Infant constipation, like constipation in adults, is a common cause of abdominal pain.
This variation is influenced by the type of diet they are having and their age.
Babies who are being breast fed will usually open their bowel with each breast feeding, and could pass stool up to 5 times a day. Constipation is very rare in exclusively breast fed babies - that is where only breast milk is given, especially in the first 28 days of life.
Bottle fed babies on the other hand can pass stool only once or twice a day or even once every two or three days.
Between the first months to the first year of life, the bowel habit of a child could change considerably, reflecting changes in feeding patterns, constituents and consistency.
Constipation causes in babies and infants include:
•Changing over from breast milk to bottle feeds, or to solid meals. If this is the case, and the right amount of milk to water mix is achieved, over time, the bowel settles to the new regime, and the baby will become adapted to a new frequency of bowel opening normal for it
•Fever. Infant constipation often follows an episode of fever and high temperature, and will resolve once the cause of fever has settle, and the child is back to normal eating habits
•Emotional distress in a child, or even between parents can trigger constipation in infants
•Not drinking enough water or fluids is another common cause of infant constipation.
•Medications. Some kid’s medication can cause constipation.
Medical conditions which cause infant constipation are often as a result of defects arising from birth. They include:
•Lack of or blocked anus from birth (anal stenosis)
•Hirschsprung’s disease… this is a problem from birth where the child does not have the type of nerve cells that connect the brain to the gut. The brain can’t therefore communicate with the gut to go to toilet.
The child becomes severely constipated and the belly distended. The disease is usually diagnosed from very early childhood, a few days after birth. Treatment is by operation.
Other medical abnormalities that could cause infant constipation include:
•Anal Fissure - a small tear in the anus of the child, usually following heavy straining, or sometimes they just occur
•Prune belly syndrome
•Low thyroid function
•Reduced or excessive body electrolyte
Severe constipation causes great discomfort in babies.