Best foods to relieve constipation in babies
Are There Baby Foods that Help with Constipation?
While parenting brings many surprises, one of them is likely how much you’ll think about poop, or lack thereof, especially during that first year. But here you are worrying about your baby’s digestive tract and convinced that they’re constipated.
If you’ve recently introduced your baby to solid food, then your worries may be on target: solid foods can put a strain on your baby’s developing digestive tract and cause constipation. But there are things you can do to help!
Before you begin treating constipation you should determine if there is really an issue at all. So here’s the scoop on poop and how to tell if your worries are founded and your baby is constipated.
During the first few weeks, you’ll find yourself changing diapers with alarming regularity. Figure in every feed or so.
But don’t despair, because by the time your baby reaches 6 weeks old, they may have a bowel movement only once or twice a day. On the other hand, they may have one only every 7–10 days. (Yep, the frequency really can vary that much.)
The poop is yellow, soft, runny and sometimes lumpy and the smell isn’t unpleasant.
A newborn, formula-fed baby typically poops up to five times a day. At about 6 to 8 weeks, this may decrease to around once a day.
Formula-fed babies have poop that is a camel to brown color with a thicker consistency, more like paste. Most likely, the less-than-aromatic smell means you’ll hermetically seal soiled diapers before you toss them into the garbage.
Signs that your baby is constipated
You’ve noticed that your baby’s tummy isn’t following the schedule that you got used to. Could it be constipation? Here are the signs that could confirm your suspicions:
- You notice that they cry or fuss while they’re trying to have a hard bowel movement.
- The poop, when it does come, is like hard pellets.
- You notice streaks of red blood in the hard poop.
While it’s not easy for a baby on a liquid diet to become constipated, trouble can start when you start introducing your baby to solid foods at around 6 months. Here’s why:
New food types
Think of it as a learning curve: Your baby’s body is learning how to cope with a new kind of food to digest as they move away from their full liquid diet and you need to soften the learning curve. (Pardon the irresistible pun.)
Changes to fluid intake
Decreased fluids will make your baby’s poop harder and more difficult to push out. If they’ve started solids, they may need to up their fluid intake to offset the solid food. And if your baby is teething or feeling unwell, it can also lead to them taking in less fluid than usual.
Lack of fiber
Even though they’re just starting out, babies’ tummies work like ours. While initially the move to solids that have fiber (from breast milk or formula, which don’t) can cause temporary constipation, their tummies will adjust.
Make sure to monitor your baby’s fiber intake and pair it with plenty of hydration for a smooth ride the same way that you monitor yours.
OK, so you’ve confirmed that your baby is constipated. The next step is helping to alleviate the strain on their developing digestive system.
Remember that you can keep offering these foods as your baby develops into a toddler and beyond. In fact, there is little research or evidence to support specific foods (including high fiber ones) in treating or preventing constipation in infants. Most of these recommendations are based on evidence for older adults and children.
Keep in mind that good practice when introducing solids is to introduce foods as single ingredients. That way, if your baby is allergic to certain foods, you’ll be able to more easily trace the source.
If your little one hasn’t tried these foods before, don’t rush the process. Test out one at a time and then introduce combinations once you’re confident they’re well tolerated.
- Back to basics. Give your baby’s digestive tract a break by feeding them mashed avocado or sweet potato purée. These are easy to digest and may give your baby the kick start they need.
- B vegetables. Think broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and beans. Purée these for a meal filled with fiber.
- P fruits. Your grandmother was right — bring on the prunes for quick work. A purée that includes a mix of prunes plus pears, plums, or peaches should work magic. Try subbing the prunes with dates for a change.
- Bring on the fiber. If your baby is over 8 months, you can offer them whole grains like oatmeal, fiber-rich cereals, whole wheat pasta, and brown rice.
- Water intake. Until 6 months an exclusively breastfed or formula-fed baby doesn’t need to drink water. Above this age, you can introduce small amounts of water.
Plums and pears with cinnamon
Cut 2 or 3 pears and plums into small pieces. Place in a saucepan with a small amount of water and simmer until soft. Add in a sprinkle of cinnamon. Blend thoroughly.
