Constipation in babies and toddlers – the signs, the causes and the cure

The warm weather can change everyone’s digestion. You may find you’re feeling more dehydrated and thirsty and this may also affect your baby. If you’ve noticed your little one’s nappy is cleaner than usual and they’re hardly pooping, it may be a sign that he or she is constipated.

All parents should monitor how regularly their baby goes, especially in the warm weather, when they may be dehydrated.

Health Professional Educator Emma Park explains to The Healthy Mummy everything you need to know and look out for when it comes to your bub’s bowel movements.

baby crying

Constipation in babies – the signs, the causes and the cure

Emma says the first question you need to ask is whether or not they are really constipated.

“It’s common for babies to only pass a bowel motion once per week,” she says.

“It’s also normal for them to strain. If they are in pain or stools are like pebbles than this is classed as constipation.”

Common Breastfeeding Struggles1

Breastfed infant:

Stool pattern varies for breastfed infants, it can be several times a day  or once a week.

Emma says if you are breastfeeding them and they are constipated, it may be down to you not drinking enough water.

“It could contribute if mum is very dehydrated, often breastfeeding stimulates the thirst response,” she says.

“Drink a glass of water every time you feed and eat a diet containing high water content foods, such as fruit and veg and especially leafy greens.”

Don’t forget The Healthy Mummy Smoothies ARE safe to consume while breastfeeding and have been formulated by leading nutritionists, dieticians and with input from Monash University and it offers an excellent source of essential vitamins, minerals, nutrients and important antioxidants.

Find out more info here. 

bottle fed new born baby

Formula-fed infants:

Babies who are formula fed from birth should poo daily in first month and at least every second day from then on and stool should be soft and easily passed.

If your baby is not being breastfed and they are constipated, then Emma suggests if they are under six months to add lactulose (2ml) to their daily feed after seeing a GP.

“If they are over six months, warm water or diluted prune juice between feeds may help,” says Emma.

“Or try massaging their tummies in a clockwise direction, make cycle movements of their legs and try a warm bath to help their digestion.”

When transitioning to solids, Emma says it’s important to introduce water at the same time, i.e. every time you give food to your little one, give water as well, as also in between meals.

baby with bottle


When it comes to toddlers being constipated, Emma suggests giving them stewed apricots, pears, prune juice and warm water with and in between meals.

“Try to include lots of plant foods and high fibre content foods regularly,” she says. “But avoid BRAT foods, which are often recommended for diarrhoea, such as bananas, rice, apples and toast. And avoid excessive dairy.”

When to see a GP

If the constipation isn’t relieved by the above methods or your baby is in pain.

Other things to know include;

“If there has been use of medications (antibiotics, losec, nurofen etc.) either directly to the infant or to mum whilst breastfeeding – this can disrupt the balance of bacteria and microbes in the gut,” she says. 

“A specific strain probiotic can aid restoration of beneficial flora levels and assist with constipation.

“Ensure to include plant foods and fibre that are PRE-biotics (i.e. they feed and nourish the bacteria) and are crucial to restoration of good bacteria levels.”

 Thanks so much Emma for this useful information.

If you have a little one and want to read more health and safety articles relating to their health, scroll through our kids health archives


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