, and potatoes. Now, let’s be clear — none of those foods is bad. Rather, think of them as foods that your baby shouldn’t eat too much of, since they can help cause constipation.