Once you have started the adventure of introducing solids, you will soon notice that your little one’s bowel habits change. As solids take longer to be processed in the gut, bowel movements will often become less frequent. They will change their colour, texture and - alas - odour, too. Quite a few babies struggle with constipation when they start solid foods. Their bowel movements will become hard and they have to strain when they want to pass them.
Whilst this is a common condition, there are plenty of things you can try to support your little one. Here are my top tips:
Offer your little one water: The most common cause for constipation in babies is lack of water. You can offer tap water or bottled water low in sodium in a sippy cup from six months onwards. Before this, you should boil the water and let it cool down to avoid contamination with bacteria.
Increase your little one’s fibre intake: Foods high in soluble fibre, such as pear, peaches and prunes (the 3 p’s) can make your little one’s stool softer and easier to pass.
Reduce the amount of starchy foods, such as carrots, potatoes or rice cereal. The starch takes a long time to digest and will slow your little one’s gut movements down.
Avoid stopping solids entirely. It might be the natural reaction and common advice but your little one’s gut will need to get used to the solids and will only do so by practising. It is better to change the foods you give and cut down on the amount rather than to stop them.
Foods low in fibre will also slow down your little one’s gut movements. Ultra-processed fruit purees, for example, are low in fibre and should, therefore, be avoided. Whole grains are a good source of fibre, but giving too many of them too fast will also make your little one’s gut slow. Start with small amounts of oats, which are easier to digest, and gradually increase the amount day by day.
Prune juice is a common remedy for constipation. Be aware that it is low in fibre and high in fruit sugar, which is not good for babies’ teeth. It should, therefore, only be given when diluted with water. It will also only help your little one with a short-term effect.
Most of the time, constipation is a temporary problem and once your little one’s gut is used to the new experience, it will resolve. If your baby passes blood with their stool, doesn’t gain or loses weight or experiences symptoms for more than 3 weeks, you should see your GP about it.