There are a number of fruits good for constipation in babies that can be eaten as a snack. Fruits good for constipation in babies can be given to your baby whenever you start observing signs of constipation. The following are some fruits that are helpful in alleviating constipation in babies:
Constipation in infants and children
All topics are updated as new evidence becomes available and our peer review process is complete.
Constipation is a common problem in children of all ages. A child with constipation may have bowel movements less frequently than normal, or their bowel movements may be hard, large-caliber, or difficult and painful to pass.
Most children with constipation do not have an identifiable underlying medical problem causing their symptoms. Constipation generally resolves with changes in diet or behavior or sometimes with medicine. You can try some of these treatments at home. If home treatment is not helpful, talk to your child’s health care provider.
This article will focus on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of constipation. More detailed information about constipation in infants and children is available by subscription.
NORMAL VERSUS ABNORMAL BOWEL HABITS
The “normal” amount of time between bowel movements in infants or children depends upon their age and what they eat. The look of the bowel movement can also vary.
Normal bowel habits
●During the first week of life, infants pass approximately four soft or liquid bowel movements per day. Infants who are breastfed generally have more bowel movements than those who are formula-fed
●During the first three months of life, breastfed infants have approximately three soft bowel movements per day. Some breastfed infants have a bowel movement after each feeding, whereas others have only one bowel movement per week. Infants who breastfeed are rarely constipated.
●Most formula-fed infants have two to three bowel movements per day, although this depends on which formula is given. Some soy- and cow’s milk-based formulas cause harder bowel movements, while formulas that contain partially or completely hydrolyzed milk proteins (sometimes known as “hypoallergenic” formulas), which may be recommended for infants with an allergy or sensitivity to cow’s milk, can cause loose bowel movements.
●By two years of age, a child typically has one to two formed (firm but not hard) bowel movements per day.
●By four years of age, a child usually has one or two formed bowel movements per day.
Abnormal bowel habits
●An infant who is constipated typically has bowel movements that look hard or pellet-like. The infant may cry while trying to move his or her bowels. The infant may have bowel movements less frequently than they used to, for example, having a bowel movement every one to two days rather than the previous normal of three to four per day.
You may be worried that your infant is constipated if he or she seems to be straining during a bowel movement, causing his or her face to temporarily turn red. In most cases, this happens because young infants are not able to coordinate muscle movements when having a bowel movement. You can help by gently bending your child’s hips and legs up towards the abdomen. This helps to relax the muscles in the pelvis, releasing the bowel movement. The infant probably is not constipated if he or she passes a soft bowel movement within a few minutes of straining.
●If your child has fewer bowel movements than usual or complains of pain during a bowel movement, he or she may be constipated. For example, a child who normally has one to two bowel movements every day may be constipated if he or she has not had a bowel movement in two days.
A child who normally has a bowel movement every two days is not constipated, as long as the bowel movement is reasonably soft and is not difficult or painful to pass.
●Many children with constipation develop unusual habits when they feel the urge to have a bowel movement.
•Infants may arch their back, tighten their buttocks, and cry.
•Toddlers may rock back and forth while stiffening their buttocks and legs, arch their back, cross their legs, stand on their tiptoes, and wriggle or fidget or they may squat or get into other unusual positions.
•Children may hide in a corner or some other special place while doing this “dance.”
Although these behaviors may look like the child is trying to have a bowel movement, the child is actually trying not to have a bowel movement. This might be because they are frightened of the toilet or worried that having the bowel movement will be painful.
WHY CONSTIPATION DEVELOPS
Pain — When the child does have a bowel movement, it can be painful and lead them to withhold (avoid going) in an effort to avoid more pain.
On occasion, a child may develop a tear in the anus (called an anal fissure) after passing a large or hard bowel movement. The pain from the tear can lead to withholding. Even infants can learn to withhold because of pain.
Treatment is recommended if your child has hard or painful stools. Treating pain early can help prevent your child from withholding, which can lead to chronic constipation and leakage of bowel movements
Unfamiliar surroundings — Children may delay moving their bowels if they do not have a place where they feel comfortable having a bowel movement or if they are busy and ignore the need to use the toilet. This can happen when a child starts going to school and avoids having a bowel movement because they are worried about hygiene concerns or feel embarrassed to use the toilet at school.
