Constipation refers to difficulty passing stool. As babies get older and their diet changes, they are likely to experience bowel movement changes such as constipation or diarrhoea. While some babies can pass stool two times a day, others may go up to seven times.
Dr Edward Mugisha, a peadiatrician, says the frequency of your baby’s bowel movement should not be of concern as long as it does not cause them pain.
However, if you notice that the baby cries or strains to produce small amounts of hard, dry stool and they do this less frequently, then they may be constipated.
Other signs that your baby might be experiencing constipation include irritability, stomachaches, loss of appetite and their belly hardening.
Dr Mugisha notes that constipation is usually a result of hardened stool or bowel immobility due to some medication or congenital anomalies such as poor development of the bowel. Also, some foods such as posho, bread and dairy, among others, are known to cause constipation in weaning babies.
“Even if the baby is starting on hard foods, there should be a balance. They should have foods rich in fibre such as fruits (apples and oranges), vegetables (carrots) and plenty of fluids to make sure that the stool formed is easy for the baby to pass out,” he advises.
Bottle fed babies frequently suffer from constipation because formula milk is harder to digest. This is because their enzymes are still developing or they are in low levels, a condition known as lactose intolerance.
However, some babies get better as their system gets used to the milk or sometimes, you might need to change to a different brand.
According to webmd.com, in some cases, the doctor may prescribe an enema or laxatives if the baby consistently experiences difficulty or pain passing stool.
However, it is better to prevent constipation before it happens. This is because the more the baby is unable to pass the large hard stool that has gathered in the intestine, the drier and harder it gets and the effort to pass it can cause cracks around the anus which results in more pain.
To avoid the pain, your baby may subconsciously start holding back stool, which makes the stool stay longer in the large intestine.
When to see a doctor
Dr Edward Mugisha, a pediatrician, says while infant constipation is not usually serious, sometimes it can be a symptom of an underlying problem. If you are concerned, please see a doctor for thorough assessment.
Some babies might have metabolic disorders that affect bowel movement such as T1diabetes because of the lack of insulin in the system. Anal atresia or the mal-development of the anus where the anus is small or there is a problem with the sphincters or the nerves of the bowels did not develop well, this will affect the bowel movement in some cases surgery might be needed.