Baby foods that cause constipation are a common gastrointestinal problem. Recently, a patient brought it to my attention that there are certain foods that can cause constipation in babies. The baby we are speaking of here is her 1 year old toddler son. Why am I speaking of baby food and constipation? Well, it’s simple really: constipation is usually caused by an improper diet and insufficient fluids. Most pediatricians would agree about this. However, many pediatricians and parents fail to realize that some types of baby food can be a cause of constipation too. Let me explain why.
Foods that can cause constipation in babies :
Below are the lists of foods that may cause constipation in babies:
1. Milk protein:
Protein in milk can cause constipation in babies. So, you need to be careful once you start giving formula milk. Babies may even develop allergies towards the protein, which is present in breast milk, which will result in constipation.
2. Formula food:
There are ingredients present in formula food, which are difficult to digest by babies, thereby causing constipation. Complex proteins are also present in formula milk, which causes hardening of the poop.
The two solid foods most mothers consider while starting solid foods are rice and porridge. Some babies may find it hard to digest rice and may feel constipated.
Raw or juice form of carrot is good for babies. When you give steam cooked carrots to your baby it may cause constipation. Steamed carrots tend to solidify the poop causing it difficult for babies to excrete.
5. Raw banana:
Raw bananas are given to babies either as a cooked vegetable or as a porridge, which is made out of raw banana powder. Unripe banana can cause gastric problems in babies and they may feel constipated.
Apple has a property to harden the stool and is usually given as a home remedy for diarrhoea. A popular baby food, steamed apple can cause constipation in babies. Also, avoid giving applesauce to your baby as it contains a substance called pectin protein, which is known to harden the stool.
Essential vitamins and minerals are present in cheese. It is also a superfood for babies. It is usually given as a snack for babies. However, cheese is low in fibre and can cause constipation.
8. White bread:
White bread is made with an all-purpose flour. It is a processed form of grain and contains low fibre. White bread lacks fibre in substantial quantity and this causes constipation in babies.
These are high rich starch vegetables, which give babies the energy to grow and function. Most of the tubers, except sweet potato, have less fibre and make it difficult for babies to pass stool.
Yoghurt contains good bacteria which facilitate digestion. It also has a binding effect on food substances and sometimes may cause constipation in babies.
These foods are known to trigger gassiness and constipation in most babies. But, it is important for you to keep track of your own baby’s symptoms related to what they are eating. What triggers constipation in one child may not necessarily be the same in another baby. To help avoid constipation in babies, you need to feed your little one foods that are high in fiber content or have natural laxative properties. Just some small dietary changes can make your baby feel better and get his digestion flowing more smoothly. By adding some of the following foods to your baby’s diet you will surely get the “poop talk” back to a more positive conversation.
Foods to Help Relieve Constipation in Babies:
- Cheerios: High in fiber. Try the whole grain option for babies who are already eating finger foods.
- Soy Products: This can be especially helpful for babies who are allergic to milk proteins. If mom avoids dairy and replaces it with soy products, her breast milk may become more favorable for baby’s digestion.
- Berries: Berries of all kinds are packed with fiber and their natural sweetness is a favorite of children of all ages.
- Prunes and figs: Packed with fiber and also a natural laxative. You can cut them into small cubes and allow baby to feed himself or serve as a juice or ice pop
- Oatmeal and other whole grains: These are naturally high in fiber and energy. Oatmeal is available commonly as a pre-cooked baby cereal and whole grain bread is a good source of whole grain for your baby. **Try mixing the cereal with a little prune juice!
- Beans: “Beans, beans the magical fruit, the more you eat the more you toot!” We already know that beans, of any kind, have a great mixture of soluble and insoluble fiber both of which help in digestion and help to promote more regular bowel movements.
- Pears, Plum, and Apples: All are rich in fiber and are available to be purchased in baby food jars at your grocery store or can be served cubed to baby.
