Dark corn syrup was once a common home remedy for infant constipation. However, today's commercially prepared dark corn syrup is made differently and does not draw fluid into the intestine or soften the stool. This makes dark corn syrup ineffective for infant constipation.
If you’re concerned your child might be constipated, talk with your pediatrician first. Don’t give your child corn syrup.
Symptoms of Constipation in Babies
The amount of bowel movements your baby has depends on their age and their diet. It’s normal for babies to strain or become red in the face while passing bowel movements. Pooping is more challenging for them because they have weaker abdominal muscles and are typically lying flat.
Breastfed babies tend to go to the bathroom more often than formula-fed babies because breast milk is easier for them to digest. As babies reach around 3-6 weeks of age, they begin having fewer bowel movements, sometimes only one or two per week.
If your baby is passing soft stool (poop) and the movements happen infrequently or your baby strains to pass them, your baby probably isn’t constipated. Typically, if your baby becomes constipated, it happens after they start eating solid food.
Some common symptoms of constipation in babies include:
- Passing Hard Stools
- Low appetite
- Swollen belly
- Blood in the poop
Baby Constipation May Call for a Change in Diet
If your baby seems constipated, it can be helpful to talk with your pediatrician. You may also want to consider changing your baby's diet to help relieve their symptoms.
Water and fruit juice. In addition to regular feedings, offer your baby water or 100% fruit juice. Fruit juice contains a sweetener that acts as a laxative. You can start with 2 to 4 ounces and monitor your baby to see if they need more or less.
Baby food. Pureed prunes and peas contain more fiber than other fruits and vegetables. Multigrain cereals are also a good source of fiber that can help your baby pass stool.
Alternatives to Corn Syrup for Constipation
If it's been a few days and your baby is still struggling to have a bowel movement, and you've tried changing their diet, you may need to try something different. In some cases, your doctor might recommend giving your baby an infant glycerin suppository. These are known as stimulant laxatives and can help provide relief from temporary constipation.
These should be provided to your baby only after receiving approval and guidance from your pediatrician. Some common safety guidelines include:
- Insert only one suppository into your child's rectum at a time
- Do not use more than once per day
- Usually, this will cause your child to have a bowel movement within 15 minutes to 1 hour
If your baby's constipation continues despite dietary changes and an infant glycerin suppository, in rare cases, it may be a sign of a more serious underlying condition. Your baby's doctor should be consulted right away.
Tips for Preventing Constipation
As your baby gets older, what they eat and drink will have a significant effect on their body and bowel movements. You can help keep them happy and healthy by providing them with a consistent diet full of good vitamins and nutrients.
Follow these tips to help prevent constipation in your baby:
- Provide your child with a fiber-rich diet: Fiber keeps stool soft, bulky, and easy to pass.
- Give them plenty of fluids: Keeping your baby hydrated is important for their overall health.
- Exercise: Just like adults, babies need exercise too. You can do this by gently moving their legs and helping them strengthen their muscles as they get older.
- Don't hold back: Some babies will hold in stools if it causes pain. This can be caused by a bad diaper rash or anal tear. Keep an eye on your baby to ensure they are ok.
When to Call a Doctor
Sometimes constipation can be very serious or a sign of another underlying condition. The following are common signs that it is time to call your baby's doctor:
- Stomach pain with crying that lasts more than an hour
- Rectal pain with straining that lasts more than an hour
- Vomiting and swollen stomach
- Bleeding from anus
- Your baby needs to pass stool but refuses to let it out
- A suppository was given but didn't work
- Your baby is in extreme pain or distress