A baby sleeping on his mother's tummy.

YOUR BABY'S DIGESTIVE HEALTH

Having a fussy baby can be frustrating, especially when you don’t know what’s causing all the fuss. But knowing what makes your baby feel uncomfortable might depend on whether his or her digestive system is in good working order.

So what’s normal? The normal range for bowel movements in babies is pretty vast; stool frequency, color and texture varies from baby to baby, and from day to day. Stool can be yellow, green or brown and still be considered normal. Normal consistency ranges from runny applesauce to playdough.

If your child is not having regular bowel movements, he or she might be experiencing diarrhea or constipation. But don’t worry, learning how to recognize the symptoms of both will help you manage the conditions better. And you’ll find those symptoms, and how to help, below.

Constipation

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
If your child is having difficulty passing stool, passing stool that is hard and dry, or having bowel movements less frequently than usual, she/he may be constipated.

HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?

  • Eating solid foods for the first time. It is possible that some of the foods you feed your baby for the first time—such as rice cereal—don’t provide enough fiber to promote regular bowel movements.
  • Dehydration. Your child’s body, when not properly hydrated, absorbs fluids from whatever he or she eats and drinks, including fluid from the waste in the bowels.
  • Illness or other medical conditions. Some babies develop diseases, or have underlying medical conditions, that can disrupt normal digestive functions and result in chronic constipation. Check with your doctor if your baby has difficulty passing stools.

What can you do?
Some doctors recommend adding 30 to 60 milliliters of prune, apple or pear juice to breast milk. The natural sugar in these juices will help to loosen the stool. You can also exercise your child’s legs to break up the hardened stools in the bowels, or gently massage his or her stomach if symptoms continue.

Do not give your baby over-the-counter stool softeners unless advised by your pediatrician or healthcare professional.

Diarrhea

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
When your child’s stool suddenly becomes softer and more frequent than what’s normal for him or her, your child might have diarrhea.

HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?
Diarrhea can be caused by an infection or your baby's inability to properly digest certain nutrients in food.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Talk to your doctor while continuing to breastfeed. Your doctor may prescribe a soy or lactose-free formula. Please consult your doctor if the symptoms do not get better.

When Should You Call a Healthcare Professional?
If the frequency and volume of diarrhea become excessive or if you notice any of the following symptoms, call your pediatrician or healthcare professional:

  • Blood or mucus in stools
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Irritability
  • Refusal to eat
  • Decreased or dark-colored urine
  • Decreased activity
Information provided is for general background purposes and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment by a trained professional. You should always consult your physician about any healthcare questions you may have, especially before trying a new medication, diet, fitness program, or approach to healthcare issues.
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