Teach your child that it is a good idea to have a bowel movement when his or her body says it is time to do so, and reassure him or her that it is okay to use the bathroom at school. This type of training from early childhood may prevent development of constipation when your child starts school.
Medical problems — Medical problems cause constipation in less than 5 percent of all children. Underlying medical problems are even less likely in children who start to have constipation during one of the critical periods discussed below
Some of the common medical problems that cause constipation include Hirschsprung disease (an abnormality of nerves in the colon), abnormal development of the anus, problems absorbing nutrients, spinal cord abnormalities, and certain medicines. In most cases, a doctor can rule out these problems by asking questions and performing a physical examination.
CONSTIPATION AND DEVELOPMENT
Constipation is particularly common at three times in an infant’s and child’s life: after starting cereal and puréed foods, during toilet training, and after starting school. Parents can help by being aware of these high-risk times, working to prevent constipation, recognizing the problem if it develops, and acting quickly so that constipation does not become a bigger problem.
Transition to solid diet — Infants who are transitioning from breast milk or formula to solid foods may experience constipation. An infant who develops constipation during this time can be treated with one of the measures described below
Toilet training — Children are at risk for constipation during toilet training for several reasons
●If a child is not ready or interested in using the toilet, they may try to avoid having a bowel movement (called withholding), which can lead to constipation.
●Children who have experienced a hard or painful bowel movement are even more likely to withhold, and this only worsens the problem.
●Some children get used to having a bowel movement while standing up (into a diaper or disposable pull-ups). It may be hard for them to get used to having a bowel movement when sitting on a toilet or potty chair.
Tips for avoiding constipation during the toilet training phase are below.
School entry — Once your child starts school, you may not be aware if he or she has problems going to the bathroom. Some children are reluctant to use the bathroom at school because it is unfamiliar or too “public,” and this can lead to withholding.
Continue to monitor your child’s bowel movements when the child starts school for the first time (eg, kindergarten) and after long absences (eg, summer or winter breaks). You can do this by monitoring how often your child has a bowel movement while at home, particularly on weekends. Ask your child if he or she has any problems trying to have a bowel movement away from home; if limited time or embarrassment is an issue, you can work with your child and/or the school to find a solution.
HOME TREATMENTS FOR CONSTIPATION
You can try using home remedies first to relieve your child’s constipation. These remedies should begin to work within 24 hours; if your child does not have a bowel movement with 24 hours or if you are worried, call your child’s doctor or nurse for advice.
Infants — If your child is younger than four months old, talk to a doctor or nurse about treatment of constipation. For infants of any age, contact the child’s doctor if there are concerning signs or symptoms (such as severe pain or rectal bleeding) along with constipation
The following remedies are for infants with constipation who are older than four months:
●Fruit juice – If your infant is at least four months old, you can give certain fruit juices to treat constipation. This includes prune, apple, or pear juice (other juices are not as helpful). You can give a total of 2 to 3 ounces (60 to 120 mL) of 100 percent fruit juice per day for children four to eight months old. You can give up to 6 ounces (180 mL) of fruit juice per day to infants 8 and 12 months old. However, do not give juice every day for more than a week or two. Too much juice can be unhealthy for children’s overall diet and growth.
●Dark corn syrup – Dark corn syrup has been a folk remedy for constipation for hundreds of years. Dark corn syrup contains complex sugar proteins that keep water in the bowel movement. However, current types of dark corn syrup may not contain these sugar proteins, so the syrup may not be helpful. It is not clear whether light corn syrup is helpful.
●High-fiber foods – If your infant has started eating solid foods, you can substitute barley cereal for rice cereal. You can also offer other high-fiber fruits and vegetables (or purées), including apricots, sweet potatoes, pears, prunes, peaches, plums, beans, peas, broccoli, or spinach. You can mix fruit juice (apple, prune, pear) with cereal or the fruit/vegetable purée.
●Formulas with iron – The iron in infant formula does not cause or worsen constipation, because the dose of iron is very small. Therefore, changing to a low-iron formula is not recommended, because this will not help with the constipation. Your doctor or nurse may recommend a different type of formula; consult them before making any formula changes.
Iron drops contain higher amounts of iron and may sometimes cause constipation. Therefore, infants who need iron drops sometimes also need extra diet changes or treatments to make sure that they do not get constipated.
