I have been contacted a lot recently by parents whose babies have started solid food and the parents are worried that their baby has become constipated.
When a baby starts to eat more solid food the poo changes. Up until the start of solids a breast fed baby typically passes stools that are a yellow/mustard colour and are pasty in texture. Formula fed babies have stools that can be yellow or brown and are a bit firmer in texture than breast fed babies. Once babies start to eat solid food their poo becomes darker, smellier and firmer with more of a play doh like texture. It may occasionally have bits of undigested food in it such as raisins or sweetcorn.
So what is constipation and what are the symptoms of it?
According to the NICE guidelines https://cks.nice.org.uk/topics/constipation-in-children/,
constipation is described as ‘ a decrease in the frequency of bowel movements, characterized by the passing of a hardened stool (poo) that may be large and associated with straining and pain’.
The symptoms of constipation are as follows.
Fewer than 3 normal bowel movements a week.
So what is a normal bowel movement?
Normal poo is semi-soft. It is described as type 3-4 on the Bristol Stool chart. See attached link to see what I am referring to:
Hard large stool (poo).
Poo that looks like rabbit droppings. Type 1 on the Bristol Stool chart.
A baby who shows signs of distress and pain when opening their bowels.
A baby who is straining.
Other symptoms may include a loss of appetite, disturbed sleep and a hard or firm stomach. They may have very smelly poo or increased flatulence. Your baby may well be very irritable and unsettled. Constipation is very uncomfortable!
So if your baby is showing two or more of the above symptoms this is what you can do.
Firstly it is best to treat it conservatively with diet. Foods that are high in fibre are a great start. They can make the stool softer as well as adding bulk to the stool. This makes the passing of poo out easier and quicker. Foods high in fibre include Apples, pears, plums, kiwis, prunes and blueberries. Parsnips, broccoli, butternut squash, avocado,fresh tomato sauce. Wholegrain breakfast cereals such as porridge and bran flakes. Beans, pulses and nuts. Seeds such as flax or chia seeds.
You may notice that a certain food makes your baby more prone to bouts of constipation so just leave it out of the diet for now. Other things that can help is allowing baby to exercise what physical skills they have. Exercise is known to help constipation. Gentle tummy massage, baby’s like this especially after a bath. Moving their legs in a cycling motion when on their backs can also help.
If none of this works and the problem remains, then it is best to contact your Doctor.
Vanessa Campion is a Registered Nurse, Health Visitor and Holistic Sleep Coach. She works at Savoy Personal Parenting support and can by contacted either by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by