Constipation in infants is frequently defined as difficulty in passing hard, dry (like small pellets) poo. If your baby has infrequent bowel movements, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are constipated. There can be big differences between babies when it comes to the duration between bowel movements, some being daily, some being weekly. You also can’t rely on your baby’s facial expression while doing a poo to conclude constipation either, this can be a very normal response.
With formula-fed babies, generally their poos are thicker and pastier and sometimes less frequent than breast-fed poo but this also doesn’t mean your baby has constipation.
Your baby’s bowel motions can be affected by several factors, including:
- Fluid intake
- Introduction of solid foods
- Age (as age increases the stool characteristics change)
- Illness and infections
If you have any concerns about your baby’s bowel motions, it never hurts to seek the advice of your doctor or health care professional.
Diarrhoea is characterised by very frequent, runny, liquid stools. Diarrhoea in children is fairly common, especially during and following gastroenteritis, or “gastro”. Diarrhoea results in a significant loss of water and mineral salts from the body and therefore presents a serious risk of dehydration. In extreme cases, it can even result in your baby having to be hospitalised to receive fluids. If your baby is less than 6 months old, it’s recommended you take them to see a doctor immediately if they experience 3 or more watery poos over the day. In older children it’s also important to see a doctor if symptoms persist.
There are rehydration solutions and particular probiotics available for babies that may be appropriate. A healthcare professional will be able to advise which one is best for your child.
If your baby is happy and thriving, the colour of their poo should not necessarily be a cause for concern.
- Generally, a breastfed baby will have more yellowish to slightly green colour poo than a formula fed baby.
- The colour of baby’s stools on a standard cow’s milk formula are usually light yellow/green to brown.
- The colour of baby’s stools on a formula that has the protein broken up (hydrolysed protein formulas) can range from yellowish mustard to dark green.
Changes in your baby’s stool colour may be due to several reasons:
- If you are moving your baby from breastfeeding to baby formula or between formulas, it is normal for there to be changes in bowel motions, and the colour of your baby’s poo.
- If you are using a combination of breastfeeding and baby formula, your baby’s poo will vary between the descriptions mentioned above depending on the ratio of breast milk to baby formula
- If your baby has started solid food, their poo colour can also be affected by the colour of recent food choices.
- If your baby has pale yellow, white or grey coloured poo you should see a doctor immediately.
At the end of the day, if you are worried about the colour of your baby’s poo, then it doesn’t hurt to see your doctor or health care nurse to get some reassurance.
This should come as no surprise, but everyone’s poo smells… including your baby’s.
Formula fed babies tend to have more pungent smelling poos compared to breastfed babies. Unfortunately, there is not much you can do about that.
It’s also useful to note that if you are moving your baby from breastfeeding to baby formula or between formulas, it is normal for there to be changes in bowel motions, and this can include smell.
Colic is when an otherwise well fed and healthy baby cries or fusses excessively, sometimes for hours, for no clear reason. Approximately 20% of babies, both breast and formula fed, between the ages of two weeks and six months suffer from colic.
The difficulty in diagnosing colic is that it’s relatively normal for babies to fuss or cry.
Below is a list of common reasons babies cry:
- Physical discomfort such as being too hot, cold, sick, abdominal bloating, wind or pain;
- Tired or overtired;
- Passing a bowel movement;
- In need of a reassuring cuddle;
- Release of accumulated stress
If you have ruled out above possible causes of your babies crying, you could be dealing with baby colic and its likely time to visit your health care professional for more advice. There is some good evidence that specific probiotic strains might help reduce crying in colicky babies. Discuss with your doctor about possible management options.
Lactose intolerance occurs when the body can’t breakdown lactose (a milk sugar) due to insufficient amounts of a gut enzyme called lactase. Symptoms are associated with the digestive system and can range from bloating and wind to diarrhoea and irritability.
There are generally two forms of lactose intolerance:
- Primary Lactose Intolerance: An extremely rare genetic condition which requires medical intervention. This is when the body doesn’t produce enough of the lactase enzyme.
- Secondary Lactose Intolerance: This is much more common. It occurs when the small intestine cell lining is damaged, occurring commonly after gastroenteritis. The cell lining is where the lactase enzyme lives, damage to these cells can mean an interruption and reduction of lactase activity.
Management will depend on the cause of the lactose intolerance and your baby’s’ current diet (exclusively milk fed or solids). If your formula fed baby suffers from lactose intolerance, an infant formula suitable for lactose intolerance would be the alternative to a standard infant formula. Speak to your health care professional before changing any infant formula.
Regurgitation (or mild reflux) is when stomach contents flow back up into the oesophagus. This may or may not include vomiting and is harmless in many cases.
There are many possible causes of reflux and ways to help comfort your baby. For formula fed babies, there are infant formulas that are suitable for infants with regurgitation. You should always check with your doctor before changing your current infant formula to ensure you choose the most appropriate one for your baby.
Feeding your baby from a bottle for the first time doesn’t always happen easily, especially if you are transitioning from breastfeeding to a baby bottle. Suckling from an artificial teat is quite different to suckling from the breast, so your baby will need time (and you’ll need patience) to learn how to do this.
Baby bottles and teats come in a range of sizes and shapes and the perfect one for your baby will depend on their age. Some teats have been designed more specifically to mimic the breast shape, which can help your baby switch more easily between breast and bottle.
A Lactation Consultant may be the best person to advise on a suitable baby bottle for your bub and can provide further guidance.