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Breastfeeding Constipation – Signs To be aware of, Causes & Proven Treatment

Breastfeeding Constipation occurs when a baby or an infant has problems passing stools. It often starts when a baby must transition to solid foods. Pediatricians often tell parents to offer babies food when they get to six months old. What the baby eats really does determine what they will put out. So, it is good to monitor that process.

When identifying constipation, you must first be able to distinguish between the normal and the not so normal in order to determine if the baby is constipated or not. Every baby is different.

Constipation

Signs & Symptoms

Important Signs to Look For

  • Pain in the abdomen – constipation generally will cause stomach pain and the stomach pain can be caused because there is a need to have a bowel movement. Since a baby cannot speak, they would show this by crying often or being extremely fussy.
  • Tears or cracks occurring around the anus
  • They seem uncomfortable when passing stool or it has suddenly become more difficult to pass stool – Sometimes when a toddler has passed an uncomfortable stool, they may not want to do it again thereby withholding stool. This causes the stool to get hard and leads to constipation.

Other Signs to Look For

  • Being fussy and dribbling more – often, most babies would dribble after each feeding. dribbling more often is especially a problem if it is accompanied by refusing to feed. This can be a sign of constipation.
  • Bowel movement change – when the stool appears to be hard or dry, this can be a sign of constipation. If the baby’s stool is too hard or dry while passing it can stretch the anal walls and cause bleeding. Having less than three bowel moments a week or not having bowel movements at all.
  • Feeding patterns may change – they could be feeding more of less frequently. Just like adults, if nothing is passing out the baby may feel uncomfortable to eat. That is a clear sign that something is wrong, especially if the baby eats regularly.
  • Soiling, liquid waste leakage between bowel movements – after wiping your baby, you may notice blood on the tissue or baby wipes. This is a sign your baby may be constipated. It is correctly known as anal fissures and this results because the anal mucosa is stretched beyond its normal capacity. Most anal fissures however heal with home treatment after a few days or weeks. Once it takes more than that, you need to seek professional help.
  • Abdomen looks bloated – in some cases if your child is constipated, their stomach may look larger than usual.

Straining to have a bowel movement may not be a sign of breastfeeding constipation. Babies would strain and grunt when doing bowel movements because babies have weak abdominal muscles.

Breastfeeding Constipation

Causes

  • One of the main causes of constipation in babies is their diet change. For instance, when you are transitioning your baby from exclusive breast milk to solids. Alot of babies may experience breastfeeding constipation at this time.
  • Low fiber in their diet (for babies above six months) – fiber eases constipation. Eating enough fiber improves the balance of good gut bacteria. Fiber also has other health benefits not only for the baby but for the parents as well because it reduces the risk of having heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.
  • Where mothers change their baby’s formula, the formula may be harder to digest than breast milk. Some babies may also be sensitive to some of the ingredients in the formula which may lead to constipation. In that case, you would have to change formulas. When using formula always make sure you use as directed on the label.
  • Transition from breast milk to formula – again, moving from the norm of having breast milk can cause breastfeeding constipation. It may take some time before their digestive systems get accustomed.
Breastfeeding Constipation

Other Causes

  • Change in different textures and flavors of food
  • Not drinking a lot of liquids – this occurs in babies over six months old. After the transition to solid foods, it is important that the baby gets enough water because this could lead to constipation.
  • Change in environment – studies have shown that changes in routine can cause constipation in infants. All our bodies have this thing we call an internal clock. Once that routine for the child has been upset, it can lead to constipation.
  • Addition of some medicines – some medications that infants take can lead to constipation. For example, if the medication has too much iron in it that can lead to constipation.
  • Underlying medical issues – constipation can be caused by underlying medical issues such as Hypothyroidism (this is a condition where the thyroid does not release enough hormones into the blood stream which causes a slowing in metabolism. This occurs in one of four thousand babies) or cystic fibrosis (babies that usually suffer from this disease has a built up of sticky mucus in their body that includes their lungs, and this causes breathing problems).

Recommendations

Breastfeeding Constipation
  1. Try rubbing your baby’s stomach to help stimulate the bowels.
  2. If your baby is using formula, follow all instructions on the formula label.
  3. Give the baby warm baths and try exercising their legs (moving them as though they are riding a bike). This will stimulate bowel movements.
  4. If your baby is old enough, you can give the baby a small amount of water or juices such as 100% prune, apple, pear, or black berry juice. All these juices are loaded in fiber and would be good for gut health. Apples, pear, and black berries contain Vitamin C which would also help support your baby’s immune system. Prunes, Vitamin A which largely helps with eyesight. All these fruits mentioned also contain sorbitol. Sorbitol, also called sugar alcohol is a carbohydrate that relives constipation and irregularities in bowel movements
  5. Baby food – it has been found that babies get constipated around the time of transitioning to solid food. Pureed peas, prunes, broccoli, apples, and pears can be added to their diet because they contain a high amount of fiber than other fruits and vegetables
  6. Using Glycerin suppository – suppositories are used to relieve temporary constipation. It works by drawing water into the intestines. This is often used for toddlers 2 years old and up. Use as directed by a Health care provider.
  7. If the constipation persists, contact a health care provider immediately.
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