Sweet potato with apple and peach
Cut half a sweet potato, one apple, and half a peach into small pieces. Place in steamer basket and cook until tender. Blend until smooth.
Spinach and apple purée
Chop two apples into small chunks and cook in saucepan with about 1/2 cup of water. When they’re tender, add about 1 cup of spinach and cook another 2 to 3 minutes. Purée until smooth. Can be seasoned with cinnamon and ginger.
Some sources suggest prune, pear, and apple juices help to increase the water content in poop and can ease constipation.
However, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends steering clear of fruit juice for children younger than 1 year old. You can stick with these fruits as purées for similar effects.
What is it about prune juice? The high levels of sorbitol and phenolic substances in prune juice and dried plums act as a laxative and diuretic properties. So if your child is over 1 year old, you can use small amounts of prune juice to encourage their system to run.
Some studies show that constipation may affect as much as 30 percent of children. If your child is part of the unlucky statistic, here are some foods that you may want to give them smaller amounts of until it passes:
- dairy products such as cheese and yogurt
- low fiber foods like white rice, white bread, and white pasta
If you’re like most parents, you’ll be up for whatever you can try to help your baby get comfortable fast. Here are a few tricks that you can use to ease your baby’s constipation:
- Warm baths. These can relax those abdominal muscles and get them working.
- Exercise. Lay your baby on their back and push their legs alternately as if they’re cycling a bike. Alternatively, hold their knees and feet together and push their feet towards their belly.
- Massage. Use your fingertip to draw clockwise circles on your baby’s stomach.
If you see that despite your home remedies, your baby still is having hard stools or hasn’t pooped after 2 or 3 days from their last hard stool, then contact your pediatrician. Especially if you consistently notice blood in their poop or your baby is extremely irritable and appears to be in pain.
While dealing with your baby’s toilet issues may seem a tad unsavory, you’ll soon be so used to it, that you’ll find yourself sharing your insights over coffee with other parents. And don’t be shy about sharing the yummy food combinations you discover to keep things moving.
The Best Foods to Help Baby Poop (And a Few That Make It Worse)
Relieving your constipated baby can be as simple as feeding her the right thing. Load up on these foods to help baby poop (and avoid ones that worsen the problem).
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Relieves Constipation: Prunes
No surprises here; prunes are one of the best high-fiber foods for a baby who’s having tummy troubles. If your little one is just starting solid foods, try cooking and mashing some prunes to feed her. You could also chop cooked prunes into small, bite-sized pieces—or use one of our other creative techniques for introducing new baby foods.
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Relieves Constipation: Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are delicious just about any way you prepare them, and they are also magic for a baby who needs to poop. They’re high in insoluble fiber, which will help your baby go right away. Try making your own baby food by cooking and mashing a sweet potato or roast fries in the oven for fun finger food.
This is how you know when to start feeding babies solid foods.
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Relieves Constipation: Apples
An apple a day can keep constipation away! Apples (especially with the skin on) are high in fiber and can help pull water into your baby’s colon. This keeps baby’s poop soft and easy to pass. Try offering small pieces of cooked apple or pour some apple juice into a sippy cup to help get things back on track. Apples are a great stage 1 baby food. Learn more about what types of food to start feeding baby once they’re ready to go beyond formula or breastmilk.
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Relieves Constipation: Broccoli
If your baby hasn’t tried broccoli yet, there’s no time like the present! Broccoli is a vitamin powerhouse and is high in fiber. Try blending up cooked broccoli in a food processor or offering small, bite-sized pieces of soft, cooked broccoli. (Consider one of our recommended baby food makers.) If your baby is eating a variety of foods, try adding small pieces of broccoli to brown rice or scrambled eggs.
When he’s a little older, your kid will love these tasty broccoli side dishes.
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Relieves Constipation: Pears
There is nothing more delicious than a ripe, juicy pear. Treat your baby to this seasonal treat to help relieve and even prevent constipation. Pears are one of the first foods babies can try and are high in fiber. They can be cooked, but are soft enough to be offered raw. Your baby can safely gum small pieces of ripe pear without teeth.
