Most new babies make a big production about having a bowel movement. They may strain, cry or get red in the face. However, if your baby is straining for long periods of time without producing a stool, having very hard stools, not stooling for days, and perhaps not eating as well, then he may be truly constipated. If your baby is at least one month of age and you think he is constipated, you can try giving him a little apple or pear juice. The sugars in fruit juice will allow more water to be drawn into the bowel and help to loosen the stool. The rule of thumb is to give 1 ounce a day for every month of life up to about 4 months (a 2-month old baby may have 2 ounces of juice). If you would prefer, you may dilute the juice with warm water instead of giving full-strength juice. A 50/50 dilution works well (instead of 2 ounces of juice, use 1 ounce of warm water to 1 ounce of juice). Sometimes the doctor may recommend using dark Karo corn syrup added to the bottle feeding to get the same effect, usually around 1 to 2 tablespoons per day. Once your infant is taking solid food you can try vegetables and fruits, especially prunes.
In addition to these dietary alterations, it can be helpful to keep your baby upright as much as possible. It is much easier to have a bowel movement when you’re upright than when you’re lying down! Placing your baby in an infant or carseat (safely secured, of course), or using a front-carrying snuggly sack works well.
In some cases you may see evidence that your child is obviously trying to have a bowel movement, but having difficulty doing so because of the size or firmness of the stool. In this case giving him a warm bath to relax his muscles, then using a rectal thermometer lubricated with some Vaseline may be helpful. Insert the tip of the thermometer into your baby’s bottom. This will not hurt him, but may stimulate the rectal muscle and lubricate the area enough to allow him to produce the stool more easily. If there is no stool present, obviously, this technique will simply not do anything.
As always, if none of these suggestions relieves the constipation, please give our office a call for further advice.