What is constipation in babies?
Constipation in babies, much like in adults, is a delay or difficulty in passing stools, present for two or more weeks. It is a common problem in babies and young children and may cause pain.
Every baby has their own stool pattern; it is very common for a baby to have occasional, hard stools and some breastfed babies may only have one bowel movement a week. Once you get used to your own baby’s stool pattern, it will be easier to recognise when it is not normal for them.
Babies can have up to 3 bowel movements per day when aged between 0-3 months. After you start to introduce more solid foods, the poos will probably become firmer and less frequent.
Signs of constipation in babies
Symptoms of constipation in your baby can include:
- Pooing fewer than three times a week
- Hard, dry or lumpy poos or pellet-like poos
- Your baby finds it hard to poo and may look like they are straining
- Unusually smelly wind and poo
- Reduced appetite
- Tummy ache that gets better after doing a poo
- Traces of blood in the poo
- A firm tummy
Causes of constipation in babies
In some babies, long-lasting constipation may be related to Cows’ Milk Allergy (CMA). Cow's milk can be harder for babies to digest, particularly if they are used to breast milk.
Another possible reason may be that some babies have a slow gut (which is also common) so they will also not pass stools very often. A change in diet can also cause constipation as their body is learning how to cope with digesting new things. This could be from breast milk to first infant formula. In older babies, it can also be caused by not getting enough fibre, (such as fruit, vegetables and cereals) in their diet.
Dehydration can also cause constipation in babies. This can happen if your baby is poorly or if they are teething and finding it too uncomfortable.
Could my baby have Cows’ Milk Allergy?
Babies with CMA usually experience more than just one symptom and these symptoms can be very different from one another.
If you think that your baby has constipation, it may be CMA. You may have even noticed other symptoms (besides constipation), which may affect other parts of your baby’s body.
This will allow you to select all the symptoms that your baby may have that can be cows’ milk-related. You can then discuss these with your doctor.
In any case, if you have any doubts or concerns about your baby’s health, you should always seek advice from a medical professional as soon as possible. The information on this website should not replace medical advice from a medical professional.
Treating constipation in babies
If your baby has constipation because of cow's milk allergy (CMA), read our guide on feeding your baby and managing cow's milk allergy.
There are also some at-home remedies you can try:
- Water - if your baby is on formula, add a little bit of water between feeds.
- Tummy massage - use your fingertip to make circular motions across your baby's tummy in a clockwise pattern.
- Leg exercises - gently move your baby's legs as if they are riding a bike to help get things moving. or, bend your baby's knees toward their chest so it's easier for your baby to poo.
- Warm bath - this can relax their abdominal muscles and help them stop straining, as well as make them feel more relaxed in themselves.
If your baby’s constipation is caused by a food allergy such as CMA, you can try our infant formula, specifically designed to help manage CMA symptoms.
Cows’ milk allergy (CMA) is a common food allergy in baby’s and young children but it is often challenging to diagnose and may take many months and doctors appointments. If you suspect that your baby might have cows’ milk allergy, you can use SmilesBack to help shorten the journey to diagnosis and help put smiles back where they belong.
SmilesBack is an easy-to-use app that has been developed with allergy experts and tested by parents. It enables you to easily record your baby’s symptoms and feeds and summarise them in a one-page, expert-designed report, to support your doctor before they make a diagnosis.