Constipation in babies is a common issue that many parents are faced with. It’s not pleasant for anyone involved and can add a serious dose of frustration to an already difficult situation. The best way to prepare for dealing with this issue is to read about natural remedies for constipation in babies before it actually happens. If you currently find yourself dealing with this issue, these natural remedies can still be of tremendous help because they are quick and easy to use. These natural remedies are gentle and safe for children of all ages, including infants. It’s important to remember that these are general guidelines and recommendations. No one knows your child better than you do, so trust your intuition and use any signs your baby may be giving you.
Generally speaking, exclusively breastfed babies rarely experience constipation while formula fed babies tend to experience it more often. However, there are many factors that can cause constipation in babies. Not getting enough to eat or being dehydrated are two of the main factors that can cause babies to experience constipation.
Signs that your baby is constipated include:
Less bowel movements than usual.
Hard, dry bowel movements.
Difficulty passing a bowel movement.
Swollen tummy that is painful to the touch.
Refusing to eat.
Common causes of constipation in babies include:
Switching to solid foods can cause a baby to become constipated. This typically occurs because babies are weaned from milk to rice cereal as their first food. Rice cereal is low in fiber. If you suspect this may be the cause, try changing the baby’s diet and introducing pureed pears, prunes, or barley for added fiber.
Breast milk has the perfect balance of fat and protein, this produces soft stools that are easy to pass. Formula on the other contains different types of protein that can cause constipation in babies, this is not uncommon. Try switching the source of protein in the formula and talk to your health care provider about which formula may be best for your child.
Dehydration causes the body to pull fluids from all sources including water from the waste in the bowels. This will result in dry, hard stools that are difficult to pass.
Natural remedies for constipation in babies
1. Barley water
Barley is a whole grain rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, protein, and dietary fiber. Thanks to is soluble and insoluble fiber content, this grain is beneficial for treating constipation, hemorrhoids, and gastritis. These health benefits place it among the best natural remedies for constipation in babies. Barley is alkaline-forming, which further helps get the intestinal system moving. Its natural laxative qualities are gentle enough to use in babies. Barley water is the perfect remedy for constipation in babies under the age of 6 months. Babies over the age of 6 months that are able to eat solids can be given pureed cooked barley and can equally benefit from barley water. Conversely, barley water is also beneficial during bouts of diarrhea, as it helps restore fluids and electrolytes. NOTE: be sure to avoid barley if your child has a gluten allergy as barley contains gluten.
How to make barley water
1 cup pearl or hulled barley
4 cups water
Non-GMO soy milk
Thoroughly rinse barley in a mesh strainer under running water.
Soak barley in water for a minimum of 4 hours or overnight.
Once soaked, strain barley and place it in a pot with 4 cups clean water.
Bring it to a boil then let simmer, while covered, for 45-60 minutes.
Once cooked, allow it to cool completely.
Strain the barley water through a fine mesh strainer.
If you wish to sweeten it, add a small amount of honey to taste.
If your child is regularly bottle feeding, you can mix the barley water with a couple ounces of non-GMO soy milk and use it in place of or in addition to formula once a day.
Unused barley water can be stored in an air-tight container and refrigerated for up to three days.
Barley water for constipation dosage
Infants under 6 months can be given 4 ounces of barley water three times a day to naturally remedy constipation. Infants 6 months and older can be given 8 ounces of barley water 3 times a day. This is a general recommendation, adjust dosage depending on your child’s needs and as you see fit. Barley water is a safe and gentle natural laxative.
2. Red raspberry tea leaf
Many mothers already know of the many beneficial properties of red raspberry. Commonly taken in tea or pill form during pregnancy, this calcium-rich nutrient can also help postpartum. It’s ability to stimulate and contract the digestive organs place red raspberry among the top natural remedies for constipation in babies. Red raspberry is available in tea form at most health food stores. It is also sold in loose leaf in select stores. Whichever one you opt to buy, follow the brewing instructions on the package or pour boiling water over 2 teaspoons of loose red raspberry leaves and steep for 10 minutes. Note: steeping for more than ten minutes will make the tea bitter. Red raspberry tea doesn’t have much of a taste, although some people describe it as slightly sweet. If desired, sweeten the tea (while hot) with a dab of honey.
Red raspberry tea dosage for constipation in babies
Infants under the age of 6 moths can drink 4 ounces of tea three times a day to naturally remedy constipation. Infants 6 months and older can be given 8 ounces of tea 3 times a day. This is a general recommendation, adjust dosage depending on your child’s needs and as you see fit. Red raspberry tea is a safe and gentle intestinal stimulant. Breastfed babies can additionally benefit from red raspberry since it helps in the production of breastmilk.
3. Slippery elm
Slippery elm is a mucilaginous herb, meaning it is high in mucilage— a slippery, sticky substance of high nutritional value. The high mucilage content in slippery elm works to soothe irritation and reduce inflammation in the mucous membranes of the intestines. Additionally, its fiber content helps soften fecal matter so that it may more easily pass. Slippery elm is available in most health food stores. It’s typically sold in capsules or in a loose bark. Either can be used for making tea. For infants under a year old give them 2 oz of tea in a bottle or with a dropper three times a day or as you see fit until they have a bowel movement.
How to make slippery elm tea
1/2 tablespoon slippery elm powder
8 oz water
fine mesh food grade cheese cloth
If using the encapsulated dried herb, simply open the capsule, pour out the powder and discard the capsule shell.
Boil 8 ounces of water. Once boiling, remove water from heat and add half a tablespoon slippery elm powder. Let the powder steep for 5 minutes. Then using a fine food grade cheese cloth, strain the tea so there are no loose particles floating around. Sweeten with a dab of raw honey (optional) while tea is warm.
If using loose dried inner bark (typically referred to as “bulk”) use the same recipe and instructions but use 1 tablespoon of slippery elm bark instead of half.
Ginger has long been used for its beneficial health properties in the digestive system. It not only helps with digestion, it also stimulates the walls of the intestines to get the bowels moving. These combined properties make it one of the most effective natural remedies for constipation in babies. Additionally, ginger will not cause an addiction or dependency like other laxatives will. Although ginger is a gentle laxative and is safe to use for babies, this natural remedy is best for use in babies that are 6 months or older and that are experiencing acute constipation. It’s also best to use a lower dose more frequently throughout the day than a stronger one a couple times a day. Since babies have very sensitive stomachs and ginger works very quickly, only 1 to 2 doses are needed to remedy constipation.
How to use ginger as a natural remedy for constipation in babies
Simmer the following ingredients, covered, in two cups of water for 15 minutes. Using a fine cheese cloth, strain the mixture so that no raw pieces of ginger are left in the water. If desired, sweeten with a dab of honey while the mixture is warm. Children over the age of 6 months can be given 2 ounces of tea twice a day.
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon whole flax seeds
2 cups water
Fine food grade cheese cloth
Honey or another natural sweetener to taste (optional)
NOTE: NEVER give undissolved honey to small children, it is a choking hazard.
Sources for this article include: