Constipation is one of the main problems in newborn babies. Everyone knows that breast milk has an ideal balance of fat and protein and contains lactulose (a natural probiotic), which contributes to the fact that the baby’s stools are almost always soft – even if the bowels have not been emptied for several days. Formula-fed babies are more prone to constipation as the formula is more difficult for the body to digest than breast milk, making emptying more difficult.
There are some signs you can see when an infant is constipated:
- stools look like hard balls or lumpy masses that have difficulty moving through the intestines;
- the baby is naughty, does not sleep well, and has no appetite;
- delayed bowel movement for more than three days;
- the baby taps his or her legs, cries, and clenches fists when trying to empty the bowels;
- the baby’s tummy has become hard and bloated, gas is coming out, but no stools.
Constipation cannot be ignored, expecting that the baby’s digestion will improve. This condition is always uncomfortable for the baby. Note that constipation is not necessarily associated with infrequent stools. The baby may poop every day, but he may strain and feel pain, and his stools will be hard, which is already a sign of constipation. But suppose the baby is getting enough milk, sleeping soundly, playing actively, and soiling the diaper, for example, in a day or two. In that case, it is most likely not constipation but a peculiarity of his digestion.
How to help a baby with frequent constipation
- Offer your baby water. If the baby is fed both with formula and breast milk, parents can do this. According to the WHO recommendations, a healthy breastfed baby does not need supplementary feeding and water till 6 months. Still, we are talking about a healthy baby who does not suffer from constipation. The baby can be given up to two spoonfuls of water a day.
- Massage the tummy with the palm of your hand clockwise, pressing lightly and doing different exercises.
- Give your baby a warm bath – perhaps it will help him relax.
- You can put a warm towel heated with an iron on the baby’s tummy.
- Juices with a laxative effect – plum, apple, pear – may be recommended for babies over 4 months.
Constipated baby: What formula is better?
It is not recommended to switch your baby from breastfeeding to formula feeding because of constipation. Breast milk is still the best and preferred food for babies under 12 months. In cases when breastfeeding is not possible for some reason, parents should visit a pediatrician in order to choose suitable formula taking into account all baby’s nutritional needs.
When formula-fed babies are constipated, it may be necessary to change the formula as it can be not suitable or is not diluted correctly.
There are breast milk substitutes specially designed for babies with digestive disorders. They have the word “Comfort” in their label as a rule. These formulas, including European baby formula, have several differences in their composition and help infants with constipation, as they contain prebiotics and partially broken down proteins in their composition.
Often constipation is a symptom of an allergic reaction to cow’s milk proteins, and here the high-hydrolyzed or amino-acid formulas are helpful. But only your pediatrician can help you figure out which formula is best for your little one.