By Dr. Ritu Krishnatreye, BHMS
Newborn constipation is as painful for parents as it is for the baby. Parents feel powerless when their baby passes only a few dry pellets and is irritable and cranky.
It is normal for a breastfed baby to pass stools after every feeding, but some may only have a bowel movement once or twice a week. A newborn’s stools should be soft, runny and stringy.
Constipation in newborns is not about how often your baby poos. For a newborn, it is more about when they have to strain, and then they pass a few pellets of stool.
Breastfed babies are rarely constipated. This is because breast milk is quite easy for them to digest.
Breast milk is perfectly balanced, containing just the right quantities of fats and proteins. A newborn that is breastfed normally has a stool color that ranges from yellow to orange.
In newborn babies, constipation is commonly seen in formula-fed babies. Formula milk is harder to digest and can make stools drier and harder.
To solve the problem, you can try switching the brand of formula, as one may prove less constipating than another. Make sure that you read the instructions on the label and prepare the formula accurately.
Babies who are given cow’s milk are also more prone to develop constipation. This is because the proteins in cow’s milk are not easy for a baby to digest.
Cow’s milk does contain the enzymes needed to digest the proteins, but pasteurization kills them. If you must feed your baby cow’s milk, you might look for raw milk that hasn’t been pasteurized.
Another option for dealing with newborn constipation is to add one drop of Ionic Sea Minerals per two pounds of child’s weight to the milk bottle.
Ionic Sea Minerals is a natural mineral supplement. It contains magnesium, needed for building strong teeth and bones. Magnesium also has an osmotic function that draws extra water into the colon, which in turn helps to soften baby’s stool.
Sea minerals also contain valuable trace minerals. Make sure to dilute the minerals enough to neutralize the taste.
Apart from the above mentioned causes, constipation in infants can also be due to an organic or physical cause.
This is a genetic defect characterized by a complete lack of nerve connections to a part of baby’s colon.
The affected part of the colon doesn't get any signals from the nervous system. This can lead to fecal impaction. Surgery is recommended to treat this condition.
An under functioning thyroid gland in babies can also lead to constipation.
It may also be associated with other symptoms and should be carefully evaluated by the pediatrician.
Spina bifida affects the spinal cord and nervous system. It can also cause constipation in newborn babies.
Although very rare, anal stenosis, a narrowing of the anal canal, is another health cause for newborn constipation.
If your newborn has been prescribed any medications or supplements, it is possible that they may have an effect on regularity. If so, your baby’s pediatrician may be able to switch it something less constipating.
When defining what a normal bowel movement is for an infant, there is no hard and fast rule. In fact, every baby is different. You as a parent should be able to determine what is normal for your child.
If constipation persists or is associated with other symptoms, seek the help of your pediatrician.