Children — If your child has been constipated for a short time, changing what he or she eats may be the only treatment needed. You can make these changes as often as needed so that the child has soft and painless bowel movements.
If your child does not have a bowel movement within 24 hours of trying the following suggestions, call your child’s doctor or nurse. If your child has worrisome symptoms (severe pain, rectal bleeding) with constipation or you have questions, call your child’s doctor or nurse before using any of the following treatments.
●Fruit juice – Certain fruit juices can help to soften bowel movements. These include prune, apple, or pear (other juices are not as helpful). Do not give more than 4 to 6 ounces (120 to 180 mL) of 100 percent fruit juice per day to children between one and six years of age; children older than seven years may drink up to two 4-ounce (120 mL) servings per day.
●Fluids – It is not necessary to drink large amounts of fluid to treat constipation, although it is reasonable to be sure that the child drinks enough fluid. For children older than one year, enough fluid is defined as 32 ounces (960 mL) or more of water or other non-milk liquids per day. It is not necessary or helpful for the child to drink more than this if he or she is not thirsty.
●Food recommendations – Offer your child a well-balanced diet, including whole-grain foods, fruits, and vegetables. However, do not force these foods and do not use a high-fiber diet instead of other treatments
Praise your child for trying these foods and encourage him or her to eat them frequently, but do not force these foods if your child is unwilling to eat them. You should offer a new food 8 to 10 times before giving up. You may want to avoid giving (or give smaller amounts of) certain foods while your child is constipated, including cow’s milk, yogurt, cheese, and ice cream.
A fiber supplement may be recommended for some children. Fiber supplements are available in several forms, including wafers, chewable tablets, or powdered fiber that can be mixed in juice (or frozen into popsicles).
●Milk – Some children develop constipation because they are unable to tolerate the protein in cow’s milk. If other treatments for constipation are not helpful, try having the child avoid all cow’s milk (and milk products) for at least two weeks. If your child’s constipation does not improve during this time, you can begin giving cow’s milk again. If you see blood in your child’s bowel movement, check with your doctor or nurse.
If the child does not drink milk for a long time, ask your child’s doctor or nurse for suggestions about ways to be sure that he or she gets enough calcium and vitamin D.
Approach to toilet training — If your child develops constipation while learning to use the toilet, stop toilet training temporarily. It is reasonable to wait two to three months before restarting toilet training. When you resume, encourage your child to sit on the toilet or potty as soon as he or she feels the urge to have a bowel movement and give positive reinforcement (a hug, kiss, or words of encouragement) for trying, whether or not the child is successful. Avoid punishing or pressuring your child.
Encouraging healthy toilet habits — If your child is toilet trained, encourage him or her to sit on the toilet for approximately 10 minutes once or twice a day after eating. The child is more likely to have a bowel movement after a meal, especially breakfast. Reward the child with praise or attention for sitting, even if he or she does not have a bowel movement.
In addition, be sure the child has foot support (eg, a stool), especially while using an adult-sized toilet. If possible, the foot support should be high enough that the child’s knees are slightly above his or her hips . This position helps to relax the muscles in the pelvis and anus. Foot support also provides a place for the child to push against as he or she bears down and helps the child feel more stable when sitting on the toilet.
Reading to your child or keeping him/her company while in the bathroom can help to keep the child’s interest and encourage cooperation. More information on rewards is discussed below.
MEDICAL EVALUATION OF CONSTIPATION
Some infants and children have concerning symptoms with constipation or have constipation that does not improve with home treatments. In these situations, your child should see a doctor or nurse. If you are worried or not sure whether your child should be evaluated, ask his or her doctor or nurse for advice.
During the medical history, the doctor or nurse will ask you (and your child, if appropriate) when constipation began, if there was a painful bowel movement, and how often the child normally has a bowel movement. Mention any other symptoms (such as pain, vomiting, or decreased appetite), how much the child drinks, and if you have seen blood in the child’s bowel movements. You can describe how hard or soft the bowel movement is by comparing it to pictures known as the Bristol stool scale.
The doctor or nurse will do a physical examination and may do a rectal examination. Most children with constipation will not require any laboratory testing or X-rays.
