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Common Causes of Infant Constipation

It’s normal for newborns to poop a few times a day or once a week. In some cases, although this is not common, there may be three weeks between the baby’s discharge. Babies should only be treated with laxatives if they suffer from long intervals between bowel movements and you should consult a specialist. Breastfed babies usually show their bowels by the time they are two to three months old, and their stools are usually yellow in color. Breastfed babies open their bowels with each feeding and can open their bowels up to 6 times a day. On the other hand, bottle-fed babies may have bowel movements only once a day or every two or three days.

Constipation can be a common cause of colic pain in babies, and there can be wide variations in the frequency with which they have bowel movements. Any child who does not have frequent bowel movements or very hard stools is generally considered to be constipated. Constipation can occur in a newborn, infant, toddler, or child of any age. Infant constipation is a common condition but it is rarely caused by medical problems that require some form of medical intervention. During the neonatal period (first 28 days), constipation is rare in breastfed babies, and more likely to occur in bottle-fed babies.

A high rate of constipation after the age of one is often caused by a willful refusal to go to the toilet. With older babies this may be because they are too involved in activities to notice the need to go to the toilet, but with younger babies this is usually related to potty training. Whatever the cause, constipation in children needs to be recognized and requires attention. Intractable constipation in babies can cause stool to build up in the child’s rectum, which can cause colic and colic pain. Chronic constipation also makes babies more prone to developing urinary tract infections.

Below are the medical and non-medical causes of constipation in babies:

  • Transitioning from breast milk to formula or solid foods
  • Not drinking enough water or fluids – this is one of the most common causes in older babies
  • Have a low-fiber diet, for children on solid foods
  • Some medicines like cough medicines can cause constipation in children
  • Potty training anxiety – especially common in toddlers and older children. Parents should be careful not to be strict with potty training and encourage it
  • Congenital narrowing or obstruction of the anus (anal stenosis)
  • Hirschsprung’s disease – a condition from birth in which the child has a nerve cell defect that affects communication between the brain and the gut.
  • Diabetes
  • Down syndrome and cystic fibrosis are often associated with constipation in infants
  • Low thyroid function
  • Lead poisoning though is usually very rare in developing countries

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