Constipation in babies is a common problem for parents. Constipation looks different for every bub, but it’s not a pleasant or comfortable experience! The good news is there are ways we can get their bowels moving using natural and gentle methods.

Watch the video below or keep reading to learn about alleviating constipation in babies naturally.

Constipation is a common digestive condition in babies. It can look different in every baby, but generally it involves one or more of:

  • Infrequent bowel movements
  • Bowel movements that are hard, dry and/or dark in colour
  • Difficulty passing bowel movements

Constipation is more common in formula-fed babies and babies born via C-section. It can also occur when you first introduce solids into a baby’s diet.

Some of the signs of constipation in babies include:

  • Discomfort
  • Tummy pains
  • Irritability
  • Reduced appetite
  • Slow weight gain

Common causes of constipation in babies

There are many causes and contributing factors when it comes to constipation. It’s important to understand why your baby is constipated so that you can relieve it naturally.

Common causes and contributing factors include:

  • A natural tendency towards constipation – some babies have a slower transit time through their gut. This often occurs in bubs with a family history of constipation.
  • Low fluid intake – not enough fluid means bowel movements are drier and harder. This is a common problem that comes up when babies first start solids.
  • Low fibre intake – breastfed babies will have sufficient fibre, as breast milk is high in prebiotic fibres. However, formula-fed babies or babies who consume solids may not get enough fibre.
  • Holding on behaviour – this can occur in babies who have experienced a painful bowel movement. They hold on because they are afraid of the pain returning, but this means the stools will be harder and more compact. It can become a long-term negative cycle if not addressed.
  • Food sensitivities and intolerances – food issues often play a role in constipation.
    There are many intolerances that can contribute, but dairy, gluten and wheat are the most common. One study found that 80% of children with chronic unresponsive constipation improved with a dairy-free diet.  Constipated children also consume more dairy.
    It’s best to work with a professional to help identify any potential food issues.

Dysbiosis and constipation

A key underlying cause of constipation is dysbiosis. Simply put, this is an imbalance of microbes in the gut.

Research has shown that there is a link between these two conditions. It can go both ways – constipation can affect the microbes, and the microbe balance can lead to constipation.

There are many factors that are common among babies that can throw off the balance in the gut. These include:

The good news is that there are small changes you can make to support a diverse and healthy gut. To get started, make sure you download our free Kids Gut Health Ebook here.

Natural ways to relieve constipation in babies

Formula-fed babies

Constipation is more common in formula-fed babies. But there are several easy changes you can make.

  • Choose a formula that contains probiotics and/or prebiotics
  • Switch to goats milk or low allergenic formula
  • Consider extras for your formula. You can add probiotics and/or prebiotics, but it’s best to do so with professional guidance
  • Offer boiled, cooled water between feeds
  • Use physical movement such as a clockwise tummy massage or bicycle their legs
  • Give your baby a warm bath to relax and warm up the muscles

Breastfed babies

It’s not as common for breastfed babies to experience constipation. However, it can still happen. You can make changes such as:

  • Breastfeed more frequently to increase their fluid intake
  • Look at Mum’s diet – if bub has an intolerance, Mum’s diet may be contributing. It’s best to work with a professional who can identify which foods may be a problem
  • Offer boiled, cooled water between feeds
  • Use physical movement such as a clockwise tummy massage or bicycle their legs
  • Give your baby a warm bath to relax and warm up the muscles

Babies on solids

Once your baby has started transitioning to solids, there are more steps you can take to address constipation.

  • Start slowly when introducing solids. Start with fresh fruit and veggies, which are a good source of fibre and nutrients. Don’t rush and add in a heap of foods, as this can make it harder to pinpoint sensitivities.
  • Add foods with a slight laxative effect. Soaked prunes or prune juice can be mixed into porridge. Flaxseed/linseed meal is easy to add to pureed veg or porridge. Stewed apple or pear is another good option.
  • Balance fruit out with veggies whenever possible to increase fibre
  • When you introduce grains, start with gluten-free wholegrains. For example, you can start with quinoa, buckwheat, brown rice and oats. Further down the track, try grains such as rye and spelt.

Can I use prebiotic and probiotic supplements?

We always recommend starting with Mum and bub’s diet first. But supplements are often warranted for babies with chronic constipation issues. We need to look at the main contributing factor of dysbiosis and optimise their gut health.

With probiotics, it’s important to get a baby-specific supplement. Babies have more Bifidobacterium, so a good baby probiotic will often contain this. We also like including L. rhamnosus LGG, as it helps support immune development and regulation.

There are also some gentle options out there for a prebiotic supplement. We often recommend PHGG, or partially hydrolysed guar gum. This can help to improve gut-related symptoms in babies, including constipation.

When it comes to constipation in babies and children, a healthy gut is key.

To learn how to optimise the health of your baby’s gut, make sure you download our FREE Kids Gut Health Ebook here.