Bowel movements & constipation
Bowel habits vary from baby to baby. Bowel movements (BM) also vary in color, texture and frequency. A baby may have a BM with each feeding or once every 2-5 days. Breastfed babies are likely to have several stools a day the first few weeks. By 2 months old, your child may have settled into his or her own BM schedule. That could be from a daily BM to once a week. Either is normal as long as:
- Your baby seems healthy.
- Your baby is eating his or her normal diet.
- Stools are passed without pain or straining.
Normal bowel movements may be formed, soft, or watery and seedy. Normal color is yellow or green. A baby may grunt, strain and turn red during a bowel movement. You will begin to know your baby's bowel habits. You will learn that they can and are likely to change as your baby grows. You should tell your baby's doctor or nurse practitioner if you notice:
- Bowel movements are always very hard.
- Stools become loose and watery for no reason you can tell.
- There is blood in a bowel movement.
Breastfed babies rarely become constipated. When nursing is well established, bowels may not move as often as they did when your baby was a newborn.
Some babies seem to spit up more than others. In most cases, spitting up is caused by a relaxed muscle at the top of the stomach. It lets milk push back up into the esophagus (swallowing tube). Most "spitty" babies are happy and gain weight well. Here are ways to decrease spitting up:
- Keep your baby upright after feedings.
- Burp well and often.
- Avoid tight clothing or diapers around the tummy.
- Feed smaller amounts more often if this does not frustrate your baby.
Call the clinic right away if:
- Your baby throws up with great force. This is called projectile vomiting.
- Your baby vomits large amounts of milk.
Crying is how your baby "talks" to you. Babies do not cry to exercise their lungs. Crying is a way to say:
- I am hungry or cold.
- I am wet or my diaper needs changing.
- A sudden noise startled me.
- I feel sick.
- I want someone to hold me.
Sometimes it is hard to know why your baby is crying. When you respond to crying, your baby learns to trust that someone will respond to his or her needs. This helps your baby feel loved and secure. This will not spoil your baby.
Sometimes crying babies are not easy to soothe. Many babies are fussy in the late afternoon or evening. Some become fussy if they eat too quickly or are not burped often enough. Others fuss because they are tired or overexcited by play or other activities. Try simple comfort measures. These are the best ways to deal with a crying baby:
- Hold and rock your baby in your arms or with a front carrier.
- Cuddle your baby in a rocking chair.
- Put your baby in a special swing.
- Place a warm towel on your baby's stomach or swaddle your baby with a blanket.
- Lay your baby on his or her stomach for a brief time while you are present. Do not leave your baby sleeping on his or her stomach.
- Offer a pacifier for your baby to suck on.
- Sing to your baby or make some "shushing" noises near the ear.
Fussy babies can disturb mothers, fathers and others in the household. It is not the baby's fault or your fault for the fussiness. It is important to ask someone to care for your baby to allow you a break from the crying. Taking a break for some peace and quiet will do you - and your baby - some good.
Colic is defined as frequent and long periods of crying. Babies with colic often settle into a pattern of crying on a schedule of sorts. They cry for a certain number of hours each day. They often act as if they have tummy aches.
Colic can begin at about 2-3 weeks of age. It ends around 3-4 months of age. Colic does not affect your infant's health or growth. He or she will simply outgrow it. No one knows what causes colic. Talk with your doctor or nurse practitioner about:
- Making sure there is no other cause for all the fuss.
- Care techniques for a baby with colic.