Prune juice often creeps up as a possible remedy for constipation in babies. But is it safe? Parents often wonder when their child is ready to have juice. Contrary to what many people believe, juice is not as healthy for your child as some people think.
Can I Give My Baby Prune Juice? Answer: After 6 Months
First, your child should not be given juice until they are at least six months of age. Until that age, your child is getting all the nutrients he or she needs for healthy growth and development from breast milk or formula. Their tummy is not ready to digest anything except formula or breast milk.
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When your baby is old enough for juice, it is certainly okay to give it them on occasion; however, formula/breast milk and water should make up the majority of liquids your child consumes.
Prune Juice Varieties
Prune juice is good for your baby. Keep in mind that there are baby-specific juices available, which contain less added sugars and sweeteners than regular juice. Although they are more expensive, they are much better for your baby. Juice should always be diluted with water when giving it to your child. Diluting recommendations are typically 25% juice to 75% water.
How To Serve Prune Juice
Prune juice (as well as all other juices) should always be served to your baby in a cup, never a bottle. The reason for this is to help reduce the risk of tooth decay, as the fruit sugars and acids are more likely to “pool” around your baby’s teeth when served from a bottle. These sugars feed the bacteria that is known to cause plaque. Every time a child consumes a sugary liquid, acid attacks the teeth and gums. After numerous attacks, tooth decay can begin.
Juice And Tooth Decay
If your child suffers from tooth decay, the teeth will need to be professionally fixed so that the surrounding teeth do not become infected. Cavities that are not fixed can lead to painful abscesses and early tooth loss, as well as the loss of spacing needed for incoming permanent teeth.
Nutritional Value Of Juice
Prune juice contains Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Riboflavin, Niacin and Vitamin B6. It is high in carbohydrates and dietary fiber. It contains Iron, Potassium and Manganese.
Your baby should be limited to consuming 4 to 6 ounces of juice per day. Children who consume more than this recommendation have been known to suffer from malnutrition. Never serve your child juice in replace of whole fruits. Fruit juice and whole fruits do not have the same nutritional value, and whole fruits are much more healthy for your child.
Side Effects Of Prune Juice
Consuming too much fruit juice can also cause diarrhea. Many juices contain sorbitol, which is a nondigestable form of sugar. Excess sorbitol levels cause the body to try to dilute the sugar by pulling water from the bloodstream into the intestine, which causes loose stools. That is how prune juice, which is high in sorbitol, works, which is why most parents turn to prune juice when their child is constipated. Note that most pediatricians recommend serving whole (not diluted) prune juice to your child if he or she is constipated. Just remember to switch back to diluting the juice if you are simply giving it to your child as a treat.
Water vs Juice
Giving your baby water before giving them juice is recommended. Not only will it be healthier in the long run, but by serving them water, you are not making your child dependent on a “sweet” drink.
Making Your Own Juice
If you wish, you can make your own fruit juice at home using the natural juices from whole fruits. There are plenty of homemade juice recipes that are safe for your baby. These recipes can be found in cookbooks or on the Internet. Even though you are making them home, juice should still only be served to your child on a sporadic basis.
Remember, while prune juice is safe for your baby after six months of age, it is best to limit your child’s intake to 4 to 6 ounces per day. Water, breast milk and formula are all your child needs to consume for healthy growth and development. Do not forget to dilute your child’s juice with water before serving. There are plenty of baby-friendly brands of prune juice available, or you can make your own.
If you have questions about serving prune juice to your child, it is recommended to consult your child’s physician. He or she will be able to address your concerns more thoroughly.
Constipation In Newborns
Before you reach for prune juice, here are a few ideas for your newborn.
Signs of constipation may include a quick drawing up of the legs, a red face and grunting as your baby attempts to pass a bowel movement. Signs of discomfort or excessive crying when trying to pass a stool. Examine the stools your baby passes. Hard, compacted stools in pebbles indicates there is not enough moisture and that your new born is constipated.
- obvious discomfort
- hard pebbled stools
- drawing up their legs
Determine when your baby last had a bowel movement. As a new parent this may have slipped your mind, so if you can keep a diary noting the details it will help you keep track. Newborns can have a bowel movement anywhere from a few times a day to once a week – although if your baby is not passing a stool after three days it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor. You should also try and keep a diary of wet nappies and note if they are very wet or less wet – it can help a doctor determine if your child is dehydrated.
If your baby’s stool habits remain irregular there may be an issue with their nutrition. You should talk to a professional to avoid complications linked to constipation.
Formula and Constipation
One of the leading causes of constipation or diarrhea is infant formula. While your baby is getting used to the formula brand you prefer their digestive system may struggle with getting used to it initially. This can lead to constipation or diarrhea. Because a baby’s digestion is so sensitive, you should not be surprised to see problems with bowel movements whenever you change formula. This should balance itself out though and should not continue for more than a week.
Some formulas are easier for your infant to digest, so if your baby continues to have trouble with bowel movements talk to your health care professional about switching brands. It is not unusual to have to try a few brands before finding what suits your infant.
Tips and Tricks To Try
- If you are breastfeeding, increase your own water intake. You may be dehydrated and so your breast milk is not as fluid as it could be.
- Break up feeding time. Smaller feeds more often may help ease the load on a baby’s sensitive digestive tract. You are giving your baby a better chance to digest the nutrients it receives in smaller doses.
- Apply a small dab of lubricating gel to your baby’s anus to allow the stool to pass more easily. Avoid using a mineral oil.
- Take your baby’s temperature using a rectal thermometer. The baby pushes against the thermometer and it can get things moving.
- Massage your baby. It can help your baby relax and make them feel less tense meaning the stool may pass more easily. You can also try massaging your baby’s stomach in a circular motion near the naval to promote bowel movement.
- Place your baby on their back and gently grasp their feet. Move your baby’s legs up and down as though they were riding a bicycle. Do this slowly and gently for a few minutes throughout the day. The exercise can stimulate a bowel movement.
- A warm bath can help relax the baby and prompt a bowel movement. You can also place a warm face cloth on the baby’s stomach. Take care it is not hot, only warm.
- Speak to your baby’s health care provider about the use of glycerin suppositories. These suppositories get inserted into your baby’s anus to help lubricate hard stool, making passage easier. Suppositories are a temporary solution and only for occasional use.
- Refrain from treating constipation in your baby with the use of laxatives or enemas without a health professional’s approval including natural laxatives such as prune juice.