Bowel Movements and Constipation

Bowel patterns are highly variable. Seldom is there a cause for worry. Breast fed babies tend to have looser yellow to mustard-colored stools, while formula fed babies tend to have more formed yellow stools. However, this is not always true. It is normal for babies to grunt and strain a little to have a bowel movement. If your child is grunting excessively to expel firm balls of stool or if the stools are extremely thick and pasty, then the infant may be constipated.

To soften stools, give extra water between feedings or dilute 2 ounces of prune juice with 2 ounces of water to be offered between feedings. Too much water for young infants can be dangerous. Therefore, do not give more than 1 ounce of water per month of life daily. For example, a 4 month old infant can have up to 4 ounces of water or diluted prune juice per day.

If the infant is on baby foods and cereal, change rice cereal to oatmeal for more fiber and decrease the amount of bananas in the diet. If there is no success with increasing fluids, then a glycerin suppository may be used by its insertion into the rectum at least to your first knuckle. An alternative to the suppository is simply inserting a lubricated thermometer into the rectum and twirling for 30 seconds to 1 minute. This provides rectal stimulation. If none of these suggestions help or it becomes a chronic problem, please call the office during regular office hours.

Older children’s constipation needs to be treated by increasing dietary fiber, increased water or by giving Metamucil, Citracel or Miralax according to package instructions. In addition, we recommend that the child sits on the toilet twice daily, preferably after breakfast and dinner to get into a proper routine. Remember that constipation is very common around potty training and school aged children from withholding stool.

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