Constipation in the baby
Constipation in babies means irregular defecation in the diaper. Typically, a baby can have up to three bowel movements a day.
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If the frequency of defecation deviates significantly from this norm, constipation is suspected. Additional symptoms such as flatulence, abdominal pain or abdominal cramps support this assumption.
The cause of constipation in babies can be diet-related on the one hand and disease-related on the other.
If the diet is responsible for the disturbed defecation, the most common reason is a change in the diet from breast milk to porridge and complementary foods. The baby comes into contact with new food components for the first time. Both the soft to pulpy consistency of the new food and the resulting breakdown of the food by the body's own enzymes represent a new challenge for the child's intestines. It is therefore not surprising that digestive disorders can occur at the beginning. Often, however, it is only bridging and can be alleviated through supportive measures such as adequate fluid intake.
If, on the other hand, the constipation is due to illness, it will not improve significantly over time. Often the symptoms even worsen. Often an allergy to food ingredients such as cow's milk protein is the trigger for constipation. It can be treated well by replacing the protein.
Also read our topic: Baby's allergy to cow's milk
In rare cases, however, inflammatory bowel disease or a structural change in the bowel can make it difficult to defecate. The principle here is to have a thorough medical examination carried out. The earliest possible therapy promises the most success. Constrictions in an intestinal area can thus be successfully eliminated and inflammatory intolerance reactions to gluten, for example, can be treated well with a targeted diet and, if necessary, medication.
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The administration of complementary foods to the baby very often causes constipation. Complementary food is understood to be the additional feeding of crushed fruit or vegetables to the normal feeding of breast milk. In most cases it is demanded by the baby himself through an increased interest in food from the fifth to sixth month. The addition of complementary foods to breast milk is an individual process and should be done gradually.
The most common problem for constipation is changing one's diet too quickly. The child's bowel is confronted with complementary foods with non-liquid foods for the first time. Conversely, this means that he has to break down the food himself into its components. The intestine must gradually adjust to this change. In addition, curiosity about the new food is greater at the beginning than about breast milk. The necessary fluid intake is therefore often reduced and the stool thickens excessively. Regular fluids prevent constipation.
Read more on the subject at: Complementary food for babies
Feeding porridge is a common cause of constipation in babies because it usually contains less fiber than complementary foods. It is precisely the high proportion of cereals in the form of oat or rice flakes that often leads to impaired defecation. The cereal portion is very suitable for satiating a growing baby who needs more and more food to grow. However, in addition to the beneficial dietary fiber, cereals also contain proteins that can make the intestine sluggish. The result is delayed and difficult defecation
Parents can self-diagnose constipation in babies. In daily use you should pay attention to the frequency of bowel movements and the texture of the stool. For babies on a pure breastmilk diet, up to three bowel movements per day are normal. They should have a soft consistency.
Only significant deviations from the norm should be clarified.
Constipation is just a symptom that suggests that defecation is impaired. It is to be seen as a generic term for several physical abnormalities. If stool cannot be excreted, it accumulates in the intestine and leads to an increase in volume of the affected areas. Often times, this shows up in a baby in a bloated and hard stomach. Of course, the unusually heavy filling of the intestinal loops can be painful for the baby because sensitive nerve endings in the intestinal mucosa are irritated. Constipated babies are often tearful and unhappy as a result.
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If the constipation persists, it can even lead to a loss of appetite or even to the refusal of breast milk. A well-observable sign of constipation is a change in the consistency of the bowel movements. Should the stool become noticeably firm or even smell bad, this speaks for a longer passage time in the intestine. This should be responded to with an adapted dose of fluids.
However, a thin stool can also indicate constipation. If hard stool blocks the passage of further intestinal contents, the child's intestine reacts with increased muscle movements in the intestinal loops. The aim is to remove the obstacle. If this does not succeed, however, liquid parts of the bowel move past the obstacle and can falsely simulate diarrhea.
What can you do about it?
It is always recommended to treat constipation as gently as possible. The most natural thing is to increase the amount you drink. If the baby is already consuming other fluids than breast milk, attention should be paid to unsweetened drinks.
