Infant Constipation

What should I do if I think my baby is constipated? He looks like he’s straining sometimes.

Infant Constipation

Dr. Greene’s Answer:

Babies will strain from time to time to move the stool along through the intestines. If you want to do something when babies grunt, push, or strain, try picking them up to get gravity to help them in their efforts, or try holding the knees against the chest to help them “squat” — the natural poop position. Straining is usually normal. Crying while straining may be a sign of constipation.

When a child is constipated, the stool in the intestines has backed up more than it should. What “more than it should” means varies depending on the age of the child and the diet. The longer stool sits in the colon, the more water is absorbed back into the body. When a child is constipated the stool tends to be hard, and passing it tends to be painful.

Stool that is hard (firmer than peanut butter) or foul-smelling (you’ll know) in a child who has not yet had solid foods may represent something as simple as needing more to drink (especially during hot weather), but it may also be the sign of a disease. Contact your pediatrician to discuss the situation. And contact your pediatrician if the baby is less than a month old and hasn’t gone for 4 days. At two months old, healthy breastfed babies may go 8 days between stools without being constipated. Healthy formula-fed babies at that age usually go every couple of days. When kids begin to take baby food, the stools change once again. They may be either softer or firmer, but they will likely smell worse (kids also smile and laugh more at this age, more than making up for the unpleasantness). Most children’s intestines are very responsive to the foods they eat.

Bananas, rice cereal and applesauce all tend to produce firmer stools. Carrots and squash are constipating for some babies. Pears, peaches, plums, apricots, peas and prunes make stools softer. By balancing the diet, you can often keep the stools comfortably mid-range. If the stools are still too firm, juice is the gentlest medicine to soften them up. Apple juice twice a day is a good bet. If this doesn’t work, prune juice is even better. Also, when your son is straining, you might want to put him in a tub of warm water. This will relax his muscles and make the stool easier to pass.

Glycerin suppositories can be very helpful if diet and juice don’t work, but constipation that is stubborn enough to make these optimal should be discussed with your pediatrician. The same holds true for baby laxatives (hint: if your pediatrician does recommend a laxative, unprocessed bran, 1/2 teaspoon mixed with food twice a day is much cheaper than Maltsupex, and about as effective).

Dr. Alan Greene

Dr. Greene is the founder of DrGreene.com (cited by the AMA as “the pioneer physician Web site”), a practicing pediatrician, father of four, & author of Raising Baby Green & Feeding Baby Green. He appears frequently in the media including such venues as the The New York Times, the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, & the Dr. Oz Show.

  1. Angela

    My DS is suffering in terrible constipation. He only passes a marble size hard as a rock bowel movement once almost a week time. I was told to stare clear of foods that will cause constipation but i have no idea what sort of food should i avoid and what sort of foods should i make her to take more of? Millions of thanks

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  2. TG LOVE

    Water, fruit juice, prunes and so on as possible remedies for constipation. Did you use any of these? It is also important for a parent to know when something is out of their hands and needs medical attention.

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  3. Tabii

    My DD has always suffered from constipation since she was a newborn. She had an enema at only 4 weeks old it was that bad. Well she is now 2 1/2 and has terrible tummy aches and only passes a marble size hard as a rock bowel movement once a week if we are lucky. I have been giving here a cup of prune juice everyday and have been putting bran in her weetbix. She also has lots of water and plenty of fruit. Still we have been having no luck. I took her to the doctors today who said that she has a sensitive bowel and will probably always have trouble. He suggested to give her Laxettes. Starting of with 1/2 a square then increasing it by half a square until she is on 3 squares a day and keep her on this until she has liquid bowel movements for 3 MONTHS!! I am worried about this long term use. Has anyone else had to use medication to help there child go? Also he said to stare clear of foods that will cause constipation. What sort of food should i avoid and what should of foods should i make her take more of?

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    • Here’s Dr. Greene’s list of foods: “Bananas, rice cereal and applesauce all tend to produce firmer stools. Carrots and squash are constipating for some babies. Pears, peaches, plums, apricots, peas and prunes make stools softer.” It sounds like you are already giving her the right foods to make her stools softer.

      In addition to Dr. Greene’s general list, consider specific foods that might be hard on your daughter. Highly manufactured foods such as white bread, pizza and pasta might be on that list. You may need to do trial and error until you find out if there are foods she can’t eat.

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  4. Sweet Candy

    The constipation baby formula in my consideration set would be Mamil, S26, Enfagrow, and Pediasure. These few brands are good in preventing baby constipation but if to choose the only one, it would be Pediasure because there are a lot of mothers suggested me to go for it as their kids consumed this brand and the result is good.

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    • nasha

      did u ever gave Pediasure to your kids? seem like you sure that Pediasure can prevent constipation. what maked u sure about Pediasure?

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  5. Janice

    my little daughter is having constipation problem.. it is already one week. let her tried many different food and vege with high fibre but still the same. no feel like poo at all. aiks :( i heard that formula milk cause constipation easily, is it true? please tell me what is the best way to overcome constipation problem or which brand of formula milk able to prevent kids constipation.. much appreciated!

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    • MissyBii

      There is no best remedies and formula milk because different children have different physique. You have to search and try which remedies or formula milk that is suitable to your daughter. For my daughter, prune juice are good for her to get rid of constipation from the beginning and I give her Mamil formula as her daily drinks in order to prevent constipation. This method works like a charm and now she has never constipated for more than 2 months.

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  6. Minzy

    I’ve used Mamil and so far it’s doing its job well. Worth every single penny spent on it la.. to compare with my previous milk powder which is slightly more expensive but doesn’t solve any baby constipation probs at all.

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  7. Sandara

    Thanks

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  8. javaid ahmad

    My two month brestfed baby is stressing grunting and pushing forcefully. Although he poos everyday, he sips out milk sometimes curdy sometimes pure milk. He has abdominal pain, also he cries while stressing. What shall I do?

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  9. javaid ahmad

    My 55 days brestfed baby is stressing and pushing forcefully. He does stool, but before doing stool he has some watery anus. He also has abdominal pain on and of. We are giving him xymax drop and figolax drops. What shall I do.

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  10. Javaid Ahmad

    My newborn baby is stressing, pushing forcefully, although he does stool everyday. What should I do? He has abdominal pain, also.

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      • javaid ahmad

        My baby is 50 days old and is brestfeeding. Everytime he feeds he is stressing and pushing forcefully although he does stool. He also has abdominal pain and bloating.

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  11. Valerie

    The set of twins2-4 months old, I am the Governess to were always constipated, the Pediatrician suggested corn syrup (yuck) or 1/2prune juice1/2 water, the juice did terrible things to their stomach, so what I did was give them two ounces of pedialyte twice a day. It worked perfectly.

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