- Sweet Potatoes: These are extremely rich in fiber, it’s best to have them with the skin on, however this can be difficult for babies to chew so consider a puree
- Nuts: Most nuts are a great source of protein and fiber – but feed them in moderation because they are also high in fat. Most pediatricians recommend waiting until one year of age to serve nuts and tree nuts to children for the sake of allergies.
- Water: Additional liquid into baby’s diet will help to keep stool softer. Offering water or diluted juice in a sippy cup will help with constipation. (However, always check with your doctor before adding water or other liquids to baby’s diet as babies younger than 6 months generally get all the water they need through breast milk or formula.)
Hopefully just some simple diet modifications will leave your baby pooping freely and feeling much more comfortable! Remember that every baby is different and their body will react differently to certain foods.
If simple diet changes don’t seem to make a difference please seek out the advice of your doctor so they can rule out any other serious issues.
Breast milk is easy for babies to digest. In fact, it’s considered a natural laxative. So it’s rare for babies who are breastfed exclusively to have constipation.
But that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.
Every baby poops on a different schedule — even ones who only are fed breast milk. Read on to learn more about constipation in babies, including symptoms, causes, and how to treat it.
Symptoms of constipation in a breasted baby
How can you tell if your baby’s constipated? It’s important to note that the frequency of bowel movements isn’t always an accurate indication of constipation. Neither is seeing your baby grunt or strain while having a movement.
Many babies look like they’re pushing when they’re having a bowel movement. That may be because babies use their abdominal muscles to help them pass stool. They also spend a lot of time on their backs, and without gravity to help them, they may have to work a little more to move their bowels.
Better indications of constipation in a breastfed baby are:
- firm, tight, distended belly
- hard, pebble-like stools
- crying while having a bowel movement
- not wanting to feed
- bloody stool that is hard (which may be caused by hard stool tearing some of the anal tissue as it passes)
Causes of constipation in breastfed babies
For the most part, breastfed babies don’t experience constipation until solid foods are introduced, around the time they’re 6 months old. Some foods that may be constipating include:
- Rice cereal. Rice is binding, meaning it absorbs water in the gut, making stool hard to pass. Consider switching to oatmeal or barley cereal if your baby show signs of constipation.
- Cow’s milk. This is usually introduced at about a year.
- Bananas. This fruit is another common culprit of constipation in babies. You can try feeding it to your baby pureed with some water or 100-percent fruit juice mixed in.
- A low-fiber diet. White pastas and breads are low-fiber foods. Without enough fiber, it may be harder for your baby to pass stools.
Other things that might produce constipation include:
- Not giving your child enough liquids. Always try to breastfeed your baby before offering solids. Liquid will help your baby pass their stools more easily.
- Stress. Travel, heat, a move — these can all be stressful to a baby and cause constipation.
- Sickness. Stomach bugs can cause vomiting and diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration and constipation. Even something like a common cold can decrease your child’s appetite and, because of nasal congestion, make it uncomfortable for them to nurse. Less liquid means more chance for constipation.
- Medical condition. A medical issue, such as having an abnormality in the digestive tract, may cause constipation, although this is rare.
What’s a typical poop schedule for a breastfed baby?
A normal amount for a baby to poop varies by age, and, yes, the baby’s diet. Here’s a sample poop timeline for breastfed babies from Seattle Children’s Hospital:
|Days 1–4||Your baby will poop about once a day. The color will change slightly from dark green/black to dark green/brown and it’ll become looser as your milk comes in.|
|Days 5–30||Your baby will poop about 3 to 8 or more times day. The color will change slightly from dark green/black to dark green/brown and it’ll become looser and then more yellow as your milk comes in.|
|Months 1–6||By the time they’re about a month old, babies are pretty good at absorbing all the breast milk they drink. As such, they may pass a few soft stools each day or just one soft stool every few days. Some babies don’t poop for up to two weeks, and that’s still considered normal.|
|Month 6–onward||As you start introducing solid foods to your baby (at about 6 months) and cow’s milk (at about 12 months), your baby may poop more frequently. That’s because your baby’s digestive system is still immature and has to figure out how to digest all these new foods. On the flip side, your baby may now become constipated. Some foods are naturally constipating, and cow’s milk can be hard for even some mature digestive systems to handle.|
Constipation while breastfeeding remedies
Here are some tips to prevent and treat constipation:
- Add more fiber to their diet if your baby’s started solid foods, Switch from rice cereal to barley, which has more fiber. When you start introducing fruits and vegetables, try high-fiber ones like pureed prunes and peas.
