Constipation in newborns

Jo 6 years ago

Having a newborn baby is incredibly exciting and filled with many precious moments, yet it can also present itself as a daunting time. When your tiny newborn baby is clearly experiencing some digestive discomfort, you may feel helpless and keen to make them more comfortable.

Constipated newborn

Constipation in newborns can be distressing for both mother and baby 

Here I hope to provide a guide to constipation in newborns, and some tips to help provide relief from constipation. If you are in any way concerned, please do not hesitate to seek advice from your GP or health visitor.

Is my newborn baby constipated?

As a new mother, experiencing motherhood for the first time, it can be tricky to tell the difference between what is normal, and what is not. If however your baby is clearly uncomfortable, and may be straining excessively or producing very hard pellet-type stools, or have not passed a stool for three days, they may be suffering from constipation.

It is worth noting that breast fed babies will often pass less stools than formula fed babies. This is because breast milk has been extremely well-designed by mother nature, and as it is such an easily absorbed food, very little is passed out of the body as waste. Breast fed babies are also more likely to pass paler and softer stools. 

Formula milk may be more difficult for some babies to digest, leading to constipation, particularly if they are experiencing the transition from breast milk to formula.

Formula Milk

Formula milk is more likely to cause constipation in newborn babies 

It is important to remember that like adults, all babies are different and some may pass more stools than others. You will soon become familiar with what is normal for your baby, and if you suspect your newborn is constipated we have suggested some tips below to help relieve the problem :-

1. Massage

Using gentle abdominal massage techniques, or rotating your baby's legs in a cycling motion, may help to stimulate your baby's bowel, helping to relieve constipation in newborns. We have previously written about massage for helping to relieve constipation which you may like to read here.

2. Ensure adequate hydration

Dehydration is a common trigger of constipation in newborns. In particularly warm weather, you may like to increase the number of breast feeds your baby has in order to help prevent dehydration. With formula fed babies you may like to introduce bottles of sterilised water in between feeds to help increase hydration levels.

3. Boost levels of healthy bacteria   

Constipation in newborns may be triggered by imbalance in their natural levels of gut bacteria. Probiotics can be a helpful tool to bring the levels of beneficial gut bacteria back into balance. A natural birth helps to ensure that a newborn baby's gut is colonised by their mother's bacteria when travelling through the birth canal. If a birth by C-section is your choice, or perhaps unavoidable, it may be helpful to supplement with OptiBac Probiotics 'For babies & children' to help support the levels of health bacteria in your newborn baby.

OptiBac Probiotics 'For babies & children' is designed specifically for babies, and is suitable for newborns

OptiBac Probiotics 'For babies & children' is designed specifically for babies and children, and is suitable from birth. I often recommend it in my practice, and advise breastfeeding mothers to sprinkle some of the tasteless powder (conveniently packaged in individual sachets) on their nipple at each feed. Otherwise I suggest they add to expressed breast milk or formula, whichever is relevant for them. You can read more about 'For babies and children' here.

We hope this helps provide a useful guide to determining the possible cause of constipation in newborns, as well as some handy tips to help relieve the problem. Always seek medical advice if you are concerned about the health of your baby.

You may like to read more about probiotics and constipation, and click here for information about constipation in toddlers.  

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