Your parents might have used it, but should you give your baby lactulose?
Nobody likes to feel constipated. When it occurs, we are always turning to a specific product or home remedy to cure it. So what should we do when our child is constipated? Can they use the same products and remedies we do?
Before helping your baby alleviate their constipation, it is important to make sure they are indeed constipated. Constipation refers to the compactness of the stools and a delay or difficulty in defecation (pooping), not the frequency of the bowel movement.
The consistency and frequency of stools varies from age to age and baby to baby. Newborns have several loose seed-like stools per day, especially if breastfed. Formula-fed babies tend to have darker and firmer stools.
Can I Give My Baby Lactulose? Answer: Not Recommended
Some parents use a product called Lactulose, a synthetic, non-digestible sugar used in the treatment of chronic constipation and hepatic encephalopathy, a complication of liver disease. It is a disaccharide (double-sugar) formed from one molecule each of the simple sugars (monosaccharides) fructose and galactose. The commercial syrup used for treatment of constipation is dyed yellow-orange. It is produced commercially by isomerization of lactose.
While Lactulose is safe for adults, there are plenty of baby-specific products that should be used to alleviate your child’s constipation with the okay from your child’s doctor.
If your child is constipated and nothing seems to be working, it is best to consult your child’s pediatrician. They will be able to discuss other options for your child that are safe.
Remember that constipation refers to consistency of your child’s stool and not the frequency. As long as your baby is producing soft stools, there is no need to break out the prune juice or be concerned. If you notice hard pebbles or pain or grunting, that would be the best time to consult your child’s physician.
How the Problem Starts
Once solid foods enter a baby’s diet, stools become more formed and less frequent. While one stool per day is preferable, some babies can go days without having one. Constipation is hardly a problem for children who have yet to start solid foods and particularly rare for breastfed babies; however, it can happen.
Newborn constipation occurs when your baby passes hard and dry stools. Signs of constipation include firm stools less than once per day; strain or difficulty passing stools; hard, pebble-like stools; grunting and turning red-faced while passing; streaks of blood on the outside of the stool; and abdominal discomfort.
Constipation occurs when too little water or poor muscle movement is present to help food digest. Normally, water and nutrients are absorbed, leaving the waste material to become stools. Enough water must remain to help soften the stool, and the lower intestinal and rectal muscles must contract and relax to move the stool along. When there is too little water or a disruption in the muscles, constipation occurs.
The Problem Magnifies
Constipation can be painful. Hard stools cause pain, therefore, children may “hold on” to it so they do not experience the discomfort. The longer the stool remains, the harder it is to pass, making it even more painful when the time comes. Passage of hard stools through a narrow rectum can often tear the rectal wall, creating streaks of blood. This painful tear can prompt your baby even more to not want to have a bowel movement.
While babies should have one bowel movement a day, the main concern for constipation is the consistency. There should be no worry for constipation as long as your child’s stool is soft. In babies, it is the texture of the poop that is important, not the frequency. For toddlers, not having a bowel movement at least once during the period of a week would be constipation.
New foods or milk can set off constipation. If your baby has started new foods, switched from breast milk to formula, switched from one formula to another, or switched from formula to milk, this could be the reason they are constipated. The cause of constipation can also be emotional. If your child is upset, their intestinal system can become upset, resulting in either diarrhea or constipation.
Be sure that your child is also getting enough water and/or fluids. Not drinking enough fluids is a subtle contributor to problems with constipation, especially in the very young.
If your baby is having trouble pooping, try putting them in a warm bath. That should relax their anus and surrounding muscles enough to help them go. You can also try to massage his or her tummy, or move their legs as if they are riding a bicycle. Try pushing their legs up to their chest as if they’re in a squatting position. This motion may help get things moving.
When your child is constipated, some parents turn to over-the-counter or wives tale remedies like lactulose to cure it. These remedies should be avoided at all costs, as some of them may be harmful for your child.