Before we talk about ways to ease your baby’s constipation, what does constipation look like in the first place?
For starters, your baby’s digestion is very different from your own. This is because it’s still in the baby stages of maturity. So, it’s 100% normal for your baby to push, grunt, cry, or strain with bowel movements . . . even when stool is soft. This doesn’t necessarily mean your baby is constipated.
According to the Amsterdam Infant Stool Scale, you will know your baby is constipated by the quality of stool. Hallmarks of constipation include stool that is:
Pebble or pellet shaped
Isn’t fully released (usually shows up as a smear in the diaper)
If you find that your baby is constipated, there are a few tricks that I have seen work best.
Probiotics are microbes that benefit health. And it turns out that the microbes living in your baby’s digestive tract directly impact how quickly (or slowly) stool moves through your baby’s colon.
If you’re looking for quick results, probiotics can make a dramatic difference. The one I have used with friends and clients is called Ultimate Flora Baby Probiotic (formerly known as FloraBaby). Just follow the instructions on the back of the bottle – works like a charm.
Massage is one of my favorite tools for baby wellness because it’s a way to communicate that doesn’t involve words. With massage, you can develop a language with your baby that relies on facial expressions, body temperature, and touch. It’s primal and deep. And furthermore – studies show that massage can be extraordinarily effective in supporting your baby’s health.
Some general tips when massaging your baby for constipation:
Massage your baby once a day.
Because the energetics of elimination and digestion run strongest from 5 – 11 am, morning is the best time to massage for constipation.
Be sure to use a food-grade lubricant during massage, such as coconut oil.
Make sure your hands are warm before beginning. If your hands are always cold, run them under warm water.
Massage your baby in a warm room. Close any windows or doors that might cause a cold draft.
1. On The Hand
On the palm along the index finger, use your thumb to push from the base to the tip of the index finger 100 – 300 times. This regulates the large intestine and promotes bowel movements.
2. On The Belly
Rub around the belly button in a clockwise direction with the base of your palm, 100 – 500 times. This supports digestion and regular bowel movements.
3. On The Lower Leg
Using the tip of your middle finger, knead – or make small circles – on the area just below the knee on the outside of the shin bone, 50 – 100 times. Kneading this area supports your baby’s digestion and immune system.
If you would like more tips, head over to the Baby Wellness Library, where you’ll find a few free eBooks on baby massage.
3. HOMEMADE FRUIT MASH
Stone fruit and pears are notoriously good bowel movers, so it’s a good idea to include these fresh fruits in your baby’s diet.
As it so happens, pears are currently in season. Ripe pears are generally soft enough that they do not need to be cooked. If you would like to cook your pears, you can bake them. Bonus points: Pears are a traditional remedy in Chinese medicine because they help to lubricate dryness.
4. HERBAL LIQUIDS
In addition to breast milk or formula, babies can begin to drink a small amount of fluids when they begin solids. That said, I always suggest that fluids have a purpose. For example, instead of water – offer bone broth, milk kefir, or tea.
Herbal teas are a wonderful way to support your baby’s digestion. Each herb impacts the body in it’s own unique way. For baby constipation, you can make a tea by using:
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 cup water
Add fennel seed to water and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, allowing the fennel to steep for 30 minutes. Strain before offering a few ounces to your baby.
For babies under 6 months, breastfeeding mamas can drink the same tea. The only difference for mamas is that you will use 1 tablespoon of fennel seed to every 1 cup of water. The therapeutic properties of the fennel will carry through into breast milk.
5. FERMENTED LIQUIDS
Fermented liquids nourish your baby’s gut with probiotics, helping to naturally regulate bowel movements. Examples of fermented liquids include:
Coconut water kefir
Raw milk kefir
It’s important to note that store-bought or homemade kombucha – while fermented – is not suitable for babies because it contains small amounts of caffeine and alcohol.
If you’d like to make kefir at home, you can purchase a kefir-making kit for around $25 – or, do like I do most of the time – and buy already-made kefir. Inner Eco is a brand that you can find in most health food stores in the United States, including Whole Foods.
ABOUT MEGAN GARCIA
Megan runs a free, members-only library on her website, www.megangarcia.com and hosts classes in baby nutrition. Get geeky science updates in baby health by becoming a member of her library or join her on Instagram, where she talks science + food with a smattering of family photos.