Constipation in a Breast-Fed Baby

April 18th, 2008 by Candice

I have dealt with a lot of poopy issues as a parent of five children. My oldest and my youngest children were and are constipated babies. As a baby, my oldest child, who was exclusively breast-fed the first 6 months of his life was very constipated. He would have a bowel movement once a week. A big blow-out at that. I had a few friends who said that some babies “just don’t go as often”. My family care MD said that breast-milk was a laxative and he couldn’t figure out why the baby was constipated.

When we first started giving our oldest solid food at 6 months, he became very very constipated. It was so bad, that one time he didn’t poop for 2 weeks. And when that bowel movement came, it was hard like rabbit poop and very painful. I knew something had to be done. So I started giving him water. I was told by several people, including lactation consultants that breast-fed babies don’t need water and that if they get water too soon, it can damage their kidneys. There is some truth to excessive water intake at an early age can weaken the Kidney system. But I learned that a blanket statement, such as “breast-fed babies don’t need water” does not apply to every baby!

Once I started offering my son water (an ounce or two at a time), his bowel movements occured once or twice a week and they weren’t as hard. I came to a conclusion that my baby was just dehydrated. In fact, I was too. By increasing my water intake, it also helped my baby get re hydrated. Another thing we did to help move his bowels more is we switched his diet. He was only 6 or 7 months old, but we switched to only feeding him Fruit-Eze. Fruit-Eze is a puree of dates, raisins, and prunes (see fruiteze.com). We started feeding him it thinned out with water at least twice a day. Within a week, his bowels were moving daily.

Once he was having a bowel movement every day, I noticed some positive changes in him. He wasn’t as fussy at bed time. My son was never ‘colicky’. But at night he would be fussy and pull his legs to his chest, etc. That quit! His eczema had also cleared up, and his allergies were better. We were doing a few other things at this time, like using natural laundry soap and no fabric softener; eating more organic foods; using natural cleaning products; and giving 1/8tsp of vinegar (pickle juice) to my son daily *I’ll be writing a post on how Apple Cider Vinegar healed my son’s allergies and asthma soon.

The concept is simple. When elimination happens, healing can happen. When your body is full of crap (literaly) and thus toxins, illness will surface. Whether that is eczema, food and environmental allergies, reoccurring colds/flus, runny noses, ear infections….I could go on, but this is a Good Feeling Place and I want to continue feeling good.

Anyways…my youngest child is still a baby at the writing of this post. He is almost an identical copy to my oldest son. He too is frequently constipated and only has a poopy diaper about every 5 days. He also is exclusively breast-fed and is currently not interested in food at 6 months old. I do offer him a bottle of water through out the day. More if we are out side. He seems interested in taking the water. But it doesn’t have the same immediate effect as it did with my oldest. So I assume that my baby is not as dehydrated as my first child was.

One time when we were on vacation, my baby hadn’t pooped in about 6 days, so I knew he would be going soon. I switched his regular filtered water out with a product called Smart Water (you can find it at grocery stores, Walmart, Sam’s Club). Smart Water is basically vapor distilled water with added Calcium Carbonate, Magnesium, and Potassium (3 basic minerals everyone needs). After my baby drank about 1/2 oz of Smart Water, he pooped instantly. About every 2 oz of Smart Water I gave him, he’d poop. We had his bowels moving daily for a week straight. I was amazed at how much he could actually poop! And then I thought, I can’t believe he wasn’t going every day!

Minerals work for constipation because they heavy in nature. Its heaviness sort of pulled everything down and out of my son–if you want to think of it that way. That is also why those 3 minerals are important if you have leg cramps. Its heaviness pulls the nutrients and energy down to the legs and into the muscles to nourish them. The daily bowel movements went off and on for about 3 weeks. Then we were back to being constipated.

I am not sure how I heard of this [editor’s note: see home remedies book below], but I tried the ol’ warm salt water technique. You heat up in a pan on the stove as much water as you want to put in a bottle. Then you sprinkle salt (preferable rock salt-think minerals) into the pan and stir. You will want to season to taste. The water needs to be salty enough that it will make you pucker or gag, but not too salty that you feel you need to drink clean water get the taste out of your mouth. Once you got the right taste, give the warm salt water to your baby. Preferably do this first thing in the morning before feeding if possible. I am not certain how much each child will have to drink. The first time I tried this on my baby, he drank 4-5 swallows and then he had a poop. Another time, he drank 3oz and then pooped later that afternoon.

