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6 Baby Constipation Remedies That will Defeat Any Backed-Up Bowel

I never realized how obsessed I’d be with poop. 

That’s one of the sentences I wrote down in Bella’s journal describing our trip to see a poop specialist (i.e. pediatric gastroenterologist) three weeks after she was born.  Honestly, it’s one thing all pre-parents say they will NEVER do, and then promptly forget 3 hours after childbirth.

Why the flip-flop?  Because we quickly realize that 99% of parenting a baby is guesswork.  

The other 1%?

It’s poop.

Super Poop.

Poop that tells us how healthy our baby is.  Defecation that teaches us that she’s getting enough to eat and drink.  And so we track it.  On our phones.  Inside journals.  Even jotted down on napkins and paper towels.

We obsess over it.  Why? Because it’s one of the strongest indicators of a baby’s health! 

Today I’m clearing up misconceptions about constipation, and offering some suggestions on how to fight against the Evil Master Plan of the Nefarious Villain… *glancing around in fear*  THE BACKED-UP BOWEL.

*lightning crashes*

The Constipation Question

The first misconception many parents have is that they think constipation is diagnosed by frequency.

Nope.

Constipation has more to do with texture than timing.  

Here’s the phrase I want you to remember:  thicker than peanut butter.  If your baby is delivering diaper specimens that are more like soft-serve ice-cream than ice cubes, your child is not constipated.  Even if that bowel movement has been delayed several days (or even up to a week in some babies.)

Still feeling unsure?

This poop chart is a tired parent’s radioactive spider bite.

Yes, there’s visuals (Praise God, they’re graphics and not photos), but you can’t get any clearer on the definition of constipation than this.

As in everything else, your baby’s digestive track is going to be uniquely theirs.  It will take time, and perhaps some tracking, to tell you what the NPH (Normal Pooping Habit) is for your child.

Two Constipation Power-Twins
You Need to Know About

When it comes to constipation, there are two medical conditions (aka “Power Twins”) you should be aware of.

One is wimpy.  (Think Toby Maguire’s Spiderman.)

The other is deadly.  (Ultron, people.  Get thee to an Avengers Super-Lair Emergency Room.)

Dychezia: Toby Maguire’s Spiderman

Dychezia (dye-cheese-ee-ah) is when a healthy newborn under 6 months is straining and crying and pushing their little heart out, but consistently produces very soft stools.

All that effort…and it’s soft.

Fortunately, is not as scary is it sounds. 

In this form of self-limited constipation, the baby’s body is learning to poop. It is not the result of a functioning body that can’t poop.

This condition isn’t dangerous, and usually goes away in a few weeks.  (Do mention it to your doctor for a diagnosis, though! )

Intussusception: Ultron

Intussusception is when the intestine slides in on itself (like a sliding spyglass) and creates a blockage. It is most common in boys between 5 and 10 months old.

He will show signs of intense abdominal pain, causing him to draw his knees up to his chest. It may happen on and off for a while. You may also see bloody colored stool and mucus excreted. He could also vomit, have a distended tummy (sticks out abnormally) or seem excessively drowsy.

This is a very serious condition.

That said, I’m not sharing it here to freak you out.   If you think your baby maybe have intussusception, call your doctor right away.  He will let you know if you should freak out.  Not me.  Him. Until he gives you the “time to head to the ER” sign, keep your emotions and imagination under tight control because you don’t know anything yet.  

Okay, back to the main point of this article – defeating your Absorption Adversary.

How to Defeat the Backed-Up Bowel

OKAY, PEOPLE.  SUIT UP. We are about to take on one of life’s most persistent’s enemies.

The Adversary of Adsorption.

The Defecation Disruptor.

*snapping a plastic glove*

It’s time.

Check-In with Nick Fury

The first thing you should do before doing anything about your baby’s battle with the Backed-Up Bowel, is to call your doctor.

Why?

Because the doctor is your Nick Fury.  Your Alfred.  Your Jarvis.

He’s there to make sure you don’t make a terrible mistake.  Always give him a call before attempting to offer your child one of the suggestions below.

Baby Constipation Remedy #1
The Juice-inator

Prune juice is usually one of the first things doctor’s suggestion as a baby constipation cure.  This is because prune juice contains more unabsorbed sugars – which means they help keep more water inside the poop.  (The moist a poo, the less constipating.  *dry heave* )

That said, some babies may get gassy, bloated,and fussy, after using prune juice.  So keep that in mind and watch them carefully to see if it helps, or makes things worse.