If your infant or child has repeated episodes of constipation (called recurrent constipation), work with your child’s doctor or nurse to figure out why this is happening. Some children with chronic and recurrent constipation can develop a problem with bowel leakage (called fecal incontinence), in which liquid stool leaks around the large hard stool in the rectum. Because the leaking stool is soft, some parents can confuse this with diarrhea.
Possible reasons for recurrent constipation include:
●Fear of pain due to hard stools or an anal fissure (a small tear in the anal opening). A child can withhold stool by willfully clinching his or her buttocks (butt cheeks), which can be confused with the child trying to push the stool out. Discussing this with your doctor can help you learn to tell whether your child is trying to withhold stool.
●Fear of using the bathroom away from home.
●Not having enough time to use the bathroom.
●Reducing the laxative dose or discontinuing laxative too soon.
“Clean out” treatment — If your child has recurrent constipation, continue to follow the suggestions for home treatment above. Your child may also need a “clean out” treatment to help empty the bowels. This treatment may include a medicine (eg, polyethylene glycol [PEG; such as Miralax] or magnesium hydroxide [Milk of Magnesia]), an enema or rectal suppository (a pill that you insert in the child’s rectum), or a combination of treatments. Consult your child’s doctor or nurse before giving any of these treatments.
Maintenance treatment — After the “clean out” treatment, most infants and children are treated with a laxative for several months or longer. PEG is often used for this purpose. You can adjust the amount of laxative so that the child has one soft bowel movement per day. Although several laxatives are available without a prescription, it is important to consult with your child’s doctor or nurse before giving laxatives on a regular basis.
Parents are often concerned about giving laxatives, fearing side effects or that the child will not be able to have a bowel movement when the laxative is stopped. Using appropriate laxatives, as recommended by your child’s doctor or nurse, does not increase the risk of constipation in the future. Instead, careful use of laxatives can actually prevent long-term problems with constipation by breaking the cycle of pain and withholding and helping the child to develop healthy toileting habits.
Some children need to continue using a laxative treatment for months or even years. After the child has regular bowel movements and uses the toilet alone for at least six months, it is reasonable to talk about decreasing and eventually stopping the laxative with the child’s doctor or nurse. Do not stop the laxative too soon, because constipation could return and the child would need to start over with treatment. Laxative use should be combined with dietary changes to reduce the risk of recurrence.
Rescue treatment — It is possible for a child to retain a large bowel movement in the colon, despite using laxatives. Develop a “rescue” plan with your child’s doctor or nurse in case this happens. If the child has not had a bowel movement for two to three days, a “clean out” treatment and an increased dose of the maintenance laxative are usually recommended.
Behavior changes — In children who have constipation frequently, behavior changes are recommended to help the child develop normal bowel habits.
●Encourage your child to sit on the toilet within 30 minutes after each meal (ie, for 10 minutes two to three times per day). Do this every day if possible.
●Design a reward system with your child to recognize the child’s efforts. Give the reward after the child sits, even if he or she does not have a bowel movement. Rewards for preschoolers may include stickers or small sweets, reading books, singing songs while sitting, or special toys that are only used during toilet sitting. Rewards for school-aged children may include reading books together, activity books, handheld electronics that are only used during toilet-sitting time, or coins or stickers that can be redeemed for small items or toys.
●Keep a diary of your child’s bowel movements, medicines, pain, and accidents. This will help you and your child’s doctor or nurse figure out if there are triggers for constipation.
Dietary suggestions — There are a number of myths about dietary treatments for constipation in children and infants. Drinking extra fluids and eating a high-fiber diet are not enough to treat repeated episodes of constipation in children; most children also need a laxative and behavior changes. Dietary recommendations are described above
Treatment follow-up — After beginning treatment for constipation, most doctors and nurses recommend periodic follow-up phone calls or visits to check on the child. Infants and children with constipation often need adjustments in treatment as they grow, and there are changes in their diet and daily routine.
Foods That Cause and Relieve Constipation in Babies
If your little one is backed up, you may need to examine their diet. We explore the differences between foods that trigger babies’ digestive issues and those that relieve them.
When a baby is pooping regularly, it usually means that their digestive system is working properly and they’re getting enough to eat. If they haven’t pooped in a while, it could indicate something deeper, especially if it hurts when they go. Parents may worry, but sometimes relieving baby constipation is as simple as changing their diet. Read on to learn about foods that help babies poop, and those to avoid.
