Giving prune juice to constipated babies is a common health tip, but is it helpful and safe? Here’s what you need to know.
Are There Health Benefits of Prune Juice?
Prunes are dried plums that are full of nutrients, fiber, and natural sugars. One type of sugar called sorbitol acts like a laxative that can help with constipation. As a result, prune juice also has a lot of sorbitol and can help with constipation.
Prunes have many benefits that can improve your health and be a part of a healthy diet.
Energy provider. The simple sugars in prunes are a good source of energy and don’t cause a spike in blood sugar.
Fiber. Prunes are a good source of dietary fiber. They have soluble fiber, which draws water into the bowel and makes the stool soft and easier to pass. They also have insoluble fiber, which adds bulk to the stool and makes it move faster.
Vitamins and minerals. Prunes are high in boron, which is thought to help prevent osteoporosis, a disease that makes bones weak. One serving of prunes gives you all the boron you need. Prunes are also high in other vitamins like potassium, vitamin K, vitamin A, niacin, riboflavin, and vitamin B6.
Phenolic compounds. Prunes have lots of phenolic compounds, which adds to the laxative effect. These compounds in prunes might also be helpful for heart health and preventing chronic diseases.
While prune juice can help constipation, it doesn’t have all the benefits of the dried plums they're made of.
High water and sugar content. Fruit juices, including prune juice, are mostly water and sugar. This high sugar content is what helps with constipation, but you should only give kids small amounts of juice. Children who drink too much fruit juice can have diarrhea because of the high amounts of sugar.
Not as much fiber. Strained and pulp-free juices don’t have as much fiber as the whole fruit. Prune juice with pulp might be a better choice for children.
Constipation. Prune juice can help with constipation, but not pooping is also common in babies and children, so it may not always be necessary to give your children prune juice. It’s normal for babies to go a few days between bowel movements.
Cavities in teeth. Even though prune juice has natural sugars, too much fruit juice can cause cavities, especially if the juice is given at night in a bottle.
Breastfed babies might go longer than formula-fed babies between bowel movements. If your baby is under six months old and is formula fed, it’s important to make sure the formula is mixed carefully and to talk to your doctor. For older children, constipation is usually caused by not eating enough fiber. Adding more fruits, vegetables, and water to their diets can help.
You should see the doctor if your newborn, infant, or toddler has signs of constipation, including:
- Bloody stools
- Large stools, which might mean they’re holding it in
- Hard, pebble-like stools
- Pain while passing stools
How Much Prune Juice Should I Give a Baby?
It’s safe to give children one year old and older some prune juice to help with constipation. Prune juice is pretty safe and low risk, but prune juice for babies under 12 months is not recommended unless your doctor agrees. Also, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that babies under six months should only be fed breast milk.
The best way to give prunes to your baby is when you start introducing foods around six months. You can give your baby whole mashed or pureed prunes instead of prune juice. Your baby will get both the sorbitol and the fiber from whole pureed prunes, which will help with constipation. This will also help them develop good eating habits.
If your doctor says it’s the best thing to do, you can give two ounces of prune juice with two ounces of water. It’s best to give the juice in a cup at meal times, but you can use a syringe if your baby can’t drink out of a cup yet.