A constipated baby is a cranky baby and a common question is whether a suppository is an option.
Constipation is what happens when the stool is compacted and there is a delay or difficulty in defecation (pooping), not how often they have a bowel movement. The consistency of the schools and how often they have them varies from age to age and between one baby and the next. Newborns have several loose seed-like stools per day, this is especially true if they are breastfed. Formula-fed babies tend to have darker and firmer diaper contents.
Once solid foods are entered into a baby’s diet, stools start taking on more form and come less often. 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.
Can I Give My Baby a Suppository? Answer: Try Other Options First
Newborn constipation occurs when your baby passes hard and dry stools. Signs of constipation include firmer stools happening less than once a day; strain or difficulty passing stools; harder, more pebble-like stools; grunting and turning red-faced while passing; blood streaks on the outside of the stool; and discomfort in the abdominal region.
How it Starts
Constipation occurs when too little water or poor muscle movement is present to help food digest. Normally, nutrients along wtih water are absorbed into the body, leaving the leftover waste to turn into stools. There must be enough water left over to help soften the stool, and this is where the intestinal organs of the lower body come into play. The rectal muscles must both contract and then relax in order for the stool to move along. When water in the body is scarce, or there is a disruption in the muscles, constipation occurs.
Constipation can be painful. Hard stools can be painful, therefore, children may “hold on” to it so they do not experience the discomfort. The longer they hold the stool in the harder it is to pass, which causes more pain for the baby when the time finally comes to let it go.
Passage of hard stools through a baby’s rather narrow rectum can often tear the rectal wall, creating blood streaks. This tearing causes more pain and can prompt your baby even more to not want to have a bowel movement.
The Normal Flow
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.
Common Causes of Constipation
A new food, even milk, can lead to constipation. If your baby has started on a new food, made the switch 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 triggered by emotions. If your child is upset, their intestinal system can become upset, resulting in either constipation or diarrhea, both equally irregular.
Be sure that your child is also getting plenty of water and other fluids. It may not seem like it but not getting enough liquids is a little-known reason for causing problems like 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 All Else Fails
If these techniques do not seem to be working, a glycerin suppository may work for newborn constipation. Some suppositories are available in child sizes, others may have to be sliced in half (or quarters). You may want to lubricate the suppository before gently pushing it into the anus. If the suppository is working, your child should poop relatively quickly.
Before giving your child a suppository, it is always best to talk with your child’s pediatrician. They may want you to try other non-medicated tactics first, or they may not believe there is a problem.
For Older Babies
For older babies who have started solid foods, adding more fruit (especially apples, prunes, plums, peaches and apricots, which are natural laxatives) or fruit juice to their diet will help relieve constipation and avoid the need for a suppository. Steer clear of foods that are known to bind, such as bananas and cheese.
While constipation can be painful for your baby, remember that it is normal and there are plenty of tactics out there to help relieve it. Remember to pay attention to the consistency of your child’s poop and not the frequency. As long as your baby is producing soft stools, there is no reason to be concerned.