March 2012

Normal, healthy infants do not need to have a bowel movement every day. Infants may go up to a week without a bowel movement, though some breast fed infants will have five to ten seedy bowel movements each day. There is very wide variation between children. As long as the stool that is passed is soft, the baby is not constipated regardless of the frequency. Constipation means painful bowel movements that are difficult to pass and noted to be small and hard, or ball-like, in appearance. Remember, some grunting, groaning, and fussing with bowel movements is normal and does not necessarily mean constipation.

If your 6 to 18 month infant has difficulty with painful bowel movements or large, hard bowel movements, the problem usually is the diet. Baby foods generally tend to be constipating because there is little nondigestible residue. Of the baby foods, cereals, squash, carrots, and meat tend to be the most constipating. Foods that contain nondigestible material such as the vegetables (except for the carrots and squash), and foods that contain bowel stimulants such as fruits (especially prunes), tend to increase the frequency of bowel movements. Introduction of whole milk often is associated with less frequent, firmer stools.

Refer to our website for information on treating constipation in toddlers and older children.

For treating constipation in infants, you may try the following:
1) Increase fluid intake by adding additional water in between feedings. One or two ounces twice daily is usually sufficient.
2) Add one teaspoon of Karo syrup to a bottle of formula once or twice daily.
3) If the above are not successful, an ounce of prune juice once or twice daily may be tried. No laxatives or enemas should be used without consultation.

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