Constipation: What You Need to Know

Tuesday, 05.04.2016

Beat the baby blues! We interviewed Dr Wong Chin Khoon, Medical Director of SBCC Baby & Child Clinic, for his insights into some of the common baby health woes that first-time parents face. Here we look at Constipation, a very common baby ailment that could appear in babies after the introduction of solid foods. 

Read on to find out the causes of this respective digestive condition, its symptoms, and what you can do to ease your baby’s bowel movements!

What is Constipation?

Every baby has a different normal pattern of bowel movement. There's no right or wrong number of bowel movement per day. According to Dr Wong, the frequency of bowel movements is not very important. What is important is that the stool is soft and easily passed. 

It is normal for breast-fed babies to have large, soft bowel movements without pain up to 7 days apart. Others have bowel movements 2 to 4 times daily.

Constipation is an abnormal pattern of bowel movements in which stools are passed less frequently than usual and are often harder than usual. It is usually associated with discomfort (usually cranky) and may cry and strain a lot when attempting to pass out the hard stools. Hard stools can stretch the anal wall and cause bleeding from the tears, resulting in blood-streak stools.

According to Dr Wong, what your baby eats will largely determine the kind of stool you can expect. However some babies may also become constipated as their intestines get used to handling the new foods after the introduction of solid foods.

Changes will be expected, such as the frequency of the bowel movement will generally reduce and the consistency of the stool will be firmer. 

How to relieve constipation upon introduction of solids?

  • Stay Well Hydrated

According to Dr Wong, when this happens, constipation may be prevented if parents keep your baby well hydrated. Give your baby 10 to 15ml of water in between feeds (2 to 4 ounces per day), but never dilute milk / formula milk if you are bottle feeding.

You may increase the amount of water given if the stools are too hard. 

  • Get Adequate Fibre

Parents are encouraged to ensure that your baby is given a fair share of fruits (apples, apricots, pears) and vegetables (spinach, broccoli).

If your baby’s stool is hard or he is straining a lot when passing stool, you can give diluted fruit juices and prune juice. 

  • Massage helps too!

According to Dr Wong, massaging the baby’s tummy may also provide comfort and relieve constipation.

You may also tickle the anal opening using a cotton swab with moisturiser to stimulate your baby to push hard if he has difficulty passing out the stools. 

  • Other medical aids

If the constipation is severe, Dr Wong also advises that an oral stool softener (Lactulose) and/or a Glycerin suppository may be used to temporarily relieve the condition while you try to work on the dietary changes.

Be patient. Improvement may be slow and it can take several weeks of active treatment before your child returns to his or her normal bowel pattern.  

When to see a doctor?

If your child has severe pain during a bowel movement, there may be a tear (fissure) at the bowel opening (anus).

Do consult your baby’s doctor to apply an ointment around the anus to relieve the pain and heal the tear.

The doctor may advise whether it is necessary to wash out the stool with an enema.

About Dr Wong Chin Khoon
MBBS (S’pore), MMED Paediatrics (S’pore), FAMS
Private Paediatrician currently practicing at SBCC Baby and Child Clinic located at 26 Jalan Membina #01-05 Singapore 161026 

Dr Wong headed the Children’s Emergency at National University Hospital when it started the service in 2002, before moving on to Department of Emergency Medicine, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital serving as Senior Consultant in 2006. He was also the Senior Consultant, Contingency & Scenario Planning Division, Ops Group at Ministry of Health from 2008 – 2010. Dr Wong was awarded the HMDP training award (Paediatric Emergency, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Canada) in 2001.

He remains amongst only a handful of paediatricians who has received formal training in the field of Paediatric Emergency in Singapore. Dr Wong was also awarded the EXSA (Excellence Service) Award (Silver) in 2008.


This article first appeared on Mummys Market Expert Tips.

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