How Much Breastmilk Should A 10 Day Old Baby Drink Common Causes of Infant Constipation

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Common Causes of Infant Constipation

It is quite normal for newborn babies to have a bowel movement several times a day or as little as once a week. In some cases, although this is generally uncommon, there can be up to three weeks between the child having a bowel movement. A baby should only be treated with laxatives if they are suffering long intervals between bowel movement and you should consult professional advice. Breastfed babies most usually exhibit frequent bowel movements until they are two to three months old and their stools are typically of a yellowish color. Babies who are breast feeding will usually open their bowel with each breast feeding, and can open their bowels up to 6 times a day. Bottle fed babies on the other hand can have a bowel movement only once a day or even once every two or three days.

Constipation can be a common cause of abdominal pain in infants, and there can be a range of variations in the frequency at which they open their bowels. Any child not passing faeces as frequently as every other day or passing very hard stools is generally regarded to be constipated. Constipation can occur in the newborn, infant, toddler, or indeed a child of any age. Infant constipation is a common condition but it is rarely due to medical problems that require some form of medical intervention. In the neonatal period (first 28 days), constipation is rare in breast feed children, and is most likely to occur in bottle feed babies.

A high percentage of constipation after from the age of one most often arises from a deliberate reluctance to go to the toilet. With older infants this may be because they become too involved in activities to want to obey the need to go to the toilet, but in younger infants this is commonly associated with potty training. Whatever the causes however, constipation in children needs to be recognised and requires attention. Unresolved constipation in infants leads to stacking of stools in the child’s rectum, which can result in distension and abdominal pain. Prolonged constipation also makes infants more prone to developing urinary tract infections.

The following are both medical and non-medical causes of infant constipation:

  • Switching from breast milk to bottle feeds, or to solid meals
  • Not drinking enough water or fluids – this is one of the most common causes in older infants
  • Having a low-fibre diet, for children on solids
  • Some medications like cough medication can cause constipation in children
  • Potty training anxiety – especially common in toddlers and older children. Parents should take care not to be harsh with potty training and be encouraging
  • Lack or blocked anus from birth (anal stenosis)
  • Hirschsprung’s disease – a condition from birth where the child has a nerve cell defect that affects communication between the brain and bowels
  • Diabetes
  • Down’s Syndrome and Cystic fibrosis are commonly associated with infant constipation
  • Low thyroid function
  • Lead poisoning although this is generally quite rare in developing countries

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