Expert Articles

Common Infant Issue: Constipation

Author: Lau Wing Lam
Registered nurse at SKH St. Thomas ‘Child Care Centre

The regularity of bowel movements varies from person to person. In the early stages, newborns may have several bowel movements a day. However, as infants grow and start to introduce solid foods around six months of age, their bowel movements may become harder and less frequent, sometimes even every two to three days. Parents should not solely rely on the frequency of bowel movements to determine if their baby is constipated. Instead, we should pay attention to the quality and consistency of the stool. If the stool is slightly soft, it can still be considered normal.

What is constipation?
  • Irregular or longer intervals between bowel movements than usual.
  • Dry, hard stools in large clumps or small pellets.
  • Straining or experiencing pain while passing stools; unwillingness to have a bowel movement.
  • Strong-smelling stools and frequent flatulence.
  • Watery stools (soiling), which can be mistaken for diarrhea when changing diapers, However, this may be a symptom of constipation, as watery stool may flow out from the blocked lower part of the intestine.
  • Anal damage due to the pressure from hard stools.
  1. Changes in dietary habits.
    1. Introduction of solid foods to infants.
    2. Lack of dietary fiber or hydration.
  2. Emotional issues.
    1. Fear of using the toilet and holding back bowel movements.
    2. Changes in daily routines (e.g., starting at a new school and still adjusting).
  3. Others.
    1. Lack of physical activity.
    2. Failure to establish a regular toilet routine.
    3. Drug effects (some medications can inhibit intestinal motility).
Improvement methods:
  • Avoid mixing two types of formula milk. Follow the instructions on the formula milk can prepare it correctly.
  • Encourage adequate fluid intake by suggesting appropriate fluid intake during meals and snack times (for infants aged six months and older).
    – For a child weighing 10 kilograms, a minimum of 1 liter of fluid intake per day, including milk, soup, etc., is recommended.
    – For a child weighing 20 kilograms, a minimum of 1.3 liters of fluid intake per day, including milk, soup, etc., is recommended.
  • Avoid consuming high-sugar and high-fat foods, as these foods contain little dietary fiber and can affect appetite, reducing the absorption of other nutrients.
  • Provide sufficient high-fiber foods, such as pumpkin, vegetables, and fruits (whole fruits are recommended to avoid replacing them with pure fruit juice).
  • Encourage children to engage in physical activity to promote bowel movements.
Friendly reminders:
  • Most constipation issues can be improved by changing dietary habits. If the condition persists or if there is blood in the stool, parents should seek medical attention for their child as soon as possible.
  • Do not administer laxatives or enemas to infants without consulting a healthcare professional.
1,000 FAQ
Common Infant Issue: Constipation