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Constipation in babies

Is baby upset, restless and not filling his nappy so much? Are his bowel movements irregular and very firm? Then he has constipation. A good rule of thumb is to keep your child hydrated with plenty of fluids and make sure he is physically active. Here are some tips and advice for relieving baby's constipation.

Constipation can be caused by many things. A common cause is being weaned from breast milk to infant formula. You should expect baby's bowel movements to become firmer over some days until her digestive system has got used to the change in diet.

Symptoms of constipation in infants
Babies who are only fed breast milk rarely get constipated, but for those who are not breastfed, some of the following complaints may be symptoms of constipation.

• Baby refuses to feed, appears to be in pain, and her belly is distended.

• Baby strains to open her bowels.

• Baby is straining and gets upset when she tries to open her bowels.

• Tiny cracks around the anus may bleed and cause pain.

• Baby is leaking runny poo.

• Baby's bowel movements are far less frequent than they were before.

Try the following if your baby has problems pooing
• Gently massage baby's tummy in a circular clockwise motion if he seems to appreciate it. Otherwise, stop. Watch our short video giving you tips on baby massage.

• Bathe your baby in nice warm water and massage her tummy while she rests in the tub. Again, you want to be sure baby is enjoying it.

• Hold baby upright or lie him on his back and gently bend his knees up to his chest a few times. If it appears to hurt, stop.

• If your baby is formula-fed, consult a paediatric health professional and considering switching to a different brand of formula.

Foods for baby's constipation:
• Ripe banana
• Mashed peas
• A little rapeseed oil
• Plenty of fluids
• Pear
• Puréed prunes

Seek professional advice
If you are in doubt and concerned about your baby's bowel movements, seek medical advice, e.g. from a paediatric nurse. Always seek medical advice if:
• your child has recurrent bouts of constipation.
• baby alternately suffers from constipation and diarrhoea.
• baby is distressed by the pain of pooing.
• baby is only fed breast milk and is passing hard, pellet-like poo.
• baby's bowel problems have lasted a week.
• baby has tummy ache.

Always seek professional advice
Call the out-of-hours health service or take baby straight to A&E/casualty at hospital immediately if your baby has trouble pooing and has any of the symptoms below:
• Vomiting.
• Blood and mucus in the stool.
• Stomach ache.
• Cold sweat and distended belly.

If in doubt, seek medical advice
Seek medical advice from your doctor or a paediatric nurse if you are worried or if the constipation persists. Do not delay.
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