Many newborn babies have their first stool within 24 hours after being born. But those babies who suffer from constipation have trouble with this, either having infrequent stools or dry, hard stools that are difficult to pass. Many parents who are faced with a crying baby who's obviously uncomfortable assume their child has colic - but while colic is a common, temporary condition, severe constipation can be dangerous for your child.
Constipated infants may strain to go to the bathroom, drawing the legs up and grunting, and turning red in the face from the effort. Worse, the passing of a hard stool can cause a tear in the rectal wall, which can bleed. All of these symptoms can be very uncomfortable for the baby and a concern for you. If your newborn is constipated, here's are some remedies for constipation:
- Understand that for the first few days of life, your baby will pass meconium, which is a dark green or black substance. By the third day, regular bowel movements should begin. If your baby's stools don't get regular, or if he or she is still passing meconium, this could be a sign that your baby may not be getting enough to eat.
- Consider whether you recently switched from breast milk to formula. This could also be to blame.
- If your baby is bottle fed, try different formulas to find the one that makes his or her digestion work the best.
- Change your feeding schedule to give the baby smaller amounts of baby formula spread out through more frequent feedings throughout the day in order to allow his body to digest this better.
- For babies that have formula, try adding an extra bottle of water each day to see if this helps in getting constipation relief by adding more fluid to the bowels.
- For formula-fed babies, if you feel the iron in the baby formula is contributing to the constipation, speak with your pediatrician about the pros and cons of switching to a low-iron version for a month or two and see if this helps. (See the precaution note.)
- Bathe your newborn in an infant tub or sink with the water above the stomach level. While your baby is relaxed, try massaging his or her stomach and see if this stimulates a bowel movement. Watch out! Don't be surprised if the baby goes right in the tub. This can often help with newborn constipation.
- Ask your pediatrician if it would be safe to give your baby some extra help. Some babies respond to glycerin suppositories, liquid glycerin or flax oil. With your pediatrician's okay, you can mix a teaspoon of the flax oil with formula, or insert a suppository when the baby shows sign of needing to go to the bathroom.
- When you introduce food into your infant's diet, begin with choices like pureed pears and prunes, which are high in fiber. Instead of trying rice cereal, opt for barley cereal, which won't be as constipating.