Our bodies often give us clues as to our overall health. Regular and natural pooping indicates that we’re probably getting enough fiber and have a healthy diet. So when your baby becomes constipated, it’s a clear sign that something is wrong.
6 Natural Remedies for Constipation in Babies
When it comes to constipation remedies, it’s best to let Mother Nature lend you a helping hand. Here’s how:
1. Proper diet
When baby is eating solids, avoid foods that constipate (like bananas, rice, or too much meat) and offer high-fiber foods that help relieve constipation.
Good choices include cooked pears, prunes, apricots, and peaches. You can offer these fruits as purees or slices (if you’re doing baby led weaning). Just remember: Babies younger than 6 months should not have anything but breastmilk or formula unless directed by a doctor.
Probiotics help restore balance in the gut, improve overall digestive health, and can make a huge difference in a constipated baby. Simply mix the recommended dosage amount into a bottle of breastmilk, formula, or purees for one of the best natural constipation remedies. You can also apply directly to the nipple if breastfeeding.
3. Homeopathic remedies for digestion
You should always get your doctor’s approval, but homeopathic remedies are safe, easy to administer, and can be very effective at treating baby constipation. Simply give one pilule (the little white bead) under the tongue or dissolve two pilules in a small amount of breastmilk or formula. Use a syringe to administer to baby and repeat as needed.
Homeopathic baby constipation remedies include:
- Calc-cabonica: For constipation accompanied by teething or for babies who are sensitive to lactose or milk protein.
- Lycopodium: For irritable or extremely gassy babies.
- Nux-vomica: For constipated babies who are straining.
- Silica: For babies who produce stools, but the stools are small and hard.
4. Warm baths
A warm bath can soothe baby and stimulate the digestive system. For the most effective constipation remedy, mix in Epsom salts—the magnesium helps relax muscles and soften stool to move things along.
Just like adults, exercise can help get the digestive system going. If baby can crawl, get on the floor with her and encourage her to crawl towards you. If not, you can “bicycle” her legs by laying her down and moving her legs back and forth as if she were riding a bicycle. You can also have baby do tummy time if it’s not too uncomfortable.
Massaging your little one’s belly helps move trapped air and gas, which contribute to constipation. It’s one of the simplest natural constipation remedies—just move your hand in sweeping or circular motions across baby’s abdomen. Remember not to press too hard.
There are also pressure points relating to the gut on the feet. You can find these between the ball of the foot and the heel. Gently rub in circular motions with your thumbs.
This video gives a great overview of how to perform baby massage to naturally relieve constipation.
What about over-the-counter products?
There are plenty of products designed to be constipation remedies for babies and children, but they should not be your first line of defense. Some stool softeners for babies contain yucky ingredients like artificial food dyes and preservatives and could set up dependencies.
Signs of Constipation in Babies
But how do you know if your child is constipated? Lactation consultants often advise new parents to count wet diapers to make sure baby is getting enough to drink. And there are some studies supporting the theory that the amount of soiled diapers baby has per day should match a baby’s age during the first week of life—on day four baby should have approximately four soiled diapers, for example.
But, like adults, baby’s bowel movements can vary a fair amount from person to person, so diaper output isn’t always a hard and fast rule. Here’s what to look for:
Change in Frequency
Use your baby’s normal bowel movement pattern as a baseline. If your baby hasn’t pooped in two days, but normally has a bowel movement after every feeding, he might be a little backed up.
If you’re having a hard time keeping track, many breastfeeding trackers also give you a place to log bowel movements.
Even if your baby has regular poopy diapers, hard, dry poop (think: rabbit poop) is one of the surest signs of baby constipation. Poop shouldn’t be so hard that it causes painful straining.
Hard stools don’t typically occur in breastfed babies, but formula-fed babies may benefit from switching formulas. (Here are more causes of baby constipation.)
If you notice your baby grunting excessively and turning red in the face, she is probably straining to poop.
Does baby’s tummy feel full, hard, or bloated? This is one of the most common signs of constipation in babies, since constipation can cause a belly to feel extra firm.
