Constipation in newborn is not uncommon. Constipation is infrequent intestinal evacuation that is too small in amount or firm and dry. Although this condition is not harmful, it can cause severe discomfort and distress when the baby tries to evacuate.
Constipation usually occurs during transition of dietary pattern. For example when the newborn is transitioned from breast milk to formula milk or from formula feeding to semisolid or solid food, the new born may become constipated for few days.
It is necessary for all parents to know what exactly constipation means for their child. Parents should not consider absence of daily bowel movement as constipation, because many babies pass stool even after 4 to 5 days. What is more important is the type of stool and difficulty while passing. The baby can be considered to be constipated if his stool is dry, small amount, and he has to severely strain while evacuating. If the new born is constipated he will cry while passing stool.
What Causes Constipation In Newborns?
More than 90 percent of newborn pass meconium (a form of stool) after birth within 24 hours. The rest may pass within 2 days after birth. If the newborn infant does not pass stool within this period, he should be checked for intestinal obstruction.
However, all parents must keep in mind that infrequent bowel movement in newborn does not necessarily mean constipation, as many newborn who are breast fed may pass stool after two to three days without any discomfort. However, an infant who is constipated strains and cries while passing stool.
The cause of constipation among slightly older infants is due to transition of diet and feeding. The child may become constipated when he is switched from breast milk to formula feed. It may also occur during weaning period. Dehydration can also cause constipation in newborn as well as older infants.
How To Know If Your Newborn Is Constipated?
Before considering a newborn or an infant as constipated, every parent must know that bowel habits may not be same in every infant. Some may pass stool after every feed, while others may pass after one or two days. Important is to know whether the infant is distressful during the passage or strains a lot while evacuating. Even the stool is dry and hard so it does not come out from the anus easily. These factors must be considered when you think of constipation.
The symptoms given below will help us to understand if the newborn is constipated.
- Bowel movement in newborn is absent for more than one or two days.
- Stool is extremely difficult to pass and the child has to strain while passing stool.
- Stool is hard and dry.
- Child screams and pulls both his legs towards stomach while passing stool.
- His face becomes flushed and red when straining.
- Refusal for milk for no substantial reason.
Home Remedies To Relieve Constipation In Newborns
Constipation in newborn and infants can be treated with home remedies in most cases. However, if you suspect something more serious, consult the pediatrician as early as possible. Here are some tips to relieve constipation in newborn.
- If the newborn is constipated, take a cotton swab and stimulate the anal area with it gently. The sensation will trigger a nerve response which may encourage the newborn to pass stool.
- A gentle massage on baby’s stomach with fingertips will also help to relieve constipation.
- Mild exercise such as bending the legs towards abdomen, repeated movement of leg will cause pressure on the abdomen. This will encourage the movement of bowel inside the abdomen.
- Breast fed the newborn regularly even if he is constipated. It will avoid dehydration and encourage bowel movement.