Foods That Cause and Relieve Constipation in Babies
When a baby is pooping regularly, it usually means their digestive system is working properly and they're getting enough to eat. So it's understandable that the absence of poop—or noticeable changes in consistency of poop—can stress parents out. But relieving baby constipation is sometimes as simple as changing up their diet. Keep reading to learn about foods to help baby poop, as well as ones to avoid.
Is My Baby Constipated?
For starters, parents need to determine if their baby is actually backed up. Constipation in newborns is fairly uncommon. Babies are on an all-liquid diet, so their food is more easily absorbed and digested, says Jennifer Shu, M.D., an Atlanta-based pediatrician and coauthor of Food Fights: Winning The Nutritional Challenges of Parenthood Armed with Insight, Humor, and A Bottle of Ketchup.
On average, babies poop three to four times per day until they reach 4 months of age. That said, some infants will poop after every feeding, while others can go several days before releasing their bowels. So even though a prolonged absence of poop indicates constipation, it can be hard to determine this pattern in infants.
Another important thing to watch for is a soft stool consistency. Hard stool indicates that it's staying in there longer than desired, Dr. Shu says. Other signs of constipation in babies include slight bleeding (from stretched anal walls), making strained faces, a hard belly, and refusal to eat.
Liquid Foods to Relieve Constipation
Constipation in breastfed infants could be a symptom of a milk protein allergy, says Diana Lerner, M.D., instructor of pediatrics and pediatric gastroenterology fellow at the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin. Everything Mom eats gets passed to the baby, so breastfeeding women might consider taking dairy out of their diet. Similarly, they can try eating foods to help baby poop, such as prunes and fiber-filled items.
Exclusively formula-fed babies are much more likely to experience constipation than breastfeed infants, says Jane Morton, M.D., a clinical professor of pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine. Some of the ingredients in formula might be more challenging to a baby's digestive system and result in much firmer poops. Your pediatrician may switch your baby's formula to one that isn't milk-based.
Also, parents might also be tempted to switch to a low-iron formula if they suspect their baby is constipated, but Dr. Shu advises against it. Formula-fed babies need the extra iron, and although foods high in iron can cause constipation, the amount found in formula isn't to blame.
Solid Foods That Cause Constipation
Once solid foods are introduced into your baby's diet, their poop is going to change. More formed food usually means more formed poop, Dr. Shu says. Also, the intestines are maturing now, so they can compact things and hold on to them longer. And because the body is taking longer to process the food, you'll likely see one less poopy diaper a day.
Food can be both friend and foe. For starters, certain foods could be making it harder for your baby poop. Consider the ABCs—or applesauce, bananas, and cereal, Dr. Morton says. Too much of any of these, especially cereal, could cause constipation in your baby. Also, keep an eye on dairy products that are popular first foods for babies, such as cheese and yogurt. Low-fiber foods—including white rice, white bread, and pasta—can also bind babies up.
- RELATED: Baby Poop Color Chart
Baby Foods That Help With Constipation
Wondering how to relieve constipation in babies quickly? When Baby's poops become more infrequent, harder, or difficult to pass, enlist the help of these foods to soften the situation:
- Fiber. Anything containing bran, known for it's high fiber content, should help loosen up your baby's stool. Think fiber-rich cereals, whole-wheat pasta, and brown rice.
- "P" fruits. These include pears, plums, peaches, and prunes. Their juice counterparts could also do the trick. Dr. Shu often recommends pear juice; it works really well and kids actually like it.
- Vegetables. Broccoli, beans, and Brussels sprouts can get things back on track.
- Water. Sometimes your baby's system just needs a good flushing to get working again. But note that babies can only have small sips of water, and only after they hit 6 months of age.
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