Refusing to eat
Due to their bowel discomfort and distention, constipated babies often refuse food—even if it’s been hours since their last meal.
Blood in the stool
Just like with adults, straining too hard during a bowel movement can cause tiny fissures (tears) around the anus, which produce little streaks of blood on the outside of the stool. Although this can be a normal side effect of baby constipation, blood throughout can indicate a problem. If you see any blood in your baby’s poop, it’s always a good idea to visit the pediatrician to rule out other conditions.
Get free updates on baby’s first year! – Free Updates on First Year [In-article]
Sign me up!
What Causes Constipation in Babies?
These symptoms of baby constipation may be a result of the following:
Transitioning to solids
It’s common for babies who are transitioning to solids to experience constipation, because their digestive systems are adjusting to the new diet.
Wait until baby displays signs of readiness (like reaching for your food) and is at least 6 months of age to give solids or purees. If baby becomes constipated, he may not be ready for the transition quite yet. Cut back on solid foods and boost your breastfeeding.
Feeding constipation-causing solids
Some foods produce hard, firmer stools and can result in constipation problems. You don’t have to cut them out entirely, but both bananas and applesauce, popular first foods for babies, can back baby up. The pectin in applesauce, for example, pulls water out of the stool, making it harder for baby to pass. It can also cause stomach cramps and gas.
Though you may have heard that bananas are good for constipation, it depends on whether the banana is ripe. They can contain high amounts of starch, which contributes to constipation. Don’t give bananas to a baby dealing with constipation.
Too much rice cereal
Though often recommended by pediatricians, rice cereal is not a great choice for baby’s first solid. Besides being high in arsenic, cereal is usually made from white rice and is, therefore, very low in nutrients, including fiber. Babies immature systems also have a hard time digesting grains. Try these foods instead.
Sometimes the cause isn’t what baby’s eating—it’s what mama is eating. Studies suggest that chronic constipation in children can be a result of a cow’s milk allergy. Other signs of a cow’s milk allergy or sensitivity can include baby eczema, hives, or excessive spitting up.
If you suspect your baby is sensitive to dairy or other allergens, slowly cut out dairy and other potential triggers from your diet. An elimination diet can help pinpoint what your baby is reacting to. A lactation consultant can help guide you through the process.
Incorrect formula ratio
If baby drinks formula, double check to make sure you’re using the correct ratio of powder to water. An imbalance can contribute to dehydration, which can cause constipation in babies.
Try a new formula
If a bottle-fed baby is constipated, sometimes it’s as easy as changing out the formula. Some babies don’t do well on a cow’s milk formula, but thrive on a goat’s milk one. Experiment and see if that helps baby’s bowels.
Sometimes a little dehydration is all it takes to cause constipation. If baby is steadily gaining weight, you probably don’t have to worry about dehydration. But if baby is not gaining weight, has a poor latch, or is excessively fussy, he may not be getting enough milk. A lactation consultant can help determine whether or not baby is getting enough to drink and can help establish a plan of action.
Although rare, chronic constipation be a result of medical conditions including allergies or thyroid disorders. Consult your child’s pediatrician if you suspect a problem.
Preventing Constipation in Babies
There’s also one big dietary component that can help prevent constipation in the first place: Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
When baby is dehydrated, the risk of constipation increases. Here’s what you can do:
- For babies under 6 months old, this means breastfeeding on demand (breast milk is over 80 percent water!) or giving the proper amount of formula each day.
- For babies eating solids, make sure baby continues to get either breastmilk or formula for liquid nourishment. Once baby can use a sippy cup, you can give 2 ounces of water per day for added hydration.
When to Call a Doctor
Sometimes, no matter what you try, natural remedies just aren’t working. If you’ve exhausted all of these options and haven’t found a way to relieve baby’s constipation, you may be wondering what to do next.
It’s important to call your child’s pediatrician if baby isn’t eating, stops producing wet diapers, or has blood in her stool. If baby is younger than four months of age, call the doctor if baby has hard or pebble-like stool or hasn’t had a bowel movement within 24 hours.