How to Tell if Your Baby is Constipated

There are telltale signs that your little one is backed up when it comes to their bowel movements:1

  • Stool is difficult to pass and may be accompanied by straining or face-making
  • Stool is drier and/or harder than usual
  • Stool appears to be incomplete, as though your little one didn’t finish expelling their movement
  • Bowel movements are less frequent than they typically are, or seem unusually large for your child

Beyond their bowel movements, your baby may also display the following if they’re constipated:1

  • Agitation and crankiness
  • Bloating and gas
  • Less appetite than usual
  • Stomach pain or aches

Constipation Remedies & Prevention for Babies

As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Luckily, the things you can do to help ease your little one’s constipation are the same things you can do to prevent it:1,2

  • Provide an appropriate amount of fibre. Fibre increases the bulk of stool and softens it, making it easier for stool to move through your little’s system. This is because bulkier stool is easier to pass which decreases the risk of constipation. Fibre also helps regulate the frequency of bowel movements. Whole grains, fruits, and veggies are a great way to get fibre into your little one’s diet when they start on solids.
  • Provide enough fluids throughout the day. Staying hydrated is key to kicking constipation. Water helps stool make its way through the digestive tract and softens it, making it easier to pass. Under 6 months of age, there is no need to give your infant any additional fluids other than breastmilk or formula. After 6 months of age, serving plain water is ideal for hydration. How will you know if your little one is getting enough fluids? The colour of their urine. Urine should be a clear pale yellow. If your little one’s urine is a dark yellow, it may indicate dehydration.
  • Make time for physical activity every day. Make sure your little one is moving around every day. Not only can it improve their digestion, but it’s also good for their overall health and wellbeing. For those younger than a year, floor-based activities several times a day are appropriate.

While you’re waiting for these changes to have an effect, you might also consider giving your little one more fluids and serve meals rich in fibre on a regular schedule. Eating a meal will often cause a bowel movement within 30-60 minutes.

What Not to Do for Constipation in Babies

Helping your little one get things moving isn’t the same as helping a much older child or adult work through constipation. These commonly used remedies aren’t appropriate for your constipated baby or toddler:

  • Laxatives. Laxatives may be too powerful for your little one’s system. Only give laxatives if instructed by your child’s care provider.
  • Probiotics. There has been some research into probiotics and constipation. While the early results have been promising, there is still more to learn; probiotics are not recommended as a remedy for constipation in babies.5
  • Fruit juices. Many fruit juices have added sugars and should be avoided. Fresh prunes can be a fine addition for adding fibre, and health professionals for babies age 6-12 months recommend serving up to 4 oz of undiluted 100% prune juice or apple juice in 24 hours to help with constipation.6

When to See a Doctor for Constipation

You don’t need to make a doctor appointment to treat constipation, but if your little one displays any of the following take them to see their care provider as soon as possible:1,6

  • Bloody or black stool
  • Fever, tummy pain or vomiting
  • Eating or drinking less
  • Other signs of dehydration, such as fewer wet diapers than usual, dark urine, and dry skin
  • Tearing of the skin around their anus

By ensuring your child is getting an appropriate amount of fibre and hydration, you’ll hopefully avoid the need to ease any discomfort related to constipation.