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Relieves Constipation: Peas
If your baby is just starting solid foods, peas are usually one of the first options. This is good news if your baby needs help in the pooping department. Peas contain both soluble and insoluble fiber to help keep your baby’s poop soft and moving along. This makes it easier and quicker to pass without painful straining.
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Relieves Constipation: Spinach
We usually save the fresh spinach for our own salads, but babies should be invited to the greens party, too. Spinach is loaded with fiber and vitamins that help make your baby’s poop easier to pass. Try blending up some fresh spinach in a fruit smoothie for both of you!
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Causes Constipation: Cheese
Dairy products like small cubes of cheese or lightly flavored yogurt are easy foods for babies learning to eat solids. While safe and convenient, cheese is a low-fiber snack and can lead to constipation. Try cutting back on the dairy products for a few days and see if your baby improves.
You may think these foods are dairy-free, but they’re not!
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Causes Constipation: Bananas
Bananas are a great first finger food for babies (and a yummy way to cut calories when baking). Unfortunately, they can also slow down your baby’s digestion, and thus slow down their pooping. Take a brief break from bananas and use this opportunity to give some new fruits a try.
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Causes Constipation: Cereal
Whether your child is just starting out with rice cereal or has graduated to carrying a bag of Cheerios with her wherever she goes, babies and toddlers cannot get enough of this favorite first food. Cereal can lead to more formed poop, which could slow down the number of poopy diapers each day. Try cutting back on the amount of cereal and incorporating more fresh fruits and veggies.
Use up those Cheerios in one of these genius recipes.
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Causes Constipation: Processed foods
Processed foods like cookies, crackers and white bread are common snacks for growing babies and toddlers, but too much can quickly lead to constipation. While you don’t have to cut these foods out entirely, try to limit them if your baby is having tummy troubles. Or, try swapping out white flour for whole wheat. For example, brown rice is a tasty alternative to low-fiber white rice.
Originally Published: May 20, 2019
Carrie Madormo, RN
Now a freelance health and food writer, Carrie worked as a nurse for over a decade. When she isn't hunched over her laptop with a baby in hand, you will find her cooking her grandmother’s recipes, lacing up her running shoes or sipping coffee in the bathroom to hide from her three young children.
what to do and what foods to eat to fix the chair?
In the last article on constipation, we talked about what it is and what are the most common causes. In this material, we understand why, with constipation, you should not immediately take laxatives, but it is better to pay attention to your diet.
Often the problem is not a lazy bowel that needs to be "pushed". We decided to talk about useful products that help you go to the toilet in a natural way.
Be sure to see a doctor if constipation lasts for weeks or is accompanied by pain, blood and mucus in the stool, and other uncomfortable symptoms.
- 1. Why do we need different types of fiber
- 2. Soups: more water and fiber
- 3. Fermented probiotic dairy products
- 4. Stone fruits for constipation
- 5. Whole grains and bran
- 6. Legumes in the fight against constipation
- 7. Seeds for regular digestion
- 8. How to eat fiber properly
- 9. Important note
Why different types of fiber are needed
Fiber helps regularize stools and feeds beneficial gut bacteria. It comes in soluble and insoluble forms, and both types are equally important for healthy digestion.
Soluble fiber absorbs liquid and forms a gel-like substance that facilitates the passage of stool through the digestive tract. It also creates a feeling of fullness.
Insoluble fiber adds bulk to the stool and stimulates intestinal receptors to speed up stool elimination. Insoluble dietary fiber also retains water and prevents feces from turning into a dry, lumpy mass.
Soups: more water and fiber
Vegetable soups solve two problems at once, because they contain the necessary dietary fiber and liquid. You can start with puree soups - they are easier to digest and contain more nutrients, and they also just taste better.
To make the broth rich, cook the soup for a long time and on low heat. The main thing is to boil the vegetables, but not to digest them, so as not to destroy the fiber they contain.
Milk and cream soups can cause bloating and only make you feel worse. For a thicker, more textured soup without any GI side effects, opt for recipes with potatoes. The starch it contains does an excellent job of giving the soup that creaminess.
Probiotic fermented foods
Fermented foods are rich in beneficial lactic acid bacteria Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. In the intestines, such bacteria resist dysbacteriosis and produce short-chain fatty acids that maintain mucosal health and normal peristalsis.
