Help Your Baby Avoid Constipation

Prepare yourself: there’s lots of variation when it comes to baby pooping schedules. Some tots may skip a day here and there, while others seem to go like clockwork -- and breast-fed babies tend to poop less than their formula-fed friends (who knew?). As long as yours is having bowel movements (BMs) without any problems, there’s usually no cause for concern.

It happens a lot
Try not to blame yourself! It’s not unusual for babies and toddlers to become constipated at some point in their lives. Take note of the following signs: clenched fists, unusual cries, frantic pushing attempts (listen for a grunting sound), or hard, tiny stools. Older children may also have hard BMs and possible cramping. They'll probably tell you they can't go, and may spend a lot of time pushing on the toilet.

Here’s why
There are many reasons babies and children become constipated, though diet is the main factor. A lack of fiber is the biggest culprit, as is drinking too much cow’s milk. Also, when children are potty training, even just one painful BM can cause kids to poop less and become backed up. A headstrong child who’s not too thrilled to be potty training may decide to take control by curbing her BMs. This invariably leads to constipation, too.

The magic bullet is fiber
Try to make sure she gets a couple servings of fiber-rich foods every day like whole-grain cereals, fruits, and vegetables. For picky toddlers, get it in any way you can: granola bars, oatmeal, or raw vegetables dipped in ranch dressing.

How to fix it
If your child is constipated, it's a good idea to contact your pediatrician. He’ll do an exam and review your baby’s history to rule out any physical or medical problems. The pediatrician also will probably check the rectum. Your child's bowel movements may be streaked with blood from the pushing, so tell the doctor if you've noticed this.  

He’s pooping again!
Since the rectum is filled with hard poop blocking the softer stuff, the goal is to move things along. In order to get the bowels flowing, your pediatrician will probably give your baby a stool softener, like a glycerin suppository or maybe even a pediatric enema. Sometimes mineral oil or a mild laxative like polyethylene glycol will be recommended for a few weeks to soften the stools.

Hang in there
Be patient during this trying time and certainly don't punish your child for not being able to poop. Offer encouragement and keep feeding her those fiber-rich foods. Eventually she’ll produce a healthy poop -- and everyone will be able to relax.