Constipation or diarrhea problems in infants can be a major concern to parents. Rarely, they are signs of a serious issue that needs to be addressed to a doctor. But more commonly, these issues can safely and effectively be dealt with at home. In either case, listed below are several possible causes for either problem.
Constipation is more likely to occur in older babies, but it can in newborns as well. It’s less likely to occur in breastfed babies, for the fact that breast milk is much easier to digest than formula milk is. So if your baby is bottle fed, this will create fewer bowel movements and a higher chance of developing bouts of constipation.
Another common cause in babies is when you switch the diet around – suddenly switching from breast milk to formula, changing between different types or brands of formula, or even switching to regular cow’s milk (which shouldn’t be done until your baby is at least a year of age) can cause temporary problems for the digestive system that may take time to get used to.
Introducing solids into the baby’s diet may also cause constipation, and this is where it’s more likely to occur in breastfed babies than bottle fed babies. If your baby has already become accustomed to a formula, the digestive system is more used to hard processing, whereas a breastfed baby will take more time to get used to solids in the diet.
Lack of fiber in the diet may also result in constipation. When you begin to feed your baby solids, try to incorporate such foods that have a good amount of fiber in them – peas, spinach, pears and peaches are all great sources of fiber. Foods that can actually add to the risk of constipation include white potatoes, pasta, applesauce and bananas, as can dairy products.
Sometimes an infant may have an allergy or food sensitivity that can cause constipation. If you’re breastfeeding, certain foods that you ingest may cause such problems for the baby.
Rarely, there may be a bigger issue, like a physical defect or obstruction which causes constipation in infants. If constipation seems to come on a lot or never seems to go away no matter what you do, you should see a doctor right away.
Like constipation, diarrhea can have a number of possible causes. But with diarrhea, it can be much more dangerous or the sign of a serious infection.
A lot of times, a bacterial or viral infection can bring on a bout of diarrhea. Viruses like the rotovirus or influenza are among the top possible causes, as is bacteria such as salmonella, staph and E. coli. Some of these – like the rotovirus, some cases of the flu and bacterial infections – can be very serious and if suspected should be treated by a doctor.
Different from bacteria or a virus, parasitic infections can also cause diarrhea. There are some parasites that can live in the intestines and cause gas and diarrhea. This also needs to be treated by a doctor, as it needs a specific medication to clear the problem.
Giving your baby too much sugary juice can cause diarrhea in infants. If your baby is under 6 months of age, it’s even recommended to not give her any juice at all. For older babies, try limiting the amount of juice intake.
If you notice your baby is having diarrhea around the time he or she has taken antibiotics, it may simply be a side effect. Usually it isn’t anything to rush to the ER for, but it doesn’t hurt to speak to your doctor about it if this happens.
Sometimes an ear infection may be the problem when it comes to diarrhea. If your baby has an ear infection, chances are he’ll be tugging on or constantly touching his ear and constantly fussy.
Food allergies have also been known to cause bouts of diarrhea in infants. There are many types of foods that are common to cause an allergic reaction in infants – milk protein being the most common. While your baby is most likely not drinking cow’s milk yet, a lot of baby formulas are made with it, as are dairy products such as cheese and yogurt. Eggs, peanuts, soy, wheat and fish are also common instigators of allergic reactions. Your child probably won’t be eating any of these things yet, but if you are breastfeeding and have them in your diet, it can still transfer to the baby. Always get medical help if your baby is having trouble breathing or his face of swelling up – these are signs of a severe allergic reaction and needs to be treated as soon as possible.
Food intolerance, which is not the same as a food allergy, may also be the culprit when it comes to diarrhea. If your baby is sensitive to certain foods, such as milk products (known as lactose intolerance), this can cause diarrhea.
Toxins in the body also may cause diarrhea. Whether your baby has ingested a little bit of soap, or medicine or a household chemical or even a poisonous plant or flower, diarrhea can be accompanied by vomiting and medical attention should be sought right away.