Constipation, diarrhoea, flatulence and issues with bowel movement are just a few examples of concerns that mums have about a child's digestion. Here are five things you should know about your baby's digestion to help ease their discomfort and promote regular bowel movement.
Check for both consistency and frequency
When trying to determine if your baby is suffering from constipation, check how many times they pass stool and note its color and consistency1. Your child's bowel movement is normal if their stool is soft and easy to pass.
Stretching is not a cause of diarrhoea
Your child's growth or motor development won't cause issues with their bowel movement. If your child is experiencing issues, they may have an infection from being able to reach different things and putting these in their mouths, leading to the ingestion of germs.
If you recently changed your child's diet, this may also cause diarrhoea. Make sure to note what food you introduced to your baby and how your child reacts to each.
Passing gas is normal
There are several reasons your baby keeps burping or is passing gas2:
They may have swallowed air while drinking and eating, which is either released through the anus as gas or manifests as hiccups.
The food and drinks your baby tries have varying levels of gas, so they can be gassy depending on what new food they've tried.
If your baby can't digest lactose easily, they may experience gas and bloating.
As your child's digestive system develops and produces more gastric juice, the gas will eventually go away.
Turning red while defecating isn't a sign of pain
Because your child doesn't know yet how to push gradually, their tendency is to push too hard, which causes them to turn red in the face. Help ease their bowel movement by massaging their stomach clockwise.
Check instead if your baby has marble-looking stool—this is a sign of constipation and may be causing your child discomfort. If you notice blood in the stool and your baby has not had bowel movement in days, consult your paediatrician3.
Dietary changes helps facilitate digestion
Your baby becomes more accustomed to solid food after a year old. As a result, their bowel movement changes as well, resulting in either diarrhoea or constipation. Make sure to introduce one type of food over a span of 3-5 days to identify any adverse reactions to the food that your child may have4. Additionally, introducing fruits and vegetables to their diet will help facilitate bowel movement and help prevent constipation5. Most importantly, keep your baby hydrated.
1 “Constipation and diarrhea in newborns” About Kids Health. Accessed October 14, 2020. https://www.aboutkidshealth.ca/Article?contentid=458&language=English
2 “Gas, Bloating and Burping.” C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Accessed October 14, 2020. https://www.mottchildren.org/health-library/gas
3 “Symptoms and Causes of Constipation in Children.” National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases. Accessed August 23, 2020. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/constipation-children/symptoms-causes
4 “How long to wait between introducing new baby foods.” Parents.com. Accessed October 14, 2020. https://www.parents.com/recipes/scoop-on-food/how-long-to-wait-between-introducing-new-baby-foods/#:~:text=Waiting%203%2D5%20days%20between,according%20to%20the%20AAAI's%20website.
5 “Guide to Common Infant Conditions.” Health Hub—Ministry of Health Singapore. Accessed August 23, 2020. https://www.healthhub.sg/live-healthy/1954/guide-to-common-infant-conditions#Constipation
Some materials are from Asst. Prof. Dischi Lumphikanon, Pediatrician, Neonatal and Perinatal Department of Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine Vajira Hospital