Fermented foods contain little or no lactose, so you don't have to worry about stomach discomfort. If a slight seething after their use nevertheless appeared, the reason is more likely in the probiotic effect than in intolerance.
If the sour taste and smell of kefir puts you off, try other fermented dairy products:
- Greek yogurt;
- sheep's or goat's milk yoghurt;
- fermented baked milk;
Vegan probiotics also exist, such as kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut and other fermented vegetables, miso paste, cashew or soy based yogurt.
With the Atlas Microbiota Test, you can check your gut bacteria and find out which prebiotics and probiotics are right for you.
Stone Fruits for Constipation
These fruits are juicy and fibrous and will help you digest naturally quickly. Some stone fruits also contain sorbitol, which has a mild laxative effect.
These fruits are considered the most effective against constipation:
If the fresh fruit season is over, you can limit yourself to prunes and dried apricots. It is important to always drink dried fruits with water - if you gnaw them dry on the go, this will only worsen the condition.
Whole grains and bran
Unprocessed grain retains the outer shell, endosperm and germ. Such grains contain a maximum of nutrients and fiber, so for chronic constipation, whole grains and bran (separated grain shells) should be included in the diet.
This could be:
- whole grain toast for breakfast;
- bran porridge;
- blasted whole grain breads as a snack;
- brown rice as a side dish.
If you don't like the taste of brown rice, you can buy a mixture of regular brown rice. As for flax crackers, such a snack is not suitable for everyone - dense raw grains may not be digested at all.
Legumes for constipation
Lentils, chickpeas and beans are high in fiber, which is what causes flatulence in many people. For this fiber to benefit, you need to eat legumes in small portions and focus on your well-being. In any case, gas is rather a positive sign that intestinal bacteria have something to eat.
It is recommended to soak beans in cold water for several hours before cooking. Canned chickpeas and beans are easier to digest because some of the "gas-forming" substances go into a liquid that can be drained.
You can also buy bean sprouts or make your own - they are also less problematic to digest. The spice asafoetida, according to some studies, can reduce bloating after legumes.
Want to learn more about stomach health?
Download the free microbiome book from the Atlas experts!
Seeds for regular digestion
We have described foods rich in insoluble fiber. Now it's time to talk about sources of soluble fiber.
Psyllium husk is sold dry as a natural remedy for constipation. It has a neutral taste and smells almost nothing. When diluted with water, the husk forms mucus, which is necessary for the formation of healthy stools.
Chia seeds are another trending source of soluble fiber. They also need to be diluted with water and added to cereals or smoothies. Chia pudding or chia yogurt is a light breakfast or dessert option that will help keep the moisture in your stool and add the viscosity you need.
More affordable soluble fiber - flax seeds. They are recommended for irritable bowel syndrome, chronic constipation and type 2 diabetes. Seeds need to be soaked in water overnight to get that gel-like texture. If you don’t want to wait, you can buy flaxseed porridge in the form of an instant mix.
How to eat fiber properly
Insoluble fiber must be chewed carefully and for a long time, otherwise the coarse particles will irritate the esophagus and intestines. If you spend much more time on a salad than on a main course, this is absolutely normal. The better you chew, the better this food will be absorbed and digested.
It is important to drink plenty of fluids. If fiber has nowhere to absorb water, it won't work as a natural laxative.
If you've never eaten a lot of fruits and vegetables, start small and give your microbiome time to adjust to the new diet.
There are several signs that you may be eating too much fiber. These are:
- bloating of the lower abdomen, distension and flatulence;
- Loose, unformed stools with clearly visible undigested fibers.
- A proper diet that includes soups, fermented and whole grains, and various types of fiber can help you improve your bowel movement.
- It is important to remember to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Sugary drinks and coffee do not replace water.
- You can find out what nutrients and dietary fiber your bacteria are missing by taking the Atlas Microbiota Test. You will receive personalized and understandable recommendations that will help improve the functioning of the microbiota and improve digestion.