  • For babies younger than 4 months, mix in a tablespoon of prune juice in 4 oz of formula or breastmilk.
  • For babies older than 4 months, dilute 1 oz of the juice with 4 oz formula or breastmilk.

I wouldn’t do the above more than twice a day, without a doctor’s permission.

You HAVE called your doctor, right?  Because it’s important he’s in the loop on these things.  Remember, I’m not a doctor! Always go with your doctor over anything you read on the Internet.  (Even at Incredible Infant!)

If your child gets fussy with the prune juice, you can try 100% Apple or Pear Juice instead.  (Again, with a doctor’s permission – I can’t stress that enough!)

Be careful you don’t overdo the juice thing, since it can harm tooth enamel and increase blood sugar levels.(Translation: make nap-time a nightmare.)

If you’re going to use juice, I would recommend diluting it and offering it only at meals, not as something to be sipped throughout the day.

Baby Constipation Remedy #2
Aquaman

Starting at around 7 months, provide 1 tablespoon of water in a sippy cup during mealtimes, increasing the amount as he grows.

Another great Aquaman trick is to give your baby a warm bath, gently rubbing his tummy in a clockwise motion.

Hint:  Fill a cup at the beginning of the day, and store it in the fridge in between mealtimes to easily track water intake!

Baby Constipation Remedy #3
Captain Cuisine

Another sound technique in pummeling the Backed-Up Bowel, is to invite other team members to the fight.  If your baby is eating solid foods, look for ways to add more of the following foods to his diet:

  • peaches
  • pears
  • peas
  • apricots
  • plums or prunes
  • broccoli
  • spinach
  • ground oatmeal, millet or brown rice

These are great allies to keep in the fridge, but not all foods are friendly.  Here are some foods you’ll want to avoid until you’ve achieved a Diaper Victory:

  • rice cereal
  • bananas
  • carrots
  • applesauce
  • diary products (except yogurt)
  • white bread, pasta or potatoes

What About Corn Syrup?

Some doctors may recommend giving your baby a small amount of Karo Syrup to help draw fluid into the bowel and ease constipation.  Several studies in the 80’s seemed to indicate that giving your baby Karo Syrup (a brand of corn syrup) could increase the risk of infant botulism.  New studies have shown, however, that is not the case (click here for details).  Karo syrup is now considered a safe treatment for constipation, under a doctor’s supervision.

Karo Syrup may be okay, but honey is not.  Never give a child under one honey.

Baby Constipation Remedy #4
Suppleman

Superman Suppleman helps your baby fight constipation with magic potions, solutions, and brews.

Here are some smart supplements you can give your baby, after your pediatrician Nick Fury, has approved, of course.

Magnesium Citrate

Magnesium citrate is what PhD people call an “osmotic laxative”.  It sucks water into the stool to soften and make it easier to pass. It doesn’t stimulate a bowel movement, it just makes it more likely.  It’s also nonaddictive, which is a major bonus.

Obviously, pills are out for your baby, so you’ll be better of using the transdermal approach. In other words, a good pre-bedtime lotion made with magnesium chloride (which absorbs better than magnesium sulfate.) Not only will the lotion help keep things moving, some people (ahem, here) claim magnesium can help babies sleep better.

So let’s summarize:

  • Fearless fighter of the fiend Backed-Up Bowel?  check
  • Great way to add a little baby massage into the bedtime routine?  check
  • Sleep soother?  check

You should definitely try this magnesium lotion.  (After Nick Fury approves, of course!)

Probiotics

Doctors are quickly becoming more and more impressed with the little superhero called Probiotics.  They’ve recently been found to help babies with colic and acid reflux.  Here are the two brands of baby probiotics I recommend (choose whichever fits your family best).

Miralax or Movicol

Miralax (US) or Movicol (UK/Australia) is an over-the-counter constipation treatment some doctors will recommend if it seems nothing else is working.

There is some controversy about using it long-term in young children you’ll want to be aware of.  Read the NY Times article that stirred the pot, before clicking here to read a pediatrician’s response.

Be sure to ask your doctor about his opinion before moving forward with this treatment.  This is NOT something you want to use without his advice and instructions!!

Baby Constipation Remedy #5
The Frog

You know that cute “froggy” position babies have when they’re newborns?  Recreating that can help with newborn constipation. Bunch his little legs up, so he’s squatting on your forearm (like a frog).   This provides a little extra pressure on his rectum, encouraging him to pass some poo.

