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There’s nothing as distressing as watching your baby in discomfort and not knowing how to help.

Maybe you’ve experienced your baby struggling to poo or simply heard from other parents that this can be a problem when you start solids. Either way, be prepared for some changes to your baby’s normal pooing habits when they start weaning. Solid food causes solid poo! You will probably notice this more if you’ve been exclusively breastfeeding up to now and used to the ‘liquid gold’ typical of the breastfed baby.

Really there is no normal when it comes to your baby’s nappies- there is no magic number or schedule. Like us, your baby’s bowel movement patterns vary, and poo can change in texture from day to day. However, constipation is common in babies and often due to the types of foods offered (or not offered). Below, are 6 Super Simple Tips to help keep constipation at bay when starting weaning.

 

Constipation in babies

1. Keep your baby well hydrated

Your baby may refuse milk when she’s unwell or teething. Or may not be drinking enough water with solid foods. Whatever the reason, if your baby isn’t getting enough fluids, she may become dehydrated. This can cause dry, hard poo that is difficult to pass. Make sure to continue breastfeeding on demand, make up formula milk correctly and offer cooled, boiled water with all meals.

2. Offer a variety of fruits everyday

Parents often search for that one fruit that will help ease symptoms of constipation. Fruits like pears, prunes and apples are often cited as poo busters by fellow parents online. While these sorbitol-containing fruits do have laxative effects, they are not the only fruits that can help prevent constipation. All fruits are excellent fibre providers and the best approach is to offer your baby a variety everyday and at each meal. Processing of fruits such as fruit puree pouches changes the quantity and bioavailability of nutrients in foods, this makes them lower in fibre and higher in free sugars. A wiser option is to offer your baby suitable ‘real’ fruit like ripe peeled pear, kiwi or raspberries as finger food or simply mashed and offered from a spoon; homemade purees are fine in the first few weeks of weaning.

3. Don’t forget about veggies!

Veggies are also bursting with fibre but are often overlooked in favour of fruits. Again, don’t just rely on a few staples. Weaning is a golden opportunity to expose your baby to all the wonderful flavours and textures of vegetables. We know that having a good intake of vegetables will affect your babies gut health now and in the future. To achieve this, you need to train your baby to like vegetable from the start, you can do this by following a vegetable led approach to weaning and continuing to offer a variety of vegetables every day.

4. Introduce wholegrains slowly

While adults should eat mostly wholegrains for good gut health, it’s important to remember that babies are not mini adults. Wholegrains can be too filling for babies who need lots of energy but have small tummies. Introduce these gradually to your baby. You can do this by offering a variety of cereals like porridge, Ready Brek, Weetabix or Shredded Wheat or any of these breakfast options. When it comes to breads, pasta and rice, alternate between white and wholegrain varieties. Here’s some advice on when and how to introduce these gluten-containing foods. Never add bran to your child’s diet.

5. Enjoy other gut friendly foods

Pulses like beans, lentils and peas give us protein as well as being high in fibre. Try lunch and dinner dishes using tinned or dried varieties or try a simple lunch of baked beans on toast. It doesn’t have to be complicated! Although your baby can’t eat whole or chopped nuts or seeds, they can eat these in ground form or as smooth nut butter. Try adding some natural smooth peanut butter to yogurt or milled linseed to pancakes or flapjacks for quick and simple ways to boost your baby’s nutrition and keep things moving!

6. A word on Probiotics!

Although this is an exciting area of research, we don’t yet have enough evidence to say which strain of bacteria or what dose and duration is beneficial for preventing or treating constipation. The best advice to encourage healthy gut bacteria is to breastfeed, offer a varied diet including lots of foods that bacteria like such as fruits, vegetables and pulses.

 

As you can see, there are lots of simple ways that you can make your baby’s transition from milk onto solids as ‘gut friendly’ as possible. If you are worried about your baby’s bowel habits or have been diagnosed with constipation by your doctor, then why not arrange a one-to-one consultation to optimize your baby’s diet even further.

 

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Consult a dietitian

Caroline, our Cork-based dietitian sees babies and children with food allergies, gut issues, weaning, fussy eating and more.
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