By Dr. Ritu Krishnatreye, BHMS
During the newborn period, many times parents are concerned that their baby is constipated even when they are actually passing normal stools.
The good news is, infrequent bowel movements don’t indicate constipation if a new born baby’s stools are soft.
What is normal for one baby isn’t necessarily normal for another. If an infant is passing a soft stool once every two days, that may be regular for that child.
When should you be concerned that your newborn might be constipated?
Constipation is rarely seen in babies who are breastfed. A mother’s milk contains a perfect balance of proteins and fats and rarely causes constipation in newborns.
However, a breast fed infant can become constipated because of certain foods in the mother’s diet that are passed on to the baby.
This is mainly seen when the mother is taking a high amount of caffeine. Caffeine is quickly transferred to a mother’s milk and can be easily ingested by the baby.
As the baby’s digestive system has not developed to the point that it can break down caffeine, it stays in the baby’s system for about 100 hours, and may lead to constipation.
When a mother eats heavy meals, processed foods or fast foods, it may also negatively affect her baby’s bowel movements.
At times, changing the baby’s feeding pattern also helps in relieving constipation in young babies.
If a baby is given formula milk or cow’s milk, there are chances that the child may develop hard dry stools that are difficult to pass.
It may be a particular brand of infant formula that is causing the constipation problems. You can speak with your pediatrician about this, or try switching to a different brand of formula.
There is a possibility that one may be easier for your baby to digest. Of course, make sure you are mixing the formula as instructed on the label.
Like a mother’s milk, cow’s milk contains the necessary enzymes to help digest the proteins in the milk.
Unfortunately, when milk is pasteurized it destroys these enzymes, making cow’s milk very hard for a baby to digest.
If you need to feed your child cow’s milk, look for a source of raw milk that hasn’t been pasteurized.
As long as the farmer takes the proper measures of cleanliness and refrigeration, raw milk can be healthier for a baby than pasteurized, homogenized milk.
If you have recently introduced solids into your baby’s diet, it may cause constipation if there isn’t an adequate amount of fiber in the solid food.
Typically, babies are started on rice cereal, which is very low in fiber. Try to find baby cereal that contains some fiber which may help to get rid of constipation naturally.
If a baby is not passing soft stools, another option for relief is to give the child a little Ionic Sea Minerals each day, 1 drop for every 2 lbs. of weight.
For the first number of days, reduce the dose to half to give your baby’s stomach a little time to acclimate to the sea minerals.
Sea minerals contain 76 minerals and trace minerals, including magnesium. It is the magnesium that helps to promote regularity. The numerous trace minerals may also bring certain health advantages to your child.
If your baby is on breast milk but still experiences frequent bouts of severe constipation, there is a good chance that your child may be suffering from a medical disorder.
A newborn with severe constipation may have Hirshsprung disease or cystic fibrosis.
These conditions are often associated with other symptoms, but constipation may be the first and most prominent symptom. You should consult your child’s pediatrician if the child’s constipation persists.
Newborn constipation is a common problem that is hard on both parents and baby.
The fact that a baby can’t articulate the problem it is experiencing makes it more difficult to know what is causing their pain or discomfort.
This is why it is helpful for the parents to be able to differentiate between normal and constipated stools in a newborn baby. If you still have questions, please talk with your child’s pediatrician.