baby breastfeeding

Breastfeeding challenges

There may be times when breastfeeding is challenging. Never ignore any issues you may have – talk to your health visitor, midwife, GP or breastfeeding specialist as soon as possible, they will be able to help you sort it out quickly.

Here are some common breastfeeding issues, and tips on what to do.

Constipation

Constipation makes it more difficult for your baby to have a poo. It's often caused by their diet and is easy to treat from home.

How can I tell if my baby is constipated?

The symptoms of constipation in your baby can include:

  • pooing fewer than 3 times in a week
  • finding it difficult to poo, and poos that are larger than usual
  • dry, hard, lumpy or pellet-like poos
  • unusually smelly wind and poo
  • your baby may be less hungry than usual
  • their tummy might feel firm

Other signs of constipation can include your baby lacking energy and being a bit grizzly.

There's no 'normal' when it comes to how often babies poo – breastfed babies will sometimes go several days, or even a week without having a poo (this is more common in babies aged 6 weeks or older). You'll quickly get used to your baby's bowel movements, so you'll be able to tell what's normal for them.

What causes constipation?

Change in diet: It's quite common for your baby to become constipated when they start taking first infant formula (which is harder to digest than breast milk), or eating processed foods. That's just because their body is learning how to cope with digesting new things.

Dehydration: Constipation can be caused by a lack of fluids. There are various reasons why your baby may not be getting enough fluids – they may be teething and finding it uncomfortable, it could be down to illness (a cold, a throat or ear infection, etc), or if they are older, not drinking enough fluids with their food. Lack of fluids can make your baby's poo harder and more difficult to push out.

Lack of fibre: In older babies, it can also be caused by not getting enough fibre, (such as fruit, vegetables and cereals) in their diet.

Treating constipation

baby lying on their back with parent holding their legs

If your baby's constipation is caused by a lack of fibre or dehydration, then it should be fairly straightforward to relieve. Here are some tips on helping relieve constipation at home:

  • lie your baby down and gently move their legs like they're riding a bicycle – this can help get things moving. If your baby is happy lying down, give them a gentle tummy massage
  • if your baby is bottle-fed, try giving them extra water between some feeds
  • if your baby is on solids, make sure they're getting enough fibre. Apples, pears and prunes are particularly good for constipation. Find out more about foods with plenty of fibre.

It may take a few days to get things moving again, but if things don't improve, speak to your health visitor or doctor. Your doctor may prescribe a laxative, or want to double check that it's not being caused by any underlying medical conditions.

The Breastfeeding Friend from Start4Life, available 24 / 7, has lots of useful information and expert advice to share with you.
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