How can I relieve my baby of constipation?

Constipation, apart from causing hard, blood-streaked stools may also lead to painful infrequent bowel movements, a cause of crying in babies. 

What you need to know:

  • In Uganda, babies may get constipated from around six months of age since this is the time many mothers introduce solid foods or cow’s milk in their baby’s diet.

My eight-month-old baby suffers from constipation. It is so bad that he screams while doing a poo, which is always streaked with blood. How can I provide relief? Rita

Dear Rita

Some babies, especially those exclusively breastfed may take as long as a week without bowel movements and without the stool being small and dry (constipation). Formula-fed babies, however, tend to pass stool more frequently.

 In Uganda, babies may get constipated from around six months of age since this is the time many mothers introduce solid foods or cow’s milk in their baby’s diet.

Constipation, apart from causing hard, blood-streaked stools may also lead to painful infrequent bowel movements, a cause of crying in babies.

Straining to have a bowel movement is not always a sign of infant constipation since infants have weak abdominal muscles and often strain during normal bowel movements or constipation. 

Since infant constipation often begins when a baby starts eating solid foods and taking cow’s milk, changing their diet may ease the constipation. Hydrating the child more may also ease constipation. However, babies under six months of age should not drink water since their small bodies are not suited for it.

Babies under six months should take breast milk, formula or cow’s milk because this does not only hydrate but it is also good for nutrition. That said, at eight months of age, a constipated infant can be given a little water or fresh apple and tomato juices. Because vegetables contain more fibre, which is known to ease constipation, they can also be added to the baby’s food. 

If dietary changes do not help ease the constipation, a doctor should be consulted to rule out other conditions including Hirschsprung’s disease, hypothyroidism or cystic fibrosis that can also cause constipation. The doctor will also suggest other ways to manage the constipation.

Why do my private parts itch?

For some time now, I have this persistent itch in my private parts. Bathing with Dettol soap has not provided relief. How can I take care of this? Anna

Dear Anna,

Itching of the area around the vaginal opening commonly occurs due to irritating substances such as soaps, infections such as sexually transmitted diseases including pubic lice and disturbance of vaginal bacteria leading to bacterial vaginosis. Other causes are skin conditions including allergy, psoriasis, after shaving and menopause, among others.

Unfortunately, the itching can cause lots of stress yet stress on its own can lead to itching.

Although many Ugandans blame vaginal itching on candida claiming they may have acquired it sexually, this is not the case. Humans have candida mostly on the skin, mouth, intestines, and vaginal canal or other areas save in blood or organs such as the brain.

Candida is kept in check by the body’s defenses against infections. In the vaginal canal, the defense among others is comprised of bacteria (lactobacilli) which convert vaginal glycogen into lactic acid, which helps to keep the candida in check so that it does not overgrow and lead to vaginal candida infection. 

Use of antibiotics for long and applying soaps (especially medicated ones) or saliva will kill the lactobacilli, hence causing overgrowth of candida leading to infections and vaginal itching. Use of antibiotics will also kill small organisms elsewhere leading to candida infections in the mouth and big intestines. Loss of immunity such as during HIV infection, use of steroids such as prednisone and dexamethasone for Covid-19 for example, can also lead to candida infection in various places including the vaginal canal.

Use of underwear washed with detergent soaps, or putting them in antiseptics including JIK requires washing them out with bar soap otherwise these on their own will cause itching due to developing an allergy to them, apart from killing lactobacilli and causing candida infection.

Please stop using any soaps or antiseptics on the perineum and visit your doctor to find out what is causing the itching so that proper treatment is given.

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