- Pump your baby’s legs back and forth as if they’re riding a bicycle. Also, put them on their tummies with some toys and encourage them to squirm and reach. Activity can encourage a bowel movement.
- Give your baby a tummy massage. With your hand just below the navel, gently massage your baby’s tummy in a circular motion for about a minute.
Can a nursing mother’s diet affect constipation in baby?
Can a nursing mother’s diet cause — or relieve — a baby’s constipation? The short answer is probably not.
According to a 2017 study of 145 women in the Korean Journal of PediatricsTrusted Source, there are no foods a breastfeeding mom needs to avoid unless the baby has an obvious negative reaction to it.
Gas and fiber are not passed from mom to baby. Neither is the acid from acidic foods like citrus and tomatoes. A breastfeeding mom can have pretty much any food she wants in moderation.
According to La Leche League International, it’s not what or how much you eat or drink that stimulates your milk — it’s your baby’s ability to suck that gets the milk coming. Also, breast milk is made from what’s in your bloodstream, not your digestive tract.
Still, it’s important to eat a nutritious, well-balanced diet when you’re nursing, more for your own health and well-being than your baby’s.
When to talk with a pediatrician
Don’t hesitate to call a doctor if:
- these simple remedies for constipation don’t work
- your baby seems in distress
- your baby refuses to eat
- your baby has a fever
- your baby is vomiting
- your baby has a hard, swollen belly
Your doctor will examine your baby and may even order special tests, like an abdominal X-ray to check for intestinal blockages. You can ask your doctor about using suppositories and which ones are safe, though these are not often recommended or needed.
Never give a baby a laxative or suppository without checking with a healthcare provider first.
Precautions when trying home constipation remedies
Laxatives and enemas offer fast constipation relief in adults. However, don’t give these to your infant or toddler. Only a doctor should recommend this.
You can safely give one to kids 4 years and older to soften stools and relieve constipation, though.
Always consult a doctor before giving children a laxative or enema. They can recommend a safe dosage.
Medical treatment for constipation in babies, toddlers, and children
If home treatments don’t improve constipation, your pediatrician may administer a gentle enema to release impacted feces.
Before treatment, your pediatrician will complete a physical examination and check your baby’s anus for impacted stool. They may ask questions about your child’s diet and physical activity to help diagnose constipation.
Medical tests aren’t usually necessary. In cases of severe or long-term constipation, your pediatrician may order tests to check for problems in your child’s abdomen or rectum.
These tests include:
- abdominal X-ray
- barium enema X-ray (takes pictures of the rectum, colon, and parts of the small intestine)
- motility test (places a catheter in the rectum to examine muscle movement)
- transit study (analyzes how fast food moves through their digestive tract)
- rectal biopsy (removes a piece of tissue and examines nerve cells in the lining of the rectum)
What is not Constipation?
*Large bowel movement at regular intervals without pain or staining
*Regular soft stools in an infant with straining. Infants often strain, grunt, pull
up their legs, and become red in the face with stooling. It can be difficult for a
young baby to coordinate the passage of a bowel movement, especially lying
down. This is called Grunting Baby Syndrome, and usually resolves between
2 and 4 months of age
*Stools passed without pain or straining every 2-3 days, and are soft.
What are Possible Causes, or Combination of Causes for Childhood Constipation?
*Over abundance of dairy products in the child’s diet
*Voluntary withholding of stool for fear of painful bowel movement, due to past painful
bowel movement (This is especially common in older toddlers and preschoolers)
*Forced toilet training, leading to anxiety and tension, or voluntary withholding as a way
to exert control
*Repeatedly waiting too long to go to the toilet
What Should I Know About My Infant’s Diet?