You can do this to older babies as well, but it get’s harder the bigger they grow.  Instead, try the bicycle:

  • lay him gently on his back
  • grab his ankles
  • slowly rotate his legs around like he’s riding a bicycle

The Bicycle Method is also helpful if there’s trapped intestinal gas, so brace yourself for some cute toots!

Finally, when you are changing his diaper wipe around the anus, rubbing gently. This is also a gentle stimulant to help get some poopage.

Baby Constipation Remedy #6
Cat Woman

If you sat down to discuss your baby’s digestive aliments with Catwoman (because why wouldn’t you…??), I think the remedy she would recommend is pretty obvious. 

Right?   (Can you guess??)

 

Milk!

She’d tell you to switch formulas.

Certain babies tend to seize up with certain formulas.  (Good Start users – that’s a common complaint I hear.) If your baby is frequently struggling with constipation and is drinking formula, I would recommend switching to a different brand.

The brand I would switch to? Brace yourself, it’s going to surprise you. I would strongly encourage you to switch to Kabrita Goat’s Milk Formula.

Why? Because science has shown that goat’s milk creates a smaller curd when in the stomach. One that’s a lot easier for your baby’s tummy to digest, which means it’s easier to avoid constipation.

Of all the baby constipation remedies I’ve listed, the switch to a goat’s milk formula has shown to have the greats impact on chronic constipation. 

Why does Kabrita’s formula say “toddler formula”? It’s an FDA labeling requirement. The formula is perfectly nutritionally balanced for babies as young as 6 months who have started supplementing with solid foods.

 

 

Knowledge is {Super} Power

There’s a very high chance your child is going to suffer from constipation at some point. In fact, this article claims the constipation problem may be reaching epidemic portions in westernized nations.

What does that mean? It means that the chances of your baby getting through babyhood and toddlerdom without dealing with the Backed-Up Bowel on occasion is unlikely.

Know thy constipation enemy, friend, and then use your secret parenting powers to defeat him.  Over and over and over again.

We  honesty!  This post contains affiliate links that provide extra money for our mutual coffee habits addictions. Click here to learn more.

Citations

Preventing Infant Botulism
All About Miralax
Is Miralax Safe for Kids
Constipation Remedies
Constipation in Young Kids

20 thoughts on “6 Baby Constipation Remedies That will Defeat Any Backed-Up Bowel

  1. Thank you Heather!!! I for sure will be seeing about another doctor in the next week. I want him to gain weight, but being miserably constipated isn’t worth a few ounces! I’ve stopped the baby cereal too seeing that it’s basically just a filler, and doesn’t have much caloric value for him. Also, it sorta tries to constipate him too! I’d rather him eat baby food with some actual carbohydrates, and more formula, rather than have him full off of the cereal that’s not really that beneficial. (I am not saying for anyone not to feed their baby cereal!!! Just my personal opinion!)

    I just wanted to reach out, and see what anybody else thought about it, and maybe even help out other mama’s that may be experiencing the same thing! If your doc won’t listen to you about your concerns about your baby then find someone who will! My concerns were pushed to the side with, “Give him some Karo or juice. He’ll have a bowel movement.” without ever suggesting any other treatment. Karo works, but I’d rather not give my 4 month old pure corn syrup if I don’t have too!

    Thank you, again, for your advice and the great articles to read!! Your page has helped me A LOT! 🙂

  2. Hey Heather!

    My 4 month old is currently on an organic formula that we order from Germany. His nurse practitioner that we see has been on us since his 4 month well visit about his weight. He gained an ounce within a week of his appointment. (She had us coming back every week for a weight check.)
    We have tried similac advance, and that resulted in super gassy and screaming all the time. Then we tried similac sensitive, and to no avail, he was gassy and had diarrhea!! Then we tried gerber gentle, and he went 5 days without pooping, and when he did he had a tough time. We were told they don’t consider it constipation until they go 7 days!! Well, he was miserable after 5 so I don’t agree with that standard. So, after tons of research on what is put into formula, we landed on the German formula. He’s been fine ever since! Except she’s not happy with his weight. He was 25 3/4 inches long, and weighed 12 lbs. 13 1/2 oz at his 4 month well visit. I tried the similac organic, and he was miserable! He had the worst constipation I’ve ever seen! So I switched him back to the German without consulting her. (We are switching pediatricians because we don’t like the bedside manner.)Also, we have been giving him some baby food as well, and he’s done great with it.
    Nothing has kept him comfortable except for the German formula. His daddy was a slow gainer as a child so I’m wondering if this is just genetics coming into play or if I should be worried and trying to find a new formula so he can gain weight.
    So, my question is, what formula would ANY ONE recommend for softer stools, and to help him gain weight?! I’m desperate!