It is also advisable to stimulate children's peristalsis. For this purpose, parents can do light gymnastics in the form of circular leg movements like when cycling with the baby. The effect is that the movement activates the bowel and also promotes blood circulation. This exercise can be repeated several times a day for a few minutes. If this is not enough, a light massage of the abdomen can provide relief. To do this, the stomach should be lightly massaged with circular movements clockwise. It is important not to put too much pressure on the stomach. In terms of intensity, the touch should correspond to the light laying on of the fingertips. Only when these measures are unsuccessful and the baby shows significant impairment should herbal products, lactose or suppositories be used. Not every delayed defecation requires treatment. Sometimes waiting is enough. The reason for further measures should always be determined by the general condition of the baby. A happy and content baby should therefore not be influenced from the outside in its digestive rhythm.
Home remedies for constipation are not used until the baby is big enough to ingest food and fluids other than breast milk. Then it is advisable to offer plums in every variation. It does not matter whether they are consumed in the form of a juice, prunes or plum jam. The dietary fiber it contains swells up during the digestive process in the intestine and thus stimulates peristalsis. The most powerful laxative effect is ascribed to the plum juice. This is due to the increased content of fruit acids.
If the baby does not like plums, another type of fruit such as apples can be used as an alternative.
Only bananas are not suitable in case of constipation, as they have a thickening effect.Gentler home remedies are lukewarm teas that should be drunk with every meal. The lukewarm temperature particularly activates the intestines, as it optimally promotes blood flow to the intestinal mucosa. Which variety is drunk is more likely to be neglected. Rather, it is about increased fluid intake during the day. However, teas with caraway seeds and aniseed have proven to be particularly stimulating. They have an antispasmodic effect and relieve flatulence at the same time.
Suppositories should only be used if more gentle measures against constipation in the baby fail. They are available on a purely herbal basis as well as on a basis containing active ingredients. The principle of action is the same for both. A suppository is inserted a few centimeters rectally into the rectum in order to act locally. By releasing its ingredients, it leads to a softening of the stool in the rectum and thus enables easier defecation.
Herbal suppositories with caraway seeds achieve this effect through their essential oils. Active ingredient-containing suppositories with glycine achieve this via strong water binding in the rectum. If suppositories with minerals are used, they gradually lead to a release of carbon dioxide. The harmless gas also leads to sensitization of stretch receptors in the rectum, which initiate defecation.
In most cases, however, it is the mechanical irritation when inserting the uvula that releases a blockage. Often babies tense up in the context of constipation for fear of painful defecation with very hard stools. If the tension from the sphincter is briefly interrupted, in most cases bowel movements are initiated. The lubricants contained in the suppositories also ensure painless bowel movements. The hard stool slides easily past the mucous membrane due to the fatty ingredients. Small tears in the mucous membrane are avoided and the baby allows for a regular, relaxed bowel movement again after a few positive experiences.
Doctors love to use milk sugar to treat constipation. The body ingests it naturally with food and is therefore very well tolerated. Lactose helps relieve constipation by drawing fluid into the loops of the intestine. In higher doses it cannot be completely split up and thus remains in the intestinal lumen. Fluid enters the intestinal lumen reactively to compensate for the difference in concentration between the lumen and the concentration in the blood.
As an effect, the stool becomes softer and the peristalsis is stimulated. The only danger is that the baby will lose excessive fluids. Therefore, care must be taken to drink enough.
The mechanical stimulus of a clinical thermometer in the rectum can also clear a blockage. The impulse for defecation is given by the irritation of the mucous membrane in the rectum. Usually this occurs through a build-up of stool in the ampoule of the intestine. The stool presses on the mucous membrane at some point and stretch receptors then give the signal for the relaxation of the sphincter muscle and a simultaneous rhythmic contraction of the intestine. A clinical thermometer can also irritate these receptors and cause stool to be emptied.
Caraway suppositories are a gentle herbal alternative to relieving constipation. It is above all the essential oils contained in the herb that are said to have an antibacterial and antispasmodic effect. Caraway is particularly helpful when babies also suffer from flatulence.
However, it takes about thirty minutes for the suppositories to take full effect. It may also be necessary to repeat the dose.
The duration of constipation in the baby depends on the cause. In general, constipation should not last for a long period of time. A daily defecation is not necessarily the goal of treatment. It can even take up to months in individual cases before a diet can be successfully changed. Therefore the duration is very individual.