*Baby food low in fiber and high in starches, which may worsen constipation, include
carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, bananas, applesauce, and rice cereal. You
do not need to avoid these foods, but rather avoid pairing them at a meal. Instead,
balance these foods with foods that are high in fiber and low in starch.
*Baby foods higher in fiber and lower in starch, include oatmeal cereal, barley cereal,
apricots, prunes, peaches, green beans, peas, and spinach.
*Infants without constipation should avoid fruit juices until at least 6 months of age.
However, if instructed by your physician or nurse, up to 4 ounces per day may be
given to aid constipation. Juices containing sorbitol are best, such as apple juice,
pear juice, and prune juice.
*Adding extra water to the infant’s daily fluid intake is always ok, and may also aid
*While in some cases constipation is caused solely by cow-milk based formula (Similac,
Enfamil, Carnation Good Start, WalMart brand …) do not switch to soy formula
(Isomil, Prosbee …) without consulting the nurse or physician. If advised, a
minimum of 10 day trial of soy is needed to determine if any benefit.
Inadequate amounts of fluid intake over days, weeks, or months
Inadequate dietary fiber intake
Over abundance of starchy foods (especially carbohydrates) in the child’s diet.
Fiber is an essential nutrient that adds bulk to the stools and facilitates their smooth passage. Besides, it acts as a natural prebiotic that promotes good bacteria (probiotics) growth and supports gut health. Therefore, selecting age-appropriate high-fiber foods for babies is essential. Perhaps it is the reason that the American Dietetic Association (ADA) recommends people across age groups consume sufficient amounts of dietary fiber from various plant foods.
Scroll down to read more about dietary fiber and its possible benefits for babies, its side effects, and some high-fiber recipes you can feed to your baby. But before we dwell on details, let’s first understand the basics and learn some basic facts about fiber and its types.
Is Fiber Good For Babies?
Fiber is good for babies. The inclusion of dietary fiber in a baby’s diet can help enhance gut microflora and keep the digestive system healthy. Research suggests that the first years of life are crucial for establishing a healthy colonic microflora, as well as good eating habits . Thus, the intake of dietary fiber for babies is beneficial.
Dietary Fiber And Its Types
Dietary fiber or fiber is a type of complex carbohydrate found in plant foods. It cannot be easily digested in the small intestine, and this brings in the health benefits associated with it.
There are two forms of dietary fiber, soluble and insoluble. Most plant foods contain some amount of each type, which can provide specific health benefits.
How Much Fiber Do Babies Need?
There are no clear guidelines on the recommended amount of dietary fiber for babies younger than one year. Nutrition experts recommend five grams of fiber a day for children below the age of two years. It is best to consult a pediatric nutritionist to know about the ideal limit for your baby.
Uses Of Fiber For Babies
Fiber is an important part of an individual’s diet. It is helpful in the following ways for the baby:.
- Supports digestive health: Insoluble fiber, a type of dietary fiber present is whole grains, whole pulses, raw fruits, and vegetables is vital for maintaining digestive health. Upon ingestion, it swells up in the intestine by trapping water and adds bulk in the diet leading to smooth passage of stool. It helps prevent constipation, and supports the pH of the intestine, and prevents colonization of harmful microbes .
- Good for gut microflora: The total dietary fiber, i.e., soluble and insoluble fiber, works as prebiotics or food for millions of probiotic bacteria living in the human gut. According to a research study published in the Journal of Cell Host and Microbe, the type, quality, and origin of food impacts the gut microbes.
- Strengthen immunity: Dietary fiber works as prebiotics and helps enhance immunity by increasing the population of beneficial microbes, such as lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria . These bacteria could help fight harmful pathogens, and thus boost immunity.
- Supports absorption: A healthy gut harbors healthy microbiomes that assist in the proper digestion of food and absorption of nutrients. Both these processes are vital for maintaining overall health and well-being.
