Constipation for Babies: Causes and Solutions

Moms always look forward to their babies’ laughs, smiles, and little new reactions. But there’s this bittersweet act of “pooping”, of which presence and absence are both unpleasant. Talk about parenting, right?

However, the frequency and texture of your baby’s bowel movement are very important to monitor.

Constipation in babies is a common complexity, and could happen due to a change in diet, certain allergies, wrong choice of formula, some medicines, or even family history

But don’t worry, it’s not a serious issue as long as you are well aware of its nature and possible remedies. Therefore, today I will be sharing with you facts and possible solutions for constipation.

Mirna Elsabbagh, Adult & Child Nutritionist - Breastfeeding and Child Nutrition

First of all, how to detect constipation?

Constipation can be detected by monitoring your baby’s poop. When it appears to be a hard, dark stool, or if his/her bowel movement is slow and inconsistent (every 5 to 10 days), then it’s most probably constipation.

Moreover, other signs include:

  • Stomach pain
  • Swollen belly
  • Reluctance to eat
  • Pain expression while having bowel movements


Now, what’s the treatment?

Well, there are several solutions to constipation, all depending on its reason and these include:

Try changing your diet

(Applicable if you’re breastfeeding) Your baby may be sensitive to something you’re eating, so you might consider readjusting your diet. For example, avoid dairy products for 10 days and detect the changes in their stool. Many many children will see immediate improvement after doing so. Avoid all dairy products including yogurt, cheese, or anything even soaked in dairy. 


It sounds really complicated but I promise it’s worth the try. You might actually love being dairy free! Many moms say they feel less bloated, more energetic, and observe better skin. 


If you’re worried about your calcium intake you can opt for a calcium supplement for around 750 mg per day.

Include high-in-fiber foods

(Applicable for the age of over 6 months) If your baby started eating, then you can feed them foods that are rich in fiber like broccoli, peaches, skinless apples and other fruits and vegetables. A lack of fiber is most of the time the reason children are constipated. 

Keep your baby hydrated

Hydration is crucial for your baby’s bowel movement. Therefore, make sure he is getting adequate amounts of water and milk. If your baby is over 6 months, fruits can also add an additional source of hydration.


Please note babies below 6 months should not get any additional fluids. 


Babies between 6-12 months should have around 120 ml of water per day but not more. 

Change the formula

(Applicable for formula-fed babies) Some formula types may not suit your baby’s body, so switching them could help treat constipation. For example, try goat milk based, semi-hydrolyzed, or cow’s milk protein-free formula. Discuss this with your doctor. Also note, improvement in symptoms may only show after ten days of starting the new formula. 


For toddlers above the age of 1, switching from formula to full fat cows milk could also create a period with difficulty digesting foods. Give your baby a little bit of time to get used to it. 


Stop giving dairy to your baby 

Some children have difficulty digesting yogurt, cheese, or any dairy product. Stop giving them dairy completely for ten days. Then see if symptoms improve. 


Generally if symptoms improve it doesn’t mean your baby should be off dairy forever. It could mean they can either handle a small amount only, or maybe they can have dairy normally if they take a lactase enzyme with it, or maybe they will be able to handle it as they get older or if they begin taking probiotics after consulting with a doctor. 


If your baby can’t have dairy you shouldn’t be worried. Most of the nutrients in dairy can be found in other foods. The only mineral to worry about would be calcium and there are many solutions to that too. You can replace cow's milk with dairy alternatives that are fortified with calcium. For example, in the case of a 2 year old, a cup of fortified almond milk and the same calcium as a cup of cow's milk. Or simply take a calcium supplement. 


For a list of calcium rich foods please click here


Caution: Babies below the age of 1 don’t need much calcium and also we cannot give them dairy alternatives instead of their formula. 


Other than that


Exercise and Massage your baby

This can help stimulate your baby’s bowel movement. Try gently massaging his/her abdomen and stomach several times. Also, try placing your baby, lift his legs, and move them in a circular motion. This can help contribute to a faster digestion process and constipation relief. 

And finally,

Consult your doctor

Your doctor or gastroenterologist could help you further with this problem. He/ She might help you eliminate issues like celiac disease or others, and could prescribe probiotics and other medications.

Mirna Elsabbagh, Adult & Child Nutritionist - Breastfeeding and Child Nutrition 

I hope this was helpful!

Mirna Sabbagh, an adult and child dietitian, nutritionist, and lactation consultant sees patients physically in Dubai, and also does online consultations for weight loss for adults and children, pick eating and  other services. In addition, she also has several digital courses: breastfeeding course,  starting solids 6-12 months course, child nutrition for all children including picky eaters, and also a weight loss course for adults that you can sign up for from the comfort of your home. You can also e-mail Mirna for questions on info@mirnaelsabbagh.com