HELP! My Baby is Constipated
Starting solid foods means some serious changes are coming to a baby’s diaper near you! And constipation is a very real - and really challenging - side effect of moving away from a liquids-only diet.
Let’s explore what’s making your baby constipated, when constipation is a problem (or isn’t) and what you can do to ease your baby (and your baby’s gut) comfortably into the transition to solid foods.
Be sure to check out the bottom of this post for my favorite DIY apple-prune puree recipe that works wonders for infant constipation!
What is Constipation?
I know it’s hard to watch your baby grunt and strain to pass a bowel movement…but just because she is having less frequent bowel movements (BMs) doesn’t necessarily mean your baby is constipated.
Signs of constipation include:
Hard or pebble or pellet-like stools (NOT followed by a soft BM)
Bowel movements that are accompanied by pain or difficulty in passing (your baby will be likely wrenching his back and crying during BMs)
Less frequent bowel movements…although this can be misleading and doesn’t always signify a “problem” (…more on that in a moment)
Keep in mind that your baby has a lot of things going on at once: yes she is learning how to eat, but her body is still developing and the intestinal muscles are not the strongest quite yet.
So… when do you need to be worried about constipation?
When Constipation is Concerning
Constipation may be more of a reason for concern when:
Your baby has repeated hard or pebble or pellet-like stools (NOT followed by a soft BM)
Your baby is continually in pain or has discomfort upon passing BM and that BM is hard
Your baby has blood in his or her stool
But not all drop in frequency of bowel movements is reason for concern and much of what parents worry about is just the gut’s normal reaction as baby is transitioning from an entirely liquid diet to one that now contains solid foods.
When Constipation is NOT Concerning
In infancy, just because your baby is straining during defecation does not necessarily indicate that the baby is constipated.
If your baby is straining but then ends up passing a soft stool, he is likely fine.
And if frequency of BMs drops (as it does when you’re transitioning to solid foods), even if your baby is going 3-5 days without a BM but then eventually does have a BM, she is likely fine.
You’ll notice that as your baby nears the 1 year mark, and especially when crawling and then walking kicks in, that added movement helps gets things going in your baby’s gut too!
If you’re just starting to transition your baby from a liquid to a semi-solid diet, there are a few other changes you might want to be aware of. Check out my free online workshop “BABY-LED WEANING FOR BEGINNERS: How to get YOUR baby to try 100 foods before turning 1 without YOU having to spoon-feed purees or buy pouches”. Click here to sign up!
What About Interventions for Constipation?
If you’re concerned that your baby has true constipation or your primary care provider recommends and intervention, there are a number of routes you might take.
Recommendations differ on when to involve medical interventions for constipation. Some pediatricians may recommend a glycerin suppository; however, these should be reserved for occasional and not regular use.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises against the use of mineral oil, stimulant laxatives or enemas for infant constipation.
Fruit juice is another fast fix for infant constipation. The AAP advises against the provision of juice for infants less than 1, although that is for regular consumption and doesn’t address constipation. (Click here to read my post about the AAP “no juice for babies” guidelines.)
If you do want to use juice, stick to these guidelines for infant constipation:
4-8 month old babies, 2-4 oz of 100% fruit juice per day
8-12 month old babies, up to 6 oz 100% fruit juice per day
Certain types of fruit juice are more effective at promoting BMs, and these include:
If you do utilize juice on occasion to promote BMs, don’t forget to offer regular feedings and return to breastmilk, formula or water only for liquids for baby one constipation has resolved.
Food Fixes for Constipation
There are a few food fixes you can employ when dealing with infant constipation. Prunes and pears have a tendency to induce BMs because they have sorbitol, a naturally occurring sweetener (sugar alcohol) that acts as a laxative.
Bran also has a laxation effect, but watch out for lots of added sugar in bran muffins. And go easy on bran because it’s very high in fiber and can absorb a lot of water, thus taking up valuable room in your baby’s stomach if you overdo it.
If you are using an infant or white rice cereal, consider switching to a whole grain option like barley, whole or bulgur as they have more fiber.
Anecdotally, other parents have found success in helping their baby’s constipation with:
Sweet potato puree
Cooked soft apples
Dates (prepare appropriately as sticky dried fruit is a choking hazard for babies)
Prunes or pears (soft, intact or puree version of both)
You probably notice in your own baby certain foods that may be particularly constipating. Gut health is a highly personal thing - and what stops one baby up might not for another. Some foods that are considered to be constipating include those that are low in fiber, so meats and refined carbs and processed and fast foods.
Make Your Own Prune Puree
Yes you can use prune or other juice to stimulate a BM, but it’s also very easy to make your own prune puree at home.
This Apple-Prune Puree is one of my favorite recipes as it’s so easy and definitely does the trick! I like to mix my prune puree with apple for added flavor and to extend the prunes, which can be kind of pricey.
If you can’t find prunes this recipe also works with plums, but you do have to peel and pit the plums first. You can freeze these in individual ice cube portions to thaw and defrost later as needed.
Apple Prune Puree Recipe
15-20 pitted prunes
3 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
8 cups water
In a Dutch oven or large saucepan add prunes, apples and cover with water.
Bring to a boil and cook for 5-8 minutes or until apples are mushy.
Use an immersion blender to puree prune mixture; or transfer to a blender and puree until desired consistency for baby.
Want to Learn More?
Interested in learning more about the inner workings of your baby’s bowels?
Kidding…kidding…but if you do want more info about baby-led weaning and the effect of the foods your baby is eating right now, come check out my membership group The Baby-Led Wean Team.
The Baby-Led Wean Team is a supportive online community with tons of BLW tips, exclusive recipes, weekly live trainings, coaching and Q&A sessions.
Each week I am live inside of the membership doing an in-depth training on topics like reflux, iron deficiency, how to choose a safe seat for your baby to eat, introducing allergen foods and tons of other baby-led weaning topics.
You can get 1 month free when you sign up for a 6 month membership. Click here to learn more.