    Thank you for any input!!

    -One worried mama!

    1. Kayla, I’m so sorry you’ve had such trouble! Exhausting! I think you’ve done several great things here. Firstly, you’re going to find another pediatrician. That’s a tough step to take, but it’s SO important! Not sure if you’ve seen Chelsea’s article, Paging Dr. Right: 7 Questions to Find Your Perfect Pediatrician, but it may be helpful!

      (For those reading comments, if you’re wondering if your pediatrician should be axed, check out Is Your Pediatrician a Prince? or a Toad?)

      Secondly, you’ve been asking a LOT of questions, and using your own gut instinct to help guide you. Yes, gaining weight is extremely important. That’s why it’s good you’re getting another opinion. I personally think you’ve done the right thing going back to the German formula, since you need him to EAT as much as possible. (That’s not an endorsement! I’m not a doctor, that’s just my thoughts.) I would get yourself into another doctor’s office as quickly as possible, and then hear their suggestions. In the meantime, perhaps increase the number of times you’re feeding during the day. Perhaps every 2 or 2.5 hours? Hope this can help, friend!

  3. If you’re going to do the prune, Apple or pear juice in with a bottle how do you make it? Make a 4 ounce water an formula mixed bottle then add a teaspoon of your choice juice to it? Should it be warmed?
    Also- with Karo. You’re suppose to do 4 ounces of water to two scoops of formula to create a 4 ounce bottle. After you do that do you then Add the Karo or let the Karo be included in the 4 ounces of wAter you already have. How much Karo should be done in each bottle?
    Baby is on soy formula an stays constipated. Need help! Formula works great for her besides she needs to poop!

    1. Amanda, the amount of juice will depend on the age of the baby. Give your doctor’s office a call. A nurse will be able to help you with that. You don’t want to overdose and give your baby diarrhea. I believe for younger babies it’s 1/2 to 1 teaspoon, but check with the office to make sure. Hope this can help, Amanda!

  4. Does the size of the poo matter? What I mean by that is, is it a good indicator that a toddler is getting enough to eat? Is there such a thing as a poo that is too small or too large? Sorry, I know the question isn’t really on topic.

    Two of my favourite constipation remedies are corn and also pumpkin seeds. My almost 18 month old seems to get really efficient (for want of a better word) after eating those. Especially if she drinks a lot of water before doing said poo.

    1. Rebecca, the amount of poo has more to do how efficient your child’s digestive system is. If you’re worried about that, ask your doctor.

      Those are great suggestions! Especially now that we’re moving into the Fall. Thanks for adding them!

  5. Hello,

    I am having extreme difficulty feeding my 3-month old baby girl. I initially decided to breast feed but she refused to do so. I do not have time to pump and bottle feed her unfortunately because I also have a three year old that keeps me on my toes. I had to start her on formula but ended up with a projectile vomiting infant. I have tried every formula on the market it seems from soy to hypoallergenic to amino based. Each one caused a new problem. She was diagnosed with acid reflux but I cannot get any medication down her without her throwing it back up. We have tried three different ones. I’m so frustrated and not sure what to do. The doctors are pretty much dismissing my concerns and telling me to pick the formula that has the least side effects. I have a milk allergy so apparently she does also. Any milk based formula gives her horrible gas. Even nutramigen causes gas and vomiting because it still has a milk protein in it. She did wonderful on soy but it constipated her horribly. So I tried it with prune juice and it caused horrible gas so we were back at square one. I tried the amino based formula but it tasted so bad she vomited it right back up. She must have a bad gag reflex because any medication I try to give her she vomits no matter how quickly or slowly I give it to her and no matter what the medication is. I am at a loss and am looking for any advice anyone can give me. I have a extremely fussy miserable baby and therefore a miserable mommy. Please help.

    1. Jayne,

      It sounds like it’s time to see a specialist! It might be time for you to have a swallow test done. I can’t diagnose of course, but you need to speak to someone who can. You may need to switch to a different pediatric group to find someone who will listen and work with you. I recommend you take a look at this article. You are your child’s advocate and sometimes that means you might need to be a little bit forceful, or tenacious… or both!

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