Babies often become constipated when they start eating solids. Their GI systems have to get used to digesting food! In fact, it may be more common for breastfed babies because their stomachs are used to processing only breast milk, which is easily and highly digestible.
The consistency, appearance and smell of babies’ poop will change when they start eating solids. It is especially noticeable for breastfed babies, whose poop tends to be smooth and sort of “sweet” smelling (on an exclusive breast milk diet). Prior to starting solids, formula-fed babies’ poop tends to be a little firmer than breastfed babies’ – about the consistency of peanut butter and potentially smellier. After starting solids, babies’ poop may be the color of the food they ate and may have small pieces of undigested food in it. This is totally normal. Babies’ poop should now have the consistency of soft serve ice cream.
Constipation is when babies’ poop is harder than soft serve. Hard, dry poop is a strong sign of constipation. The frequency with which babies poop is much less important (don’t worry if it’s a few days in between) than the consistency of their poop! Straining and grunting while pooping are normal, but not crying. The latter can be a sign of constipation.
Constipation can be very painful for babies. When it occurs, they need our help to get their digestion moving well again.
Below are some options to help constipated babies feel better.
Offer your baby some water in a straw cup to drink at every meal. (You cannot force him or her to drink it; you can only offer.) Sometimes, for both babies and adults, constipation is a result of dehydration. See my Gear Guide for Feeding Babies for cup recommendations.
Offer the “P” fruits that help with constipation, such as pears, peaches, prunes and plums; either offer the whole ripe fruit with a bite taken out of it, or thick slices with the skin on. For example, Theo loves pears, so I try to give him at least one slice a day. Apricots and other high-fiber foods (oatmeal, green vegetables, etc.) can also help.
Avoid constipating foods such as BRAT, which stands for bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. Other constipating foods include cereals, breads, pasta and white potatoes. You may consider avoiding excessive dairy products as well.
Give your whole baby a whole prune once a day. Some babies like whole prunes, while others do not. For younger babies just starting with BLW (months 6-7), a whole prune may be difficult to eat. Note: Most prunes have sorbate (a preservative that prevents mold), but some are free of it, like Trader Joe’s Non-Sorbate Pitted Prunes.
Make diluted prune water and have your baby drink some at each meal. It is very simple to make. Just take a few whole prunes (2-3) and soak them in an 8 oz. glass of water overnight. Remove the prunes and you have prune water! You can dilute it further with more water if you wish or if your baby doesn’t like the taste. (In fact, as Theo struggled with constipation for the first few months or solids, we actually used prune water as his primary water in his straw cup at every meal.)
Mix some prunes (cut into very small pieces) into oatmeal for breakfast.
Give your baby a baby probiotic. Theo has taken Jarrow’s baby probiotics both in liquid and powder form. Others have recommended Culturelle Kids and Flora Infant Probiotics. There are so many options out there, so do some research and check with your doctor for his or her recommendations.
For more information on constipation, check out this article.