Constipation in a newborn baby, what to do?

Constipation in a newborn baby, what to do?

Description of the disease

Constipation in infants is a painful condition characterized by a slow and difficult bowel movement.

The body of a newborn is so different from the body of an adult that sometimes mothers face an insoluble problem: is this or that condition of her baby normal or is it necessary to sound the alarm.

In the understanding of adult medicine, the diagnosis “constipation” can be made with:

  • no stool for more than a day;
  • the feeling of incomplete bowel movements after stool;
  • hard stools;
  • application of effort (straining) in the process of release of the intestine.

Inexperienced parents, applying these criteria to their newborns, often completely in vain begin to suspect their intestinal abnormalities. Well, if after that mom contact a pediatrician and ask for his advice. It is much worse when the diagnosis is made independently and treatment begins based on the advice of girlfriends, grandmothers, and online forums.

In order to figure out what kind of condition in an infant is actually constipated, it is necessary to consider the normal functioning of the baby’s digestive system.

The first days of life. The new baby’s first chair is called meconium. It represents the remnants of intestinal cells and digestive products of amniotic fluid, which the child accidentally swallowed. Normally, meconium begins to depart immediately after the first feeding. The color of the first stool is dark, in some cases almost black, odorless, the consistency of toothpaste.

In the first 1-2 days of life, the baby rarely empties the intestines – 1-3 times a day. After meconium is completely separated, the nature of the stool begins to change depending on the type of food that the newborn receives.

When breastfeeding stools watery, like mustard or pea soup. Color – yellow, yellow-brown, greenish shade is acceptable. It has a pronounced smell of sour milk. May contain undigested lumps of curd milk and a small amount of foam.

Babies on artificial feeding have darker stools, have a fecal odor and thick consistency.

The first 2 months of life. When breastfeeding, the standard options are wide enough: from bowel movements after each feeding up to 2 times a day.

Milk-fed babies have stricter requirements. A normal intestine emptying is considered to be at least 1 time.

From 2 months to 6 months. With the age of the child, the frequency of stools per day decreases: from 5 times a day in 2-month-old babies to 1-2 times a day in six-month-old children. In some infants, mother’s milk is so well absorbed that they can empty the intestines once every 2-3 days. It is considered normal if the child is cheerful, eats with appetite, gains weight well, feces without effort, a stool has a soft texture and does not have a putrid odor.

Children are older than 6 months. After the introduction of complementary foods, bowel emptying 1-2 times a day is considered the norm. At the same time, the characteristics of the chair change noticeably. When switching to solid foods, fecal masses begin to form. They acquire a dark color, an unpleasant fecal smell, and a more dense texture.

Thus, summing up all the above written, we can draw the following conclusions.

For breastfed babies :

  • the number of feces per day in infants prior to complementary feeding is strictly individual;
  • when assessing the condition of the baby, it is necessary to focus not on the number of bowel movements, but on the general condition and monthly weight gain;

For formula-fed babies:

  • the chair should be at least 1 time per day.

When can a bowel movement delay be considered constipation?

The diagnosis of “constipation” can be suspected in the absence of stool in the newborn, accompanied by the following symptoms:

  • child anxiety and loss of appetite;
  • strong straining during attempts to defecate;
  • reddening of the face, crying, pressing the legs during feeding;
  • the release of intestinal gases with a putrid odor, an unpleasant smell of stool;
  • bad weight gain.

It does not matter how much time has passed since the last defecation.

Causes of constipation in newborns

Constipation in newborns breastfed associated with:

  • Bowel disease

    These include congenital anomalies of the digestive system: megacolon – Hirschsprung disease, absence or narrowing of the anus, lengthening of the sigmoid loop.

  • Diseases of other organs and systems

    Insufficient production of thyroid hormones – hypothyroidism, rickets, damage to the nervous system – all these diseases adversely affect intestinal motility and cause constipation.

  • Immaturity of the nervous system

    Often babies are born with immature nerve endings in the intestinal wall. As a result, it can not be properly reduced, moving the food gruel in the direction of the anus. This is a physiological condition that passes to the 2nd month of life without special treatment.

  • Mother’s diet

    Everything that mom eats affects the quality of breast milk. There are products that cause a fixative effect on a newborn.

Products that cause constipation in infants:

  • fatty cheeses;
  • whole cow milk;
  • fatty meats;
  • White bread;
  • nuts (peanuts, cashews);
  • products from pastry;
  • strong tea, coffee;
  • medications (no-shop, heartburn remedies and gastritis treatments, diuretics, iron preparations).

There are also many special products that can help normalize stools, see the article – What helps with constipation?

Increased gas production

Various processes occurring in the intestines of the newborn, can lead to the increased gas formation during digestion of food. Gas bubbles, accumulating in the intestinal lumen, impede the normal movement of intestinal contents.

