pediatrician advice on how to treat constipation in babies: photo of baby crawling in diaper
Westend61 / Getty Images
Here Are 9 Ways To Treat Baby Constipation, According To Experts

by Lindsay E. Mack

Plenty of babies deal with digestion issues, but no parent wants to see their little one in distress. That's why it's good to know what pediatricians say about how to treat baby constipation symptoms at home. Adult treatment options may be a little much for babies, so it's important to know what does work.

First, look out for the signs of constipation in babies. "Bowel movements that appear difficult to pass, causing your baby to arch his or her back or cry" are one potential symptom, pediatrician Dr. John Bisacco tells Romper. The stool itself is another sign, says Dr. Bisacco, who recommends looking out for hard, pellet-like stool. In fact, "a baby that is having 3 to 4 poops a day that are hard small balls is constipated," pediatrician Julia Getzelman, M.D. tells Romper. "You can poop daily and still be constipated!" This particular health issue can present differently in babies than adults.

Plus, the frequency of their "bathroom breaks" is not the only way to determine whether a baby is dealing with constipation issues. "Constipation in babies is not always as it might seem," Pediatric Specialist Gary M. Kramer, M.D., tells Romper via email. "Parents often make the mistake of labeling a baby as being constipated simply because they have not had a bowel movement for a certain period of time." Not every baby will have a movement every day, and that's normal. "If your baby is pooping every other day but the stool is still soft and not painful, then they may not be truly constipated," says Dr. Getzelman. If you have questions about your own baby's bowels, then contact your pediatrician for more personalized information.

With that in mind, there's still a lot parents can do to help their infants deal with this particular issue. If your little one is indeed experiencing constipation, then here are some ways to help treat it at home, as suggested by pediatricians.


Add More Fiber To Your Baby's Meals

baona/E+/Getty Images

Increasing fiber intake is a tried-and-true way to help treat constipation. "Another important thing is to include high fiber foods in your baby’s diet. These include vegetables, beans, lentils, some fruits (like pears, raspberries, apples), chia and flax seeds," says Dr. Getzelman. "But when you are eating fiber it is important also to make sure you are drinking water and fluids; otherwise high fiber diets can backfire and constipate further."


Examine The Formula

Formula-fed babies may need some extra attention. "It has been well established that in the first months of life, breastfed babies tend to have more frequent bowel movements than formula-fed babies," says Dr. Kramer. In this case, it may take a bit of trial and error to find the best type of formula for your baby. "If they are formula-fed, then perhaps trying a different type of formula may result in softer, less painful bowel movements," says Dr. Getzelman. Your pediatrician will be able to suggest which types of formula could work better for your baby.


Feed Your Baby "P" Foods

Certain types of sugar can be your friend. "'P' foods like pears, prunes, plums, peaches, and peas can help soften stool, because their sugars help draw more water into the digestive system," says Dr. Getzelman. This means they'll be easier to pass later on.


Give Your Baby Juice

This simple addition to your baby's menu could make a big difference in their digestion. In fact, "a daily serving of 100 percent apple, prune or pear juice in addition to usual feedings is generally very useful in helping constipation from occurring," says Dr. Bisacco. "These juices contain sorbitol, a sweetener that acts like a laxative." This makes them even more effective than other beverages.


Help Your Baby Work It Out

Sometimes your baby just needs a little assistance. "If one sees the baby pushing, bringing the legs up to the belly, and a gentle push of the thighs onto the belly may help get things moving!" says Dr. Bisacco. Like bicycling the legs or rubbing your baby's tummy to help relieve gas, this is another exercise that may help get your baby's system going.


Introduce Solid Foods Slowly

Give your baby time to adjust to the whole digesting solid food thing. "Even if your baby is loving solids, I would hesitate to jump into more than one meal a day until you know that their digestive system is handling it okay and they are not experiencing constipation," as Dr. Getzelman explains. "The introduction of solid food is a big adjustment for a baby’s gut, and can take some time to adjust." Some good solid foods for babies to snack on include avocados and bananas, according to Romper.


Offer More Water

SolStock/E+/Getty Images

Sometimes, water is the answer. "A balanced diet avoiding large amounts of constipating foods and an adequate intake of fluids, most importantly water, can help avoid constipation," says Dr. Bisacco. This may include offering your baby a bit of water in-between feeds as well. Check with your pediatrician to determine the right amount of water to give your child.


Try Probiotics

"Probiotics are also something that you can try if constipation seems to be an ongoing issue," says Dr. Getzelman. "Certain strains of probiotics like Lactobacillus reuteri have been studied to be helpful in treating constipation in babies." A combination of "good" live bacteria (and/or sometimes yeasts) that are naturally found in the body, probiotics may help aid digestion, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Ask your pediatrician whether probiotics would be a good addition to your baby's meals.


Use A Glycerin Suppository

This is not something to try every time your baby experiences the issue, but it is an available option. "Occasional use of an infant glycerin suppository may help induce a bowel movement in the baby but should not be overused," says Dr. Bisacco. Although these treatments are available over the counter, it's definitely a good idea to give your pediatrician a call before using one.

It's always tough to watch your baby deal with tummy trouble. But for the most part, there are many ways parents can help alleviate symptoms of constipation in their infant.


Dr. John Bisacco of Cohen Children's Northwell Health-GoHealth Pediatric Urgent Care

Julia Getzelman, M.D., pediatrician with GetzWell Pediatrics

Gary M. Kramer, M.D., PA, pediatric specialist