The salt water works because the salty taste drains downward. Just like the minerals do. The salty taste also increases fluids in the body, specifically the Intestines. For instance, Salted Lime Water will rehydrate you if you have sun stroke (or are out in the sun too long); also Epsom salt is a good laxative for adults.

Our baby still has issues with constipation. He is still strictly breast-fed and I am trying to eliminate foods from my diet to help him, but that is a challenge for me. The herbals I am giving him are helping to increase his digestive ability long term, along with the probiotics. Right now, the warm salt water bottle is our fix for acute constipation. Hope all of this helps some of you.

Peace and Blessings

8 Responses to “Constipation in a Breast-Fed Baby”

  1. Jacqueline Day says:

    Hi – thanks for that. Could you let me know exactly what you give baby re constipation? My baby is 1 and still breastfed but has been going only once or twice a week for several months now – healthy otherwise.

    Thanks.

  2. Candice says:

    Hello,

    Thanks for your comment on our blog. I hope the information was helpful. Two of our 5 children were pretty constipated. There are several different types of constipation believe it or not. If your child has dry and round, rabbit type poop (like my first child did), it most likely is a dryness issue. Even if your baby is breast-fed, he may need additional moisture intake. Something as simple as giving your child a warm bottle of water with a few drops of liquid minerals (aka liquid electrolytes with minerals) after each meal or before each breastfeeding, or when your child asks for a drink. Electrolytes are essential to those that tend to run more dry. If you think of your body like a sponge…it is easy for that sponge to absorb more moisture and stuff when it is wet, versus a dry, hard sponge. Liquid electrolytes “wet your sponge” so to speak and encourage your body to use the water it consumes, whether that is in breast milk or food. Minerals in general are heavy in nature and therefore help to move things down and out in the body. Most health food stores carry a liquid version of both minerals and electrolytes. You will want to taste the medicated water before giving it to your child. It needs to taste slightly sea-waterish, but not overwhelming (or else they won’t drink it:). Supplementing with a quality Cod-Liver oil is also a good thing. My children like the Carlston’s chewable flavored Cod-Liver oil. It is the only way I can get them to take it.

    If your child’s BM are not hard or ‘dry’ when they come out, but are still “sluggish” in passing, it most likely indicates a food stagnation issue. There are some simple spices you can add to your child’s meals that will help the digestive system be more effective in elimination. Start by adding these spices to their meals (or even a little bit in water if your baby is not into solid food yet): Turmeric, ginger, cumin (in small quantities) and coriander. All of these spices will help stimulate the child’s digestive system in to better harmony. Avoid pasteurized dairy products, especially cow dairy products, as these will further clog up the child’s digestion. You can look at http://www.realmilk.org for local sources of unpasteurized cow and goat dairy products.

    From one mom to another, hang in there. I’ve been there too. It helps to keep a positive outlook about it. As a young child I too was extremely constipated. We grew up poor, so I didn’t have the proper nutrition, nor did I like eating the veggies that were put in front of me. Children are very intuitive and resilient. I’ve learned that as long as I stay positive and don’t feel too concerned or overwhelmed about their health issues, they don’t pick up any negative, worried “vibes” and get through things a lot easier then I ever thought they would. Of course, it took me a while to learn that! 🙂

    Cheers

  3. Cayce says:

    Hey there! I have two boys and they both have struggled with constipation. My first son was so bad they had to do a barium enema and it was impacted all the way up. He was on all types of laxatives. I was terrified of the longterm side effects of laxatives so I started researching. I did use herbal laxatives with success but I didn’t want to depend on any type of stimulant type of laxative…even herbal. I too found fruit-eze and it has been a different story since. Unfortunately it wasn’t until my son was almost three when I found the fruit-eze but he has been on that ever since and will probally stay on it for the rest of his life. I found that probiotics and also increasing raw fruits, veggies, fiber helped as well as keeping him hydrated.