How to Know if Your Child Is Constipated
For starters, you need to figure out whether your baby is actually backed up. Until they are about 4 months old, babies poop three or four times a day on average. But some babies will poop after every feeding, while others can go several days before releasing their bowels. So even though a prolonged absence of poop suggests constipation, it can be hard to confirm this in infants.
Before the age of 6 months, babies are less likely to be constipated. At that age, they are still on an all-liquid diet of breast milk or formula, so their food is more easily absorbed and digested, says Jennifer Shu, M.D., an Atlanta-based pediatrician and co-author of Food Fights: Winning The Nutritional Challenges of Parenthood Armed with Insight, Humor, and A Bottle of Ketchup. However, some formulas can cause harder poops.
So how can you tell if your baby is constipated? One way is to look at their stool. Healthy infant stool is soft, while hard stool suggests it’s been inside longer than desired, says Dr. Shu. The baby’s belly may also feel hard, and there can be a small amount of bright red blood in a bowel movement or diaper if your baby was straining. Your child’s behavior might suddenly change, too: You might find them crying, looking pained, or arching their back in an attempt to either poop or avoid it. Some will even refuse to eat.
How Liquid Foods Affect Constipation
Constipation in infants can be a symptom of an allergy to the protein in cow’s milk, says Diana Lerner, M.D., a pediatric gastroenterologist at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. Both breastfed and formula-fed infants can be affected. If you suspect a cow’s milk allergy (or more likely, a sensitivity or intolerance), the first step is to eliminate it from your baby’s diet to see if the change relieves their symptoms.
If your baby is breastfed and you’re the one nursing them, removing cow’s milk from their diet ultimately means removing cow’s milk products from your diet to avoid passing those proteins along. To replace it, try adding foods that help your baby poop, such as prunes and fiber-filled items.
Exclusively formula-fed babies are more likely to experience constipation than breastfed infants, says Jane Morton, M.D., an emeritus adjunct clinical professor of pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine. Some ingredients in formula might be more challenging to a baby’s digestive system and can result in much firmer poops. Before switching infant formulas, however, it’s always best to consult with your child’s pediatrician.
If your baby is sensitive to cow’s milk protein specifically, your pediatrician may suggest changing their formula to one that isn’t milk-based. Though you might be tempted to use a low-iron formula if you suspect your baby is constipated, Dr. Shu advises against switching, noting that formula-fed babies need extra iron, and the amount in the formula itself wouldn’t hurt them.
How Solid Foods Affect Constipation
Once solid foods become part of your baby’s diet, their poop and pooping habits will change. As Dr. Shu points out, food that is more cohesive creates more formed stools. As your child’s intestines mature, they also get better at compacting that food and holding on to it longer. Their bodies will now take longer to process what they eat, so you’ll probably see one less poopy diaper a day.
While the changes in bowel movements that come with introducing solids are a natural progression, some foods can make it harder for your baby to poop. Dr. Morton tells parents to know their ABCs: applesauce, bananas, and cereal. Too much of any of these foods, especially cereal, can cause constipation. Dairy products that are popular first foods for babies, such as cheese and yogurt, can also be hard on their digestive systems. And low-fiber foods—white rice, white bread, pasta—often bind babies up.
Foods That Help With Constipation
Wondering how to relieve constipation in babies quickly? When your baby’s poops become less frequent, harder, or more difficult to pass, try feeding them one of these:
- “P” fruits: This category includes pears, plums, peaches, and prunes, and any of their juices. Dr. Shu often recommends pear juice to parents; it works really well and kids think it’s delicious.
- Fiber-filled foods: Anything containing bran (known for its high fiber content) could help loosen up your baby’s stool. Look for fiber-rich cereals, whole-wheat pasta, and brown rice.
- Vegetables: Broccoli, beans, and Brussels sprouts can get things back on track.
- Water: Sometimes your baby’s system just needs a good flush to work well again. But note that babies can only have small sips of water, and only after they are 6 months old.
The best home remedies for baby constipation
Babies often go a long time between bowel movements. Most of the time, it is normal for a baby to go days or even more than a week without a bowel movement. However, a baby may sometimes be constipated and need a little help.
