The Causes of Constipation in Babies

· May 19, 2019
Constipation is one of the main causes of discomfort in babies and also one of the major concerns for parents. In order to be able to reduce the risk of this condition, read this article to discover its causes.

If your baby is upset and crying, they may be constipated. In this article, we’re going to tell you what the main causes of constipation in babies are and how you can relieve your child’s discomfort.

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What Is Constipation in Babies?

A crying baby.

The immaturity of infants’ intestinal tissue is one of the main causes of constipation.

Constipation is a common problem in children. In fact, it’s a frequent reason for pediatrician consultation, since between 0.3 to 8% of children suffer from it.

Although there’s no clear definition of constipation in babies, as a general rule, a baby is considered constipated when:

  1. Their daily bowel movements decrease. Some children defecate four to five times a day, while others do it once a day or even every two to three days.
  2. The baby has trouble evacuating because their stools are “hard”.
  3. The baby is in pain when they evacuate.
  4. There’s a variation in stool consistency. Generally, their stool comes out in small balls.
  5. Your baby is gassy and has colic.

Now, what are the possible causes of constipation in babies? The problem can be treated only when the cause is known. That said, let’s take a look at the possible causes.

The Causes of Constipation in Babies

Before getting down to the causes of constipation in babies, it’s important to note that most breastfed babies don’t suffer from this condition. In fact, they often defecate several times a day, even after each feeding. Their stools are generally liquid (or very soft) and have a yellowish-orange color.

Here’s what may cause constipation in other cases:

1. Formula

Some children are likely to develop constipation in response to the proteins present in formula. According to a study published by the Jornal de Pediatria:

“Infants under artificial feeding were 4.53 times more liable to develop constipation than infants who were predominantly breastfed.”

Changing your child to formula can also generate this discomfort. You can find formula suitable for mild constipation on the market. Check with your doctor to choose the formula milk that best suits your baby’s needs.

2. Complementary Feeding

Another cause of constipation in babies is starting complementary feeding for a breastfed baby. Adding new foods can cause constipation, even if it’s true that babies don’t usually eat a lot of solid foods during the first months.

Remember that the first foods you should incorporate into your baby’s diet are vegetables and fruits. Follow your pediatrician’s advice to prevent constipation or complications such as food allergies.

3. Weaning

Weaning babies off diapers is a common cause of constipation.

Some children can suffer from constipation when they’re weaned off diapers. Having to use the potty leads to stress and even rejection in some babies. This, in turn, can lead to self-induced constipation by withstanding the urge to defecate because they don’t want to go to the potty.

Don’t miss: How Your Child Reacts When You Start Potty Training

4. Dehydration

When parents start supplementary feeding, they start giving their baby water. Some babies aren’t likely to drink water at first and, since the intake of milk is reduced, dehydration may occur, especially in the summer.

If the baby doesn’t take in enough fluids, their stools can harden, making it harder for them to evacuate. Even small wounds may appear in their anus (you may notice traces of blood when you wipe your baby).

5. Medical Problems

Here are some of the most serious causes of constipation in babies:

  • Botulism. This disease is caused by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum and is potentially fatal. One of its symptoms is constipation.
  • Congenital hypothyroidism. The baby either doesn’t have a thyroid gland or their thyroid gland doesn’t work as it should or isn’t sufficiently developed.
  • Metabolic disorders. Some hereditary diseases involving some kind of immobility may be an indirect cause of constipation.
  • Food allergies. An allergy is the body’s exaggerated response against what it considers an assault. Symptoms can range from hard stools and difficulty evacuating to diarrhea.
  • Hirschsprung’s disease. It’s a disease of the large intestine that causes difficulty passing stool.

Four Tips to Relieve Constipation in Babies

Some techniques such as massages may help your baby pass stool.

If your child is very upset and in pain or if you’re very worried about them, don’t hesitate to go to the pediatrician. They’ll give you some recommendations to relieve your baby.

Here are some tips you can implement as preventive measures or solutions for constipation:

1. Massages

Massaging your baby’s belly may help improve intestinal transit. Gently but firmly massage your baby’s belly with the palms of your hands, applying slight pressure.

Discover: How to Use Celery to Alleviate Constipation

2. Encourage Your Child to Exercise

If your baby knows how to crawl, let them do so. All kinds of movement will help improve their intestinal transit. You can even help them by moving their legs up and down, as if they’re riding a bicycle.

3. Vegetables, Fruits, and Fiber

If you’ve started complementary feeding, include vegetables, fruits, and fiber in your baby’s dishes and reduce foods that can cause dry stools, such as bananas or rice.

4. Make Sure They Drink Enough Liquids

Make sure your child drinks enough milk and water. Remember that if you don’t, your child’s stool could harden, hindering evacuation.

The causes of constipation in babies are highly variable and can sometimes be difficult to detect. Don’t hesitate to see a doctor to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment.