It’s often assumed if a baby is crying that they are in pain from gas or constipation. We have outlined a very easy cheat sheet for you to reference. This information can help you determine if either of these issues are the cause of your infant’s fussiness and will give you helpful suggestions that can help remedy the situation.
Constipation is defined by infrequent and irregular bowel movements. It also can be accompanied by hard and difficult to pass stools. Hard, dry and pellet-like stools can also be a true sign of constipation. Cracks or tears to the skin around the anus can result if your baby has difficulty passing them.
Constipation can cause cramping, intestinal discomfort and pain for babies. Many parents will think that their baby is constipated because he is crying during the time when he is trying to have a bowel movement. It’s important to note that straining during a bowel movement can be quite normal for a newborn. Their little systems are fragile and still maturing and babies become irritated with some of these bodily functions, such as stomach cramps while feeding. Infrequent stooling may cause concerns for parents making them feel as if their baby is constipated.
If you are exclusively breastfeeding:
• Your breastfed baby will have 3 (or more) stools each day.
The amount and frequency will vary from baby to baby. Your baby may have a bowel movement every time he nurses, or he may only have 3-4 a day.
• After your baby reaches 3 – 6 weeks of age, they may begin to stool less frequently.
Some babies will poop as little as once a day or as infrequent as once every 7-10 days. As long as your baby is having soft and easy-to-pass stools and is gaining well then this can be considered normal for your baby.
• The consistency and color of a normal stool of a breastfed baby is mushy or creamy and yellow or pale green in color.
It is soft and runny and may look curd-like (similar to cottage cheese) and contain seedy particles.
If your baby is having green poops but is happy and content (and not exhibiting any other symptoms), then it is likely everything is fine and should not give you a reason for concern.
For formula-fed babies:
• Formula fed babies will have stools that range from tan to yellow in color and sometimes green.
The consistency is firmer than a breastfed baby’s stool and should resemble the texture of peanut butter.
• Formula will cause a more stinky smell than breastfeeding stools which do not typically have an odor to them.
• Frequency will vary from baby to baby and some will have very regular pooping patterns.
Your baby may poop several times a day or only once a day. Some babies can go up to one week without pooping. As long as your baby is eating well and having soft, easy-to-pass stools, then you don’t need to worry.
Abnormal signs and when to call a doctor
You should give your pediatrician a call if you notice:
• Your baby is consistently straining, crying, or appears to be in pain when having a bowel movement.
• You notice poop that is mucousy, filled with water, black or bloody stools. This could be a sign of an allergy or infection.
• Your baby is having solid, hard poops. This is an indication of constipation.
Tips for easing constipation
There are several natural and effective ways to help your baby if they are having discomfort from constipation. Please consult with your doctor for their recommendation and ask them if you could try some of the following measures.
• Try massaging your baby under her naval in a clockwise motion.
This can help loosen up the stools and encourage a bowel movement. Make sure to have a clean diaper on your baby because this can work quickly sometimes!
• Flax oil
Try adding a teaspoon of flax oil once a day to your baby’s bottle or baby food.
• Pear or prune juice
Adding a small amount to your baby’s bottle can work.
Probiotics help build up the good flora in your intestinal tract and can help with gas and easing digestion.
• Try a glycerin suppository available in the pharmacy section for babies.
Make sure to check with your doctor before using.
• Some parents will use the tip of a thermometer covered in vaseline and gently insert in into the baby’s rectum.
This can help to stimulate a bowel movement. It’s advisable to check with your baby’s doctor before using this method.
• Switch to a different formula to see which one is easier on your baby’s digestive system.
Advise your doctor before making any switch to a different formula.
• Some experts advise feeding your baby more frequently in smaller amounts.
This can help your baby have an easier time digesting milk.
• If your baby is older than 4 months and formula fed, you can offer an extra 1-2 ounces of boiled and cooled water in a bottle to your baby during the day.
• Delaying solids to closer to 6 months can be helpful.
Avoid constipating foods such as bananas, rice cereal, dairy products, apples, carrots, and squash.