More fiber articles on the Atlas blog:
- Everything you need to know about fiber
- What foods contain fiber
- How to take care of your gut bacteria
- National Health Service, Constipation, About constipation, 2020
- Min Chen et al., Modulatory Effects of Gut Microbiota on Constipation: The Commercial Beverage Yakult Shapes Stool Consistency, 2019
- Compound Interest, The Chemistry of Plums & Prunes: Constipation & Chewing Gum, 2015
- Harvard School of Public Health, Food features
- U.S. National Institute of Health, Graham DY et al, The effect of bran on bowel function in constipation, 1982
- Gastrojournal, R. S. Fisher, M.D., Bran as therapy in constipation, 1983
- International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders
- R&D Centre, Aurea Biolabs Pvt Ltd, Kolenchery, Cochin, India, Augustine Amalraj and Sreeraj Gopi, Biological activities and medicinal properties of Asafoetida: A review, 2017
- Noureddin Soltanian and Mohsen Janghorbani, A randomized trial of the effects of flaxseed to manage constipation, weight, glycemia, and lipids in constipated patients with type 2 diabetes, 2018
Proper Diet for Constipation
Constipation or constipation is a very common defecation disorder that makes it difficult to empty the bowels. Individual episodes are often associated with nutritional errors or functional disorders, while chronic constipation often indicates diseases of the gastrointestinal tract or other organs and systems.
The key symptoms of constipation are:
- Defecation less than 3 times a week.
- Defecation with dry, hard stools, which often appear in lumps.
- The need for additional straining for defecation.
- Sensation of "blockage" of the rectum.
- Feeling of incomplete emptying of the bowels.
- The need for assistance with defecation (hand pressure on the abdomen and manual manipulation to remove stool from the rectum).
Diet for constipation
One of the key roles in the fight against constipation is nutrition correction. Often, changes in eating habits and lifestyle are enough to eliminate constipation that is not associated with other diseases, as well as to prevent their occurrence in the future.
List of useful foods for constipationPrunes help with constipation. Photo: alexeyzhilkin - ru.freepik.com
The basis of the diet of people with a tendency to constipation should be dominated by foods that contain dietary fiber - fiber.
The most useful foods for constipation are:
- Prunes. The insoluble fiber in prunes increases the amount of water in the stool, preventing constipation. It also contains sugar alcohol (sorbitol), which has a laxative effect.
- Apples. They contain a large amount of pectin, which can improve intestinal motility, promote the growth of beneficial bacteria and eliminate the symptoms of constipation.
- Pears. In addition to being high in fiber, pears also contain fructose and the previously mentioned sorbitol. Due to these substances that are not absorbed in the large intestine, removing water into its lumen, pears can cause a laxative effect.
- Citrus. Oranges, grapefruits and tangerines are rich in pectin and naringenin, which increase the secretion of fluid into the colon, causing a laxative effect. It is recommended to use them raw.
- Spinach and other greens. Greens such as spinach, brussels sprouts and broccoli are rich not only in fiber, but also in vitamins C and K, as well as folic acid, which have a positive effect on bowel function.
- Legumes: beans, peas and lentils. Legumes contain a mixture of insoluble and soluble fiber. This means they can relieve constipation by bulking up stools, as well as softening them to make bowel movements easier6.
- Kefir. Contains bacteria and yeast that improve the functioning of the digestive system. It also thins the stool, improving bowel movements.
List of undesirable foods for constipationDairy products, red meats and alcohol are not desirable for constipation. Photo: MedPortal
Correction of nutrition for constipation includes not only the addition of more fluid and dietary fiber, but also the restriction or complete rejection of other foods that can provoke this defecation disorder . These products include:
- Alcohol. Alcoholic beverages, especially in large quantities, lead to the loss of large amounts of fluid in the urine, which contributes to constipation .
- Milk and dairy products. It is believed that milk, due to the increased sensitivity of the human body to its proteins, can provoke constipation. Children under 12 years of age are most susceptible to this effect .
- High-fat red meats increase the risk of constipation .
- Fried food and fast food. Like red meat, these foods are high in fat and low in dietary fiber. In addition, a large amount of salt is used in its preparation, which worsens the course of constipation.
- White rice, unlike brown, lacks bran and other major sources of fiber, which can also cause constipation.
- Products containing gluten. Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley, and rye. It has been found to be associated with constipation, and also impairs bowel function and damages it in celiac disease and irritable bowel syndrome .
