Q: My 7-month-old daughter constantly has stools in her diaper that can be painful to pass. They aren't hard, but they are very thick. Using Karo syrup would have to be an everyday thing which makes me uncomfortable because of the amount of sugar she would be consuming. She hates prunes and other fruits. All I can get her to eat are green beans, squash, and oatmeal. I've even tried to encourage more frequent breastfeeding and water with her meals. What else can I try?
A: A: The consistency of the stool is mostly related to what the child is eating. In a perfect world, children would eat more fruits and vegetables and drink more liquid, and the thick stools would improve. I would continue the attempt of modifying her diet -- encourage eating fruits and increase liquids, like small amounts of prune or pear juice to help soften stools. Juice should be limited to a few ounces per day, as many physicians consider it the soda pop of infancy; it has little or no nutritional value and a lot of sugar.
While Karo syrup has been used for decades as a method of making stools easier to pass, there are concerns about the sugar content and symptoms of digestive upset, so it is not an ideal choice. I would also discourage using enemas or other bowel stimulants (such as senna), as children should develop better bowel motility and not develop a dependence on artificial sources to make stools happen. Stool softeners as a short-term solution may be acceptable, but you should check with your child's doctor first to be sure there are no true medical causes of the stooling problem.