Concerning Infant Constipation, while all agree that hard, dry and painful stools are the symptoms of Constipation, the frequency of bowel movements is controversial amongst pediatricians. Normally a newborn infant does it quite frequently, eight to ten times a day for about four weeks until the frequency drops to about one to two times per day by the eighth week. But there is a very firm school of thought amongst many physicians that even up to four days without a bowel movement, for breast-fed babies, is no cause for alarm. Breast milk is well constituted, so that the whole of it is absorbed by the babys digestive system, and what passes as stool is some curdled protein and stomach juices and mucus.
With formula-fed infants the baby does not use up all the bulk and the residue, if allowed to build for too long, would lose the water content and become very hard. So the frequency of bowel movements for these babies should be more. Babies do grunt and become red in the face while passing stools. This is quite normal until the anal sphincter muscles learn to relax and expand when making a bowel movement.
Parents can give about two ounces of water or diluted juice, if the stools are hard. Bicycling the legs and giving a gentle tummy massage helps if the baby has not had a bowel movement for too long. But if the Constipation is accompanied by severe vomiting, pain or other problems it calls for immediate consultation with the doctor. The parents should not attempt to treat the infant with laxatives or anything else. It is normal that babies undergo a phase of Constipation when solid foods are introduced. A corresponding increase of liquids like diluted juice would help manage the problem. A different type of solid food, avoiding constipating ingredients, will also help to solve the problem.
If Constipation persists, the pediatrician may recommend the use of mild laxatives, suppositories or enemas. These should be discontinued as soon as the baby is free of the symptoms. Continued usage of any aid to treat Constipation should be avoided.