- Improves appetite: Soluble fiber helps keep the tummy full. On consumption, it combines with water and forms a gel-like structure that delays gastric emptying. This mechanism increases the total amount of time the food stays in the gut and thus facilitates the sensation of satiety. It also helps in the secretion of appetite-regulating hormones within the gastrointestinal tract .
There are several sources of dietary fiber for babies. In the next section, we tell you about the fiber-rich foods you can feed your baby.
High Fiber Foods For Babies
A well-balanced, fiber-rich diet for a baby includes foods from the following food groups.
1. Grains (and cereals)
You can include cereals and grains in a baby’s diet as they begin eating solids. It will add variety in the meals and ensure the intake of fiber along with other vital nutrients. A few options that you can try are oatmeal, brown rice, barley, whole wheat, and maize. Besides, you can also try adding some pseudocereals such as quinoa, buckwheat, and amaranth .
Babies can consume all vegetables pretty much at the onset of starting solids. Vegetables are a good source of micronutrients and dietary fiber. Besides, they are not high in simple carbohydrates. A few high-fiber vegetables that you could try for your baby are spinach, broccoli, beans, edamame, sweet potato, corn, and carrots. Give these vegetables in cooked and pureed form since babies might find it difficult to digest raw vegetables. Or if using the baby-led weaning approach to feeding, give the vegetables cooked until soft and cut into wedge-sized pieces for younger babies, or bite-sized pieces for older babies.
Fruits contain dietary fiber and also several micronutrients. It is good to include at least one fruit a day in your baby’s diet. Some high-fiber fruits that you can consider are watermelon, muskmelon, apple, banana, strawberries, and blackberries.
4. Dried fruits
Dried fruits are potential choking hazards for babies around 6-12 months of age . But you can serve them in cooked and pureed form. Once your baby has started finger foods, you can cook dried fruits or chop them into small pieces to feed the baby. Some of the high-fiber options are prunes, apricots, dates, and figs.
5. Pulses and legumes
Pulses and legumes are considered a good source of protein and micronutrients like iron, potassium, and folate. However, they are also good sources of dietary fiber. Some options from this food group that you could include in your baby’s diet are horse gram, Bengal gram (whole), kidney beans, split peas, lentils, and chickpeas.
Possible Side-Effects Of Excessive Fiber Intake
People who consume fiber are less susceptible to chronic diseases. But you shouldn’t go overboard because it could have some adverse outcomes.
- High fiber and low water intake may lead to constipation or diarrhea.
- It might lead to a decrease in mineral absorption, which could be detrimental to the baby’s health.
- Consuming excessive fiber may cause flatulence, bloating, abdominal cramps, and nausea.
- It may cause a decrease in appetite in some cases and might lead to growth failure.
Precautions To Take While Introducing Fiber Foods To Babies
- Observe variety and moderation in the foods you give your baby.
- Start with a single grain (or cereal) for young babies. As the baby grows older, you can start multigrain meals.
- Minimize fiber loss by not peeling fruits and vegetables. Scrape them instead.
- Consult a pediatrician before starting a new fiber food for your baby.
- Water intake, along with fiber intake, is important. Fiber needs water to function . Offer small amounts of water (1-2oz) in an open cup with meals. Breast milk or formula are still the primary sources of nutrition for the entire first year, so make sure to give a milk feed an hour or so before offering solids to maintain hydration levels.
- Babies must have fiber from natural foods only. Avoid using isolated or commercial fiber.
Ways To Include High Fiber Foods In Baby’s Diet
The following are a few interesting recipes to include fiber in your baby’s diet.
For babies five to six months old
Babies at this age do not develop eating skills and digestive systems. So, the best way to introduce food to them is in the puree or mashed form. It ensures easy swallowing and digestibility.
For optimum fiber intake, vegetables like sweet potato, carrot, and green peas can be included in the diet. You can also include fruits like apple, banana, and raspberries.