    Now that my second son is here….he too has been struggling with constipation since birth and frequent spitting up. Sometimes it’s projectile! I breastfed him for four months and even then he would have infrequent bowel movements and would spew with spitting up after every feeding and sometimes hours after feeding. I finally gave it the quits with breastfeeding due to having to take a certain medication so we went to donor breastmilk and then to formula. We tried like five different formulas and with the same results. It didn’t seem to matter whether he was on breastmilk or formula….the same spitting up and cosntipation occurred. Now that he’s six and a half months old he’s getting some solid foods. I have found that pears, prunes, and other laxative type fruits do help but we are still having to put kayro syrup in every bottle to keep him pooping. I don’t like giving him the kayro syrup because he has developed mild eczema over the last four months and it seems to be getting worse. I want to try the fruit-eze with him. Can you tell me how much you gave your other son at this age and how often. Can you give me any tips to help his eczema along. I too have found when he poops more often the less his eczema flares up. We have alot of allergies in mine and husbands family and among ourselves.

  4. Candice says:

    Hello,

    You can start mixing fruit-eze into his bottles of 1/2 tsp to 8-12 oz of liquid, blending well with a small hand held blender to start. Also, adding 1/2-1tsp of Acidopholis powder (probiotics) to his bottles will also help. There is an herbal formula called Triphala Powder. It is an Ayurveda remedy. It is a digestive harmonizer, not a laxative, but when used in great quantity, it can cause diarrhea in a normal individual. We got our adopted son Nickalus, when he was 4 months old. He was not pooping. I put 1/4tsp of Triphala in every bottle (recommended adult dose). He was formula fed. He was taking a bottle every 3 hours if I recall. So he was getting a lot of Triphala in his body. In 3 days, he had his first bowel movement. He pooped maconium (the baby poop that is supposed to come out after birth, the black tar-like poop). Once he had this huge poop, I gave him 1/8tsp of Triphala powder in ever bottle for a good 5 months. Until he was pooping ever day on his own. Triphala is very safe to take, and can be used long term with no ill effects. It is not a stimulate or a purgative like other herbs used for constipation. It works as a harmonizer to “reprogram” the digestive system. I usually always recommend it to my children clients who have eczema as a way to indirectly boost the immune system through the digestive tract. Triphala could replace your kayro syrup.
    To answer your questions. I think we gave him a table spoon of Fruit-eze a day. Usually served on a spoon, but sometimes we put it on toast. Cod liver oil is also good at taking down inflammatory reactions due to constipation. Please keep me posted on how you are doing. Peace and Blessings.
    C

  5. Cayce says:

    Candice,

    Thank you so much for your very helpful information! Where can I find the Triphala at? Is there a website where I can go to read and get more information on it? I started my son on a powdred probiotic and have been putting that in his bottles. Seems to help some. I have been able to cut down on the amount of kayro syrup I am putting in the bottles. My hopes is that I can get him going every day on his own without the use of the kayro. I also started him on the fruit-eze and will give him the amount you suggested daily. If the Triphala would help…..then I am all for trying it.

    I started my oldest son on Cod liver oil when he was eight months old and that seemed to help him. I’ve been trying a small amount of flax seed oil with the baby but no noticeable difference in his eczema so maybe it’s time to move on and try the cod liver oil. How much for an almost seven month old? Thanks so much! Any ideas as to why babies spit up so much? He’s gaining weight so it really is more of a laundry issue than anything.

    Cayce

  6. Robert says:

    Hi Cayce,
    Candice has been too busy to respond but I wanted to let you know that you can get organic triphala from Banyan at:
    http://www.banyanbotanicals.com/prodinfo.asp?number=7502&variation=&aitem=111&mitem=125
    – that’s where we get our triphala. You can read more about it there as well.
    Regards,
    Robert

  7. Amanda says:

    Just to clarify, when lactation consultants and breastfeeding advocates say that breastfed babies do not need water, they are talking about *exclusively* breastfed babies (or should be!). Once solids have been introduced, it is more than acceptable for a baby to have water alongside his solid meals (although milk should still be the main source of nutrition until at least one year of age, with solids complementing this). 🙂

  8. HanaPipers says:

    🙂

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