Constipation in Babies


As a Mom & Nutritionist, poop is one of my favourite topics and comes up in every new consultation I have with a client, big or small. You can tell so much about the health of someone by their pooping details or lack thereof.

Constipation can be very common in babies. The definition of constipation is ‘a condition in which there is difficulty in emptying the bowels, usually associated with hardened feces’. This can mean that your baby hasn’t pooped, is straining to poo, or that the poo is incomplete.

So, how often should babies poop?

With babies, it can vary depending on if they are breastfed or formula-fed. Constipation doesn’t usually occur in breastfed babies because when they are feeding the milk is going into the stomach and stimulating the digestive system to start contracting and moving the poop out. Breastfed babies can have between 1 and 5 poos a day but sometimes they may go a few days without a movement. This is because most of the breast milk consumed is being used up in the body for all the important growing & developing your little one is doing.

Constipation can also be as a result of what the mother is eating and the only way you can resolve that situation is to eliminate the foods from the mother’s diet. There are a number of foods that often trigger constipation in babies, if you want to know more speak with your friendly Nutritionist 🙂

Formula-fed babies should be going poo every day but it is very common for them to become constipated and this is often a reaction to the ingredients in the formula they are drinking. This is something to be very aware of when transitioning baby to a new formula, if constipation occurs I suggest that you remove that particular formula and try another alternative. One ingredient to watch out for in formulas is palm olein oil, this is a fat source and has been demonstrated to increase constipation in babies.

Once solids are introduced constipation can often be an issue. This could be due to the lack of enzymes required to digest certain foods or a lack of water & fiber in the diet. The key is to find out WHY your baby is constipated in the first place. If you are concerned about your baby’s pooping, contact me to discuss and find out my recommendations to get things moving smoothly again.

The Cereal Debate

When I became a mum to my first son Ben, I was so eager for him to get to the next stage of everything. When was he going to smile, walk, talk or eat real food? I was lucky enough to be able to breastfeed and I did that exclusively for the first 7 months until I went back to work. It was around the same time that I began introducing food into his diet.

6 months of age is the time to start thinking about introducing solid food but there is no harm to exclusively breastfeed for the first year. Your baby will get all the nutrients he/she needs through your breast milk.  Even if you do introduce solid food, the formula or breast milk intake is still their main source of nutrition and should be until 12 months of age.

When thinking about what foods to introduce into your baby’s diet first, many people will suggest cereal in the form of oats, rice or barley. The concern I have with giving any type of grains as a first food is that they contain starch. To break down starch in our bodies, we require digestive enzymes and babies only start producing the enzyme needed in the proper quantity around 12 months of age.

Boxed infant cereals should also be avoided. These are highly processed so most of the nutrients have been removed and other sketchy ingredients may have been added that your baby should not be exposed to. Rice cereal, for example is often made with white rice and this is a refined carbohydrate that I highly recommend my big and small clients avoid. By feeding your baby a processed cereal you could be programming their appetite to want more cookies, candy & white bread later in life.

When it comes time to introduce solid foods, I recommend starting your baby on fruits & vegetables and preferably home-made purees. It’s really easy, just cook the food in batches ahead of time and freeze it in ice cube size portions. If you want to discuss an appropriate feeding schedule for your baby, make an appointment with a Nutritionist (like me 🙂 ).

An important point to make is that when introducing new foods to your baby, watch out for any signs of allergies and constipation. It’s a good idea to keep a food journal and note down any reactions both in behaviour and physical symptoms that may occur. Also, remember to follow your baby’s cues. If they are not ready for food, don’t force it, let them lead the way.