This can be caused by:

  • mother’s use of foods that cause increased gas formation (radishes, cucumbers, hot spices, chocolate, soda, cakes, fresh onions and garlic, black bread, cabbage, grapes, beans, bananas);
  • violation of intestinal microflora.

Causes of constipation in breastfed babies

You can add the following factors to the above:

  • Unsuitable Milk Blend

    The most common cause of the development of constipation in children on artificial feeding is improperly chosen milk formula. The best for a baby is breast milk, but if breastfeeding is not possible, then an adapted milk formula should be chosen as a replacement according to age.

  • Sharp transfer to another mix

    It is not recommended to dramatically change the diet of infants, transferring it to another formula. If the need arises, it should be done gradually over several days.

  • Lack of water

    If during breastfeeding feeding newborns is not recommended up to 6 months and is used only in extreme cases (fever, diarrhea, fever), then when feeding with infant formula, the additional introduction of clean drinking water is mandatory.

What to do with constipation in a newborn?

If a mother is sure that her baby has constipation, then the first thing she has to do is to go to the pediatrician. The reasons for the development of bowel obstruction can be serious diseases, which can only be identified by a specialist. The doctor may prescribe a blood test for hormones and the content of vitamins, recommend to do an ultrasound of the internal organs, x-rays or donate feces for dysbacteriosis. Then, depending on the results, prescribe a professional treatment.

If during the examination no abnormalities were found, then there is a high probability that constipation is associated either with the immaturity of the baby’s nervous system or with the quality of breast milk or formula.

All methods of care for constipation can be divided into the following groups:

  • massage;
  • changing the mother’s diet or changing the formula;
  • mechanical methods (gas tube, irritation of the anus, glycerin candles).

When treating constipation, it is better to start using these methods in order from first to last, but not vice versa.

Massage for constipation in newborns

Since the nervous apparatus of the intestine and the synthesis of digestive enzymes in the newborn is still underdeveloped, the best way to stimulate motility and improve the waste of accumulated gases is massage techniques. They are safe and easy to perform.

Reception 1. The baby lies on the back. Stroking movements are performed around the navel in a clockwise direction. Make 5-10 circular motions.

Reception 2. The child lies on the back. Alternate flexion-extension of the legs at the knee joints, with the front surface of the thigh pressed against the tummy. The legs are best held by the ankles. Do 5 repetitions.

Reception 3. Baby lies on the back. Pulling up the legs bent at the knee joints to the tummy and alternately straightening them. Do 5 repetitions.

Reception 4. Putting the baby on the tummy before each feeding for 2-15 minutes, depending on age and physical condition.

Reception 5. Baby put on his tummy on the bed or knees of the parent. Perform circular stroking movements with a palm from the area between the shoulder blades smoothly down to the sacrum. Repeat 5 times.

Mother’s diet and mix selection

For breastfed babies, the problem of constipation can be solved by changing the mother’s diet. It is necessary to exclude products that have a fixing effect, which is described above, and add products to the mother’s milk that have laxative properties.

Products that improve the digestion of the newborn:

  • fresh vegetable salads containing dill, parsley, seasoned with vegetable oil, better than olive;
  • cereals (buckwheat, oatmeal, barley);
  • vegetable broth soups;
  • white poultry meat;
  • prunes;
  • dried apricots;
  • boiled beets and pumpkin ;
  • natural unsweetened yogurt, kefir.

If a bottle-fed baby is constipated, then you should consider replacing the mixture. You can try the dairy mixes from Nan, Nutrilon or Nutrilak.

Mothers who feed babies from a bottle should remember that the mixtures require additional feeding with water. It should be given at the rate of 10 ml (2 teaspoons) for 1 month of life per day.


In cases where massage and diet do not have sufficient influence on the work of the intestine, medications come to the rescue. Before using any of them, you should always consult with your doctor.

These include:

  • Duphalac;
  • Espumizan (other brand names Bobotie, Sub-Simplex);
  • Plantex.
  • Candles Glitselaks (appointed with lactase deficiency)

If the above methods do not show their effectiveness, then you can try the mechanical ways to stimulate defecation.

One of these tools is glycerin candles. Their effect is based on irritation of the rectal mucosa, which causes an increase in its motility. In addition, melting under the action of body temperature, they play the role of lubricant, facilitating the discharge of fecal masses.

An enema is an extreme way to combat constipation. Their frequent use can lead to the development of intestinal dysbiosis, lack of vitamins and minerals. For infants used the smallest syringe No. 1 with a soft tip. As a solution for enema most often used boiled water with a temperature of about 30 degrees or a mixture of water and a few drops of oil.

Soap for constipation in newborns – an unacceptable method!

Very often, mothers go in the wake of grandmothers or neighbors, trying to use a piece of laundry soap to fight constipation with their baby. This is an unacceptable method of bowel stimulation! The substances that make up the soap cause severe irritation of the rectal mucosa.

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