If a baby is constipated, a pediatrician may recommend using home remedies as a first-line treatment for baby constipation.
7 home remedies
Home remedies for constipation in a baby include:
Moving a baby’s legs can help relieve constipation.
As with adults, exercise and movement tend to stimulate a baby’s bowels.
However, as babies may not be walking or even crawling yet, a parent or caregiver may want to help them exercise to relieve constipation.
The parent or caregiver can gently move the baby’s legs while they are lying on their back to mimic the motion of riding a bicycle. Doing this may help the bowels function and relieve constipation.
2. A warm bath
Giving a baby a warm bath can relax their abdominal muscles and help them stop straining. It can also relieve some of the discomfort relating to constipation.
3. Dietary changes
Certain dietary changes may help constipation, but these will vary depending on the baby’s age and diet.
While breastfeeding a baby, a woman could eliminate certain foods, such as dairy, from her diet. It may take some trial and error to identify the dietary changes that help, and it is quite possible that changes in the diet will have no effect on the baby’s constipation.
For formula-fed babies, a parent or caregiver may want to try a different kind of formula. It is best not to switch to a gentle or dairy-free formula without consulting a pediatrician first. If one change does not make a difference, continuing to try different formulas is unlikely to help.
If an infant is eating solid foods, parents or caregivers should look to introduce foods that are good sources of fiber.
Many fruits and vegetables can help stimulate the bowels because of their higher fiber content. Good food choices for babies with constipation include:
- skinless apples
- whole grains, such as oatmeal or whole-grain bread or pasta
Young infants do not typically need supplemental liquids as they get their hydration from breast milk or formula.
However, babies that are constipated may benefit from a small amount of extra liquid.
Pediatricians sometimes recommend adding a small amount of water or, occasionally, fruit juice, to the baby’s diet when they are over 2–4 months old and are constipated.
There are several ways to massage a baby’s stomach to relieve constipation. These include:
- Using the fingertip to make circular motions on the stomach in a clockwise pattern.
- Walking the fingers around the naval in a clockwise pattern.
- Holding the baby’s knees and feet together and gently pushing the feet toward the belly.
- Stroking from the rib cage down past the belly button with the edge of a finger.
6. Fruit juice
A small amount of pure apple juice can help soften stool.
After a baby reaches 2–4 months of age, they can have a small amount of fruit juice, such as 100-percent prune or apple juice. This juice may help treat constipation.
Experts may recommend starting with about 2–4 ounces of fruit juice. The sugar in the juice is hard to digest. As a result, more liquid enters the intestines, which helps soften and break up the stool.
However, a parent or caregiver should not give fruit juice to a baby for the first time without consulting their pediatrician.
7. Taking a rectal temperature
When a baby is constipated, taking the baby’s rectal temperature with a clean, lubricated thermometer may help them pass stool.
It is important not to use this method very often, as it can make constipation worse. The baby may start not wanting to pass a bowel movement without help, or they may begin to associate having a bowel movement with discomfort, leading them to fuss or cry more during the process.
Anyone who feels as though they often need to use this method to help the baby have a bowel movement should talk to the baby’s doctor.
Signs that a baby is constipated
As infants may go for extended periods without a bowel movement, it can be hard to tell if they are constipated. Signs that indicate constipation in a baby include:
- infrequent stools that are not soft in consistency
- clay-like stool consistency
- hard pellets of stool
- long periods of straining or crying while trying to have a bowel movement
- streaks of red blood in the stool
- lack of appetite
- a hard belly
Signs of constipation in babies vary depending on their age and diet. A normal bowel movement before a baby begins eating solid food should be very soft, almost like the consistency of peanut butter or even looser.
Hard baby stool prior to solid food is the most obvious indication of constipation in babies.
At first, breastfed babies may pass stool often since breast milk is easy to digest. However, once a baby is between 3 and 6 weeks old, they may only pass a large, soft stool once a week and sometimes even less.
Formula-fed babies tend to pass stool more frequently than breastfed babies. Most formula-fed babies will have a bowel movement at least once a day or every other day. However, some formula-fed babies may go longer between bowel movements without being constipated.
Once a parent introduces solid food to a baby’s diet, a baby may be more likely to experience constipation. A baby may also be more likely to become constipated if a parent or caregiver introduces cow’s milk (other than formula) to their diet.