One clue is less frequent bowel movements than baby’s norm—she hasn't had one in three or more days and is obviously uncomfortable when she does have one. Another clue is hard, dry stools that are difficult for her to pass.
- Formula. Exclusively breastfed babies are rarely constipated. Stools are almost always soft. If your baby is on formula and constipated, ask your baby's doctor about switching brands.
- The introduction of solids. Your baby might be mildly constipated. Rice cereal, usually the first solid food, is low in fiber. Switch to barley or oat cereal, or add pureed fruits or vegetables to her regular cereal. Once your baby is eating a variety of solid foods, ask her doctor if you can boost her fiber intake.
- Dehydration. If your baby isn't getting enough fluid, her system will respond by absorbing more fluid from whatever she eats or drinks—and from the waste in her bowels, as well. Increase the amount of fluid your baby drinks. If your baby is older than 2 months, give her 1 ounce of prune juice diluted with 1 ounce of water, twice a day.
- A medical condition or illness. Talk to your baby's doctor about treatment options if constipation is due to an underlying medical condition such as hypothyroidism, metabolic disorders, food allergies and botulism, or rarely, Hirschsprung's disease, which prevents the gut from functioning properly.
What else can you do to help your constipated baby?
- Get her some exercise—a few laps crawling. If she's not crawling yet, try this: on her back, gently move her legs as if pedaling.
- Massage baby's belly. At 3 finger-widths below her navel, apply gentle but pressure with fingertips until you feel a firmness or mass. Maintain gentle but constant pressure for 3 minutes.
- Ask your doctor’s approval for using a stool softener or laxative. The doctor may suggest an occasional glycerin suppository to stimulate the rectum and help her pass a stool.
- If hard, dry stools tear the delicate skin near the opening of her anus, apply some aloe vera lotion to the area to help it heal, or see your baby's doctor.