Constipation Matters (Part 1): Prevention Tips for Babies

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If you ask me, I think babies have a tougher time dealing with constipation than toddlers. For one, they can’t really tell you what’s wrong apart from wailing, while a toddler at least (for the most part) can communicate a bit better about what’s going on. And I think parents have an easier time dealing with constipation in a toddler than in a baby. It’s much easier to get a toddler to drink more fluid or to be more active. But it’s tougher to get a baby that can’t even crawl or sit up yet to move more. Note though that babies often strain, get red in the face and cry when trying to pass a stool, but this does not necessarily mean the baby is having constipation.

To prevent constipation in adults, the 3 ‘Fs’ are usually recommended: Fluids, Fiber and Frequent Exercise/Activity. Well, it’s the same for babies and toddlers as well.

Fluids
In general breastfed babies tend to get plenty of fluid (think of the more watery portion of the breast m
ilk at the beginning of a breastfeed session) and are seldom constipated. However be aware that depending on age, breastfed babies tend to have a wide variety of normal stooling patterns (from a few times a day to once a week!). While formula fed babies may be more regular (e.g., once a day or so), they may experience slightly thicker and firmer stools, so offer water in a bottle regularly in between formula bottle feeds.

Starting at 9-10 months of age, offer your baby a free flow sippy cup of water with meals and at frequent intervals throughout the day. This way, he/she will not only get used to the taste of water, but will also get used to drinking it often in the course of a day. This shouldn’t affect your breastfeeding, but if you’re worried, you can offer the water after a breastfeeding session instead of right before it.

Fiber
Once baby starts solids, you can begin to add some fiber into your baby’s diet. Some have said that baby rice cereal can be constipating, and this can be true if you offer your baby a lot of baby rice cereal daily since there’s hardly any fiber in it. So instead of only offering baby rice cereal, you can focus on offering more pureed fruits and vegetables like butternut squash, avocado, and mango as first foods to your little one. However, you may have to increase the fiber content in your baby’s diet gradually as some babies have digestive systems that need a little bit more time to get comfortable handling a higher fiber load.

Frequent Movement/Activity
This may be a bit more trickier for babies, especially if they are young and haven’t even learned to lift up their heads yet! But you can still employ ‘baby massage’ techniques to help relax baby’s body and possibly help move down gas and stool in the digestive tract. Taking baby’s legs and doing some ‘cycling/bicycling’ motions a few times a day could help too. But don’t worry, all too soon, baby will sitting and crawling, and then pulling up to a stand. Getting active is something that will come naturally and instinctively!

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