Poop! It’s something I never thought I would talk about so much. At the dinner table: “What color was Dylan’s poop today? Was it mushy or formed?” Laying in bed at night: “Has Mae pooped recently?” Getting a report from my mother-in-law after she babysits: “Dylan had three bowel movements today, and Mae had one.”
It’s a daily topic here, and for good reason: Poop is a primary indicator of digestive health, and BOTH of our girls have had constipation issues ever since starting on solid food at 6 months old. For the first 6 months, we were golden – literally! Exclusively breastfed babies poop a golden, mustard color and pretty much never get constipated, and that was our experience as well. But when their 6-month birthdays rolled around and we started to introduce solids…the poop stopped.
The first time around, with Mae, my pediatrician assured me this was a common problem when breastfed babies start on solids, as their little bellies are adjusting to new foods. Certain foods are more prone to constipation (apples, bananas, cereal), so we avoided those. Still, Mae was having trouble pooping.
Besides the obvious signs – you’ve noticed your baby hasn’t pooped in a few days – how do you know she’s constipated? If she starts to poop teeny tiny hard little pellets, that’s a sign there’s something larger brewing that she just can’t get out.
So what’s a mom to do? Here are the 3 “fixes” for baby constipation and our experience with all of them:
#1: If your baby is having trouble with constipation, and you want to solve it GRADUALLY
Our first visits to the pediatrician were filled with recommendations like avoid constipating foods (apples, bananas, cereal), eat non-constipating foods (peaches, prunes, pears, fiber), drink prune or pear juice, and drink more water. The problem was that Mae didn’t take a bottle, which meant she didn’t drink anything other than breastmilk. We could occasionally get her to drink out of a regular cup while we held it up to her mouth, but it was nothing close to the volume that she would need to drink to make a difference with her constipation.
Also, to this day, Mae won’t drink juice. She doesn’t like many sweet foods (I know, I know, not your typical kid), and juice is just too sweet for her. We tried, trust me – we went out and bought every type of prune juice, pear juice, and peach juice on the market, but she wouldn’t touch any of them.
That being said, if your baby’s constipation situation isn’t super dire yet, this is the place to start. We eventually introduced homemade smoothies into both of our girls' diets, so that's how we ended up ensuring they got the fruits, veggies, and fiber they needed to help keep their bowel movements more regular.
#2: If changing your baby’s diet isn’t helping her constipation enough, and she needs FAST relief
As I said, we tried to make adjustments to Mae’s diet, but it just wasn’t moving the needle fast enough for her. So, our pediatrician recommended Miralax. If you’re not familiar, Miralax is a gentle laxative and super safe for people of all ages. The only problem is that it’s in powder form, so you add it to a 5 oz liquid drink, and again (back to our recurring problem)…Mae didn’t take a stinkin’ bottle. So, how would we get her to drink Miralax water?
Our solution was one that likely took years off our lives, but that was just typical of life with Mae in her first year. We mixed up the 5 ounces of Miralax water, got a medicine syringe, and squirted the water into her mouth, little by little. I counted one time – it typically took us 75 “squirts” to get the full dose in her, and we did this 2-3 times per day for 6 months straight. She would often spit it back out at us, refuse to take it, or cry in protest through part of it. It was maybe the most tedious and frustrating (not to mention time-consuming) task I’ve ever done in my life. But, it worked.
#3: If your baby is screaming in pain from constipation, and she needs IMMEDIATE help
I hope none of you ever have to experience this, but if your baby is struggling with constipation, there’s a chance you’ll need to use a suppository at some point. We’ve had to do this with Mae probably 8-10 times over the course of the last 4 years, and with Dylan once or twice. It’s not fun, but it really works well.
As I mentioned earlier, one of the signs that your baby is constipated is you find teeny tiny hard little pellets (or just one pellet) in her diaper. Oh, that – and she’s crying and clearly uncomfortable. This was the case for Mae in particular quite a few times, and she needed help ASAP. So, we used glycerin suppositories, which are little syringes filled with glycerin. You insert the syringe into the baby’s anus and squeeze the syringe bulb.
Glycerin is part of a class of drugs known as hyperosmotic laxatives, which work by drawing water into the intestines. Glycerin works pretty quickly – usually, the baby will have a bowel movement within 15 to 60 minutes, although it often had an immediate effect on Mae (like 15 seconds). You have to be careful not to use this approach very often, as the baby could become dependent on it and stop pooping on her own. But, it really is a great option when you need to help your baby poop NOW.
To this day, Dylan is still on a low dose of Miralax, and we just transitioned Mae off within the last 6 months. Our pediatrician recommended not taking her off of it until after she potty trained, as it could negatively affect her willingness to poop on the potty if her bowel movements were painful or difficult. I’m happy to report that after 4 years of tummy issues, Mae now has healthy and regular bowel movements without the help of anything other than a good diet. Hopefully, that will be the case for Dylan soon, too.
If you’re dealing with your baby’s constipation, hang in there! As with all things in life, this is a temporary phase – though maybe not quite as temporary as you imagined (I never thought Mae would be on Miralax for 4 years). Most babies will eventually outgrow it and become the regular poopers of your dreams. 😊
About Katie Stansberry
Katie Stansberry is a work-from-home mom of two sweet girls and the creator of Breastfeeding Bliss. After struggling at the beginning of her breastfeeding journey, she wanted to create a happy place where breastfeeding moms could find practical tips, positive inspiration, and the newest and best breastfeeding products. On her "Back to Bliss" breastfeeding blog, she shares her personal stories and tips for making breastfeeding an easier and more enjoyable experience.