How can I help my 6-month-old's constipation issues?

Q: My 6-month-old is a formula fed baby and she's having constipation issues. I have tried everything from prune, apple, and pear juices and even added more water to her formula. I stopped with the rice and oatmeal cereal to see if that would change anything and it has not. Help!

A: You’re wise to look to your baby’s diet, since most constipation issues in babies are diet related.Constipation can occur especially during dietary transitions, such as when you introduce baby food or reduce the number of bottles your baby takes each day.

As babies get older, they naturally poop fewer times each day. While bottle-fed babies may fill their diapers four or five times each day in their first few weeks of life, they may only poop once a day or once every couple of days by the time they’re five or six months old. Many physicians will tell you that it’s not the number of times your baby poops each day or week that’s most important, it’s how your baby feels and what her stool looks like. If your baby’s stool is fairly loose and moist, she’s probably not constipated, even if she’s only pooping once every couple of days. If your baby is constipated, her stool will be harder and drier, often in the shape of small balls.

No matter how much you want to help your baby move her bowels, avoid giving her laxatives, mineral oil, or enemas without talking to her pediatrician first. Even if your baby is straining and grunting when she moves her bowels, it’s not necessarily abnormal. Since babies have to poop lying down, it takes a little more work for them to get it out of their bodies! If your baby seems to be straining excessively hard to move her bowels, try picking her up and holding her knees against her chest. This helps her by putting gravity to work in her favor.

Most babies do experience bouts of constipation occasionally, but the good news is that they generally pass without intervention. Still, if you’re worried about your baby’s bowel habits, don’t ignore your gut feeling. Make an appointment with your daughter’s pediatrician.

All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

Answered by Dr. Rallie McAllister

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