If you flip through most breastfeeding books, you’re unlikely to find a section on constipation. This is because it is very rare for an exclusively breastfed infant to experience true constipation. In fact, most experts agree that if a breastfed baby is constipated, there is a medical problem.

Breast milk is a natural laxative; however, breastfed babies may experience constipation from the introduction of food or formula. The formula is especially for constipation. If you recently started giving your baby formula, this may be the cause of constipation. The single best remedy is to drink more breast milk.

Causes of constipation in breastfed babies:

1. Illness requiring medical attention (call your doctor!)

2. Recipe consumption

3. Starting solid


1. The American Academy of Family Physicians defines constipation as delayed or difficult bowel movements (defecation) for more than two weeks.For newborns (less than 6 weeks old), the AAFP recommends that parents contact their doctor if their infant has less than five bowel movements per week for two weeks

2. Hard pebble-like stool

3. Excessive exertion and crying. Some nervousness, grunting, and fussing is normal. Babies are learning how their bodies work. Grunting, straining, and irritability that cause soft stools are not constipation and do not require treatment.

Remedies/treatments for babies under 6 months:

1. If you have been exclusively breastfeeding, call your doctor right away. This may be a sign of a more serious problem and your baby needs to be evaluated by your healthcare professional. Constipation, weakness, weak crying, and decreased eating may indicate botulism. Although very rare, this is a life-threatening condition that requires prompt medical attention.

2. If you offer formula as a supplement but are primarily breastfeeding, stop using formula and exclusively breastfeed. Milk protein is very irritating to a baby’s tummy and intestines. Providing only breast milk will help relieve this irritation.

3. If you have been formula feeding, start breastfeeding (if your baby is less than 2 weeks old) or seek help from an International Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) to resume breastfeeding. Even if you’ve never breastfed before, you’re likely to be able to produce milk. If you don’t have the option of breastfeeding at all, use donated breast milk. You can contact the milk bank (which can be expensive) or ask a trusted friend or family member for some of her milk.

Some health care providers discourage the use of unprocessed breast milk because you may be exposing your baby to medications or diseases through donated milk. However, if you believe that this person and their baby are healthy, chances are you have nothing to worry about. This could be a good use for frozen breast milk for friends who aren’t sure what to do with the excess supply. While you can try other formulas, they don’t come from breast milk, so the problem may not go away or may even get worse.

Infants over 6 months:

1. More breast milk! If you are weaning, re-increase the number of daily feedings until the problem is resolved. Reduce how much food or formula you give. Talk to a registered dietitian to discuss solid foods that are less constipated for your baby.

2. Time. Usually, constipation goes away without the help of special foods or medicines. Although there are over-the-counter treatments for constipation, consult your healthcare provider before use. Repeated episodes of constipation may be a sign of a more serious problem.

3. If you determine that this is constipation and you have obtained approval from your healthcare provider, the American Academy of Family Physicians states that “Parents can give infants 1 ounce of a sorbitol-containing juice (such as prunes, pears, or apples) to treat constipation. “This should only be given to babies over 6 months old.

4. Some healthcare providers recommend corn syrup for constipation. This is not necessary as the other treatment options mentioned usually work better. However, if you decide to give your baby corn syrup, put 1 teaspoon in 2 oz. of water. Do not put syrup directly into formula or pumped breast milk. Corn syrup works by drawing water into the gut and stimulating it to pass stool. Corn syrup is easy to overdose, causing diarrhea and electrolyte imbalances. Both of these problems can be harmful to your baby.

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