If you’ve got kids chances are this has been a topic once or twice in your life! Here the awesome Polly of The Bath Massage Company talks to us about how constipation with your little one can be eased through baby massage…

It’s a big conversation in my class and being able to help your little one when they are suffering with constipation can be a great relief for them.    

If your baby is straining to do a bowel movement it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are constipated they could just be working on their bowel movement; as you get to know your new born you’ll start to recognise your baby’s particular grimaces and grunts as they work on their movements, and you’ll also become very familiar with what looks normal (or not) in your baby’s nappy.

So how do you know if your baby is constipated?

With a baby’s bowel movement there is often no normal number or schedule, similar to us adults, babies’ bowel movement patterns can vary with stools changing in texture from day to day.
If you think your baby may have constipation look out for these signs:

  • Crying and discomfort, irritability or pain before doing a poo
  • Dry, hard, pellet-like poo that they have trouble passing
  • Fewer than three bowel movements a week
  • Foul-smelling wind and poo
  • Loss of appetite
  • A hard stomach

And as odd as it sounds, very fluidly/liquid poo can also be a sign of constipation – liquid poo can slip past the blockage of hard poo in the lower intestine. If you see this, don’t assume it is diarrhoea; it may be evidence of constipation (CKS 2010, NHS 2011).

So just what causes it? Well a number of factors:

  • Formula milk. A formula-fed baby is more prone to constipation because formula can be harder to digest than breastmilk, causing poo to be firm and bulky. A breastfed baby is unlikely to get constipated. Breastmilk produces poo that is almost always soft, even if a baby hasn’t done a poo for a few days (NHS 2012a).
  • Introducing solids. Babies often become constipated when they start solids, as their bodies learn how to manage new foods. Low-fibre foods and not enough fluids also contribute to constipation (NHS 2012b).
  • Dehydration. Your baby may be refusing milk because they are teething, a throat infection, a cold, or an ear infection. Or your older baby may not be drinking enough milk or water with their solid foods. Whatever the reason, if your baby isn’t getting enough fluids, they may become dehydrated. This can cause dry, hard poo that is difficult to pass.
  • A medical condition or illness. Occasionally, constipation can be a symptom of a food allergy, food poisoning (such as botulism), or a problem with the way the body absorbs food, known as a metabolic disorder. 

How do I help ease my baby’s constipation?

There are a few things you can do and your health visitor or Doctor will be able to recommend these – but one tried and tested suggestion is massage!

Massaging your baby is a brilliant way to help encourage their stools to move through the intestines. The IAIM baby massage programme that I teach includes very specific movements for the stomach that incorporates massage strokes and gentle movements, all of which encourages bowel movement.

My classes can be quite ‘noisy’ and ‘active’ when we do the stomach routine, which can be a great relief for the baby (and parent!)  I’ve had really positive feedback from many parents on my course who do the stomach routine everyday if they feel their baby has constipation and all have great results. The movements I teach always work in a clockwise direction to follow the intestinal exit and incorporate gentle movements including ‘bicycle’, which you may be familiar with, and works by gently moving your baby’s legs in a bicycling motion to help move the hard stools along their intestine (NHS 2012b). I do a whole lesson on the stomach and parents get a handout which outlines all of the strokes so they can go away and practice on their baby at home.

If you have a baby with constipation issues or who is having trouble with their bowels then do come along to one of my courses and learn these brilliant techniques to help and support them.  

For more information about Polly and her baby massage courses then give her a shout at polly@thebathmassagecompany.com / 0779 0007 263 or head on over to the website www.bathbabymasasge.com.