By Dr. Shrey Lakhotia, BDS
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a child may be constipated if any of the following are noted:
For babies, it doesn't hurt for stool to stay in the body for a few days.
A baby's constipation can’t be defined on the basis of the number of bowel movements. If a baby has soft, easy-to-pass stools every 4-5 days it is considered normal.
But if the baby has hard stools, has bloody or black stools, if an infant acts uncomfortable, or doesn't pass stool at least once every 5 days (7 days for infants eating only breast milk) then medical help may be needed.
Infants that are only breastfed hardly every have constipation. Mother's milk is well suited for a baby, with just the right amount of protein and fat, plus the enzymes needed to digest it. Therefore it almost always results in a soft stool.
However, for babies that are given formula, there may be ingredients that may bind up a baby's bowels, leading to constipation.
If this is suspected, the baby's doctor may be consulted about changing the formula brand. Soy formula may cause less constipation in infants than other formulas.
Proteins in milk require the proper enzymes to break them down. Cow’s milk contains these enzymes, but if the milk is pasteurized, the heat will destroy these necessary enzymes.
Hard to digest milk stays longer in the colon, which can result in constipation.
Babies may experience a bit of constipation when solid foods are introduced to the diet. One reason is that rice cereal is generally what is given in transitioning baby to solids. Unfortunately, rice cereals contain very little of the fiber needed to prevent constipation.
If a baby isn't getting enough fluids, it can cause dehydration. The body responds to this by extracting extra moisture from baby's food. This may result in hard, dry stools that can make defecation difficult.
While not very common, an existing medical condition can cause constipation. Examples are allergies to food, a metabolic disorder, botulism or hypothyroidism.
Changes in appetite due to a stomach bug or other illness can affect a baby’s diet, leading to constipation.
Although rare, Hirschsprung's disease may be the cause of constipation. This disease is usually diagnosed during the first month after birth.
The disease amounts to a birth defect which keeps the digestive tract from working as it should.
Babies that have experienced uncomfortable bowel movements may avoid defecating in an attempt to avoid the pain it can bring. Stool starts to accumulate in the rectum, becoming larger and more compacted. As a result, the pain that the baby is trying to avoid is experienced again, reinforcing the desire to avoid defecation.
Giving the child 1 drop for every 4 pounds of body weight of magnesium rich Ionic Sea Minerals may help remedy this. Mix this into milk or formula, making sure it is diluted enough not to be bitter.
For small children who are starting to use the toilet, traveling to a different place that takes them away from the bathroom they are used to might cause them to feel uncomfortable about going to the potty. When they resist a bowel movement, the stool stays in the colon longer, more water is extracted, and the child becomes constipated.
Physical movement plays an important role in moving feces through the colon. Holding a baby in one’s lap and doing the “bicycle” motion with the legs may help less than active infants get the exercise they need.
Though it is rare, a problem with the anatomy of rectum, anus or intestines may hinder proper defecation. Disorders of the nervous system, for instance, Cerebral palsy, may play a roll in whether a baby is able to defecate normally.
Magnesium helps in normalizing bowel movements by helping the smooth muscle tissue in the colon to relax. Magnesium also helps by drawing water into the colon. The extra water moistens stool, making it soft, slick, and more easily passed.
Normal daily recommended intake for magnesium is generally defined as 40 to 80 mg for infants from birth to 3 years of age.
The dietary magnesium found in a sea mineral supplement may be considered as a possible treatment option for baby constipation.
Using a dropper bottle, add 1 drop for every 4 pounds of child weight to an adequate amount of milk or juice.
Since magnesium has a bitter taste, it is important to taste the mixed remedy for proper dilution before giving it to the baby to help with infants constipation.