Nutrition for children with constipationBroccoli puree helps to normalize stools in young children. Photo: [email protected] / Depositphotos
The fight against constipation in children of preschool and primary school age is similar to that in adults: in such situations, the same advice on nutrition and lifestyle changes is relevant.
“You should try to adjust the stool with a diet: give the child more water (a liter per day or more). Introduce more vegetable fiber (salads, vegetable stews), juices (plums, prunes), fermented milk products (yogurts), laxative foods (beets, pickles), etc. You should also try to involve the child himself in the treatment, make it an entertaining game, motivate for the result. For example, buy a calendar with large cells and draw a smiley in the cell every day when he himself went to the toilet. Five days of independent chair in a row - deserved a guaranteed toy, two weeks in a row - a super prize. Positive reinforcement works wonders, trust me.
Well, physical activity, of course. Preschoolers do not need to be additionally stimulated, except perhaps to limit the time for gadgets and TV, but schoolchildren already need to be actively urged to enroll in a collective sports section, for example.”
An excerpt from the book of pediatrician Sergei Butriy “Health of the child. How to learn to cope with diseases and your own panic "
Infants can also suffer from constipation. It is worth noting that normally in infants, the frequency of bowel movements can vary from 1-2 times a day to 1 time in 7-10 days.
If the child has other symptoms of constipation in addition to infrequent stools, such as increased restlessness during bowel movements and hard lumps of feces, the following dietary changes are recommended :
- to which you can add a mixture of prunes, pears or peaches.
- Recommended vegetables are broccoli, Brussels sprouts and legumes.
- Whole grains such as oatmeal, high fiber cereal, whole wheat pasta, and brown rice are allowed for children over 8 months of age.
- Controlling the amount of liquid you drink. Until 6 months of age, an exclusively breastfed or formula-fed baby does not need to drink water. Babies over this age can be given a small amount of water.
The following can also help a small child with constipation :
- Warm baths. They relax the abdominal muscles and improve peristalsis.
- Exercises. Having put the child on his back, you can alternately bend his legs, as if he were riding a bicycle.
- Massage. You can improve intestinal motility by drawing circles on the child's stomach in a clockwise direction.
- If constipation persists after a few days of dietary change, infant glycerin suppositories (suppositories) may be used. However, they are intended for occasional use only. Mineral oils, stimulant laxatives, or enemas should not be used to treat constipation in infants. But for older children with constipation, enemas and the use of laxatives under the supervision of a pediatrician are indicated.
Consequences of non-compliance with the diet
Without nutritional correction, individual cases of constipation develop into chronic constipation. At the same time, the symptoms of this disorder worsen, and the risk of developing complications increases, the most common of which are :
- Hemorrhoids (Fig. 1).
- Anal fissures.
- Rectal bleeding.
Inflammation of the mucous membrane of the rectum and sigmoid colon - proctosigmoiditis.Figure 1. Stages of development of hemorrhoids. Source: CC0 Public Domain
Proper nutrition and control of fluid intake are the keys to eliminating constipation in most cases. But it is important to understand that this phenomenon can be not only an isolated problem, but also a symptom of other pathologies. Therefore, if defecation disorders persist after changing the diet, you should seek the advice of a specialist.
- Constipation. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. 2019.
- Elise Mandl. The 17 Best Foods to Relieve Constipation. health line. 2018.
- Lever E, Cole J, Scott SM, Emery PW, Whelan K. Systematic review: the effect of prunes on gastrointestinal function. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2014 Oct;40(7):750-8
- Bae SH. Diets for constipation. Pediatr Gastroenterol Hepatol Nutr. 2014;17(4):203-208.
- Reiland H, Slavin J. Systematic Review of Pears and Health. Nutr Today. 2015;50(6):301-305.
- Yang, Jing et al. “Effect of dietary fiber on constipation: a meta analysis.” World journal of gastroenterology vol. 18.48 (2012): 7378-83.
- Turan İ, Dedeli Ö, Bor S, İlter T. Effects of a kefir supplement on symptoms, colonic transit, and bowel satisfaction score in patients with chronic constipation: a pilot study.