Treatment for Baby Constipation

Watching a constipated baby strain to try and force out a hard poo can be almost as distressing for parents as it is for the baby.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to help relieve your baby’s constipation. Generally, simple dietary changes have a flow-on effect towards creating changes in a baby’s bowel habits. 

Important

Occasionally, constipation is a sign that the baby’s gut is not working as it needs to. It’s important to see a health professional if you are at all concerned about your baby’s bowel habits.  Before giving your baby any medication or treatments which you feel could help them to poo, first consult with a doctor.

    Treatment Options for Baby Constipation

    For babies who are not yet having solid food:

    • Extra milk feeds may help. If you are breastfeeding, offer your baby an extra breastfeed or two during the day or late evening.
    • If you are formula feeding, offer your cooled, boiled water in-between their feeds. 
    • Make sure you are preparing their formula exactly as instructed on the Tin.

    For babies who are eating solid food:

    • Extra fruit and vegetables in their diet will help to boost fibre intake.
    • Pureed carrots, pumpkin, green vegetables and pureed apples all contain high quantities of fibre.
    • Offer your baby a cup of cooled boiled water to sip on when they’re having their meals.

    Constipation Treatment Options for Babies who are Breast or Formula Fed

    • Give your baby a deep, warm bath.
    • Gently massage their tummy in a clockwise direction.
    • Gently bring your baby’s legs up to their chest and then extend them. Repeat this a few times.
    • Give your baby some time to kick freely each day with their nappy off.
    • Hold your baby’s ankles and gently move their legs in a bicycle action.

    How Can I Help My Constipated Baby?

    • Give your baby some time with their nappy off each day. Being able to kick freely while not constrained can be helpful.
    • Gently massage your baby’s tummy in a clockwise direction.
    • Give them a deep, warm bath and let them move around freely whilst you hold them securely.
    • Bicycle your baby’s legs. Lay your baby on their change mat and flex and extend their legs. Pushing their legs gently up onto their chest can help to relieve feelings of discomfort.
    • Avoid becoming too obsessed about your baby’s bowel motions. As long as they are still feeding well, appear happy and aren’t bothered by their pooing habits, then try not to be either. Follow their lead and try to stay calm.

    What Are the Best Foods for Constipated Babies?

    If your baby is breastfed, offer them extra feeds. Top-up breastfeeds are a good option for increasing milk intake. If they are bottle fed, an extra feed or some cooled boiled water between feeds may help. If you are breastfeeding, increase your own intake of fibre rich foods. Sometimes there is a flow-on effect to the baby. You may also like to try increasing your baby's intake of fresh fruit and vegetables. If they are too young for solids, extra milk feeds will help. If they are not too young for solids, offer pureed carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato and broccoli. Avoid offering too many white or processed foods such as pasta, bread, rice and potatoes.

    What Not To Do For Your Constipated Baby

    • Give laxatives, suppositories or enemas unless you’ve been advised to do so by a health professional.
    • Sit them on the toilet or a potty believing this will help. Toilet training is a developmental stage in the toddler years and requires a complex sequence of nervous system maturity.
    • Compare their bowel habits with other babies. Every little person is an individual and there are too many factors which play a role in bowel habits and frequency.
    • Make too many changes to their milk or solid food intake. Lots of changes at one time can have a negative effect and the baby may start having very loose poos.
    • Massage their tummy very firmly. A baby’s gut is still immature and easily damaged through rough handling. Always be gentle.

    If Dietary Changes Don’t Help

    One of the functions of the large bowel is to reabsorb water from the poos so they aren’t too loose. If poo sits in the large bowel for a few days, too much water is reabsorbed. This means the poos become dry and hard to pass. Sometimes the poo becomes too big, dry and impacted for the baby to push out.

    Always speak and check with a qualified nurse or healthcare professional about your baby to understand what your baby’s individual needs are, especially if you are ever concerned about your baby's well being.

    When to See a Health Professional About Your Baby's Constipation?

    • If your baby is aged less than two months of age and they haven’t pooed for a few days.
    • If your baby passes blood in their poo.
    • If your baby is not feeding well or seems distressed in any way.
    • If your baby seems unwell.

      Remember

      Speak with your Child Health Nurse or doctor if you are concerned about your baby’s bowel habits. Constipation can be a sign of insufficient milk intake or, more uncommonly, health concerns.