Did you ever think you would be this obsessed with poop?
One of the first things I learned after my daughter was born was how important it was to observe the contents of her diaper.
During her first few days of life, my daughter Maxine was already having issues with going to the bathroom: the nurses in the NICU informed me that she had blood in her stool (scary, right?). This turned out to be one of the earliest indicators that she had food allergies.
You can tell a lot about your baby’s health by observing the contents of their diaper. So what do you do if there isn’t anything in there?
It is not unusual for a baby to go a few days without a bowel movement (learn more about what’s normal here). But once you’re sure your baby is constipated, you would pay a million dollars to just to see him dirty a diaper.
Forget going to the pharmacy and stocking up on laxatives – they aren’t safe for babies anyway. The first thing you should try is good ol’ fashioned prune juice.
WebMD supports the power of prunes, stating that they have “earned a big reputation as ‘nature’s remedy’ for constipation. Prunes (also called dried plums) are rich in insoluble fiber, as well as the natural laxative sorbitol.”
Many adults use prune juice to relieve constipation, but knowing how much to give a baby (and how to give it to them) can be tricky. This guide should help get things moving:
For Younger Babies (Birth – 6 Months):
You can try introducing prune juice after your baby is four weeks old. Since it is still a little early to introduce anything other than milk, make sure you communicate with your pediatrician before giving your little one anything new.
If your baby is still very young, start very small and make sure you dilute: mix a half ounce of juice with your baby’s regular amount of breastmilk or formula, or 2-3 ounces of water.
When using water to mix, you may want to use more water to start until your baby gets used to the taste.
There is a general rule of thumb to the proper dosage: According to Dr. Tanya Altmann in this article on Parents.com, “Usually one ounce per month of age is the maximum per day, so a 4-month old can drink up to 2 ounces [total] of prune juice twice a day.”
Your baby’s digestive system is still trying to get its bearings, so don’t go overboard and give your baby more than her little belly can handle; more isn’t necessarily better in this case (too much will cause stomach irritation and diarrhea.)
For Older Babies and Toddlers (7 – 36 Months):
The switch between breast milk/formula to regular milk and introduction of solid foods can lead to some serious backup. Your baby’s digestive system, while stronger than it used to be, is now having to adjust to processing something other than milk or formula.
You will still want to stick with the “one ounce per month of age” rule until your baby is about eight months old. “After 8 months”, Babycenter suggests, “your baby can have as much as 6 ounces of juice a day to treat constipation.”
Every baby is different with how long their body will take to move things on out after a “prune juice cleanse.” It may take a couple of hours, or up to a day.
If you still haven’t seen any progress after a day or two, you should give your doctor’s office a call.
Be a Juice Ninja:
While it’s easier to give juice in a bottle around the time your baby starts solids, your baby may not like the taste: Max has been known to be a picky lady, so she was never a fan of prune juice by itself. Or any juice, for that matter.
You may have to get creative: I mixed it with oatmeal and a touch of apple juice, and she was okay with that.
If your baby likes juice, just not particularly prune juice, The Royal Children’s Hospital suggests mixing it with apple, cranberry, or apricot juice.
Have a smoothie lover? You can blend it into their favorite smoothie recipe, or use this one.
Another excellent and sneaky idea is to freeze prune juice into ice pops – which will knock out two problems if your little one happens to be teething as well.
Save Money and DIY:
This is totally reckless speculation, but I think there is a conspiracy within all juice companies to bottle prune juice in the least cost-effective way possible. In my personal experience, stores sell prune juice in only two ways:
- A mammoth-sized bottle that cannot possibly be consumed in the suggested 7 days that it is still deemed safe to use.
- An overpriced pack of tiny bottles that will run you about the same price as the huge one.
I chose the big one on a couple of occasions, and while it worked for Max’s problem, I always felt horrible watching 90% of it go to waste in the back of my refrigerator (neither myself nor my husband are big on prune juice).
If you end up with a bunch left over, do what I should have done: freeze the rest in ice cube trays and pop them in a freezer bag to use next time you have a backup on your hands.
A good alternative is to skip buying the bottle altogether and make your own! Here is an excellent recipe to try:
You will need:
- 1 cup dried prunes
- 5 cups water
- 1 cup pear juice (optional)
- Remove pits from prunes.
- Boil 5 cups of water, then add some of the boiled water to a heat-safe container with the prunes. Fill the container until prunes are submerged. Set aside the rest of the boiled water for later use, and allow the prunes to soak for 12–24 hours.
- Blend the prunes and the water you soaked them in until smooth.
- Using a sieve, push the mixture into a one-liter container, getting rid of solid pieces.
- Add pear juice to sweeten, if desired.
- Use the remaining boiled water to fill the juice to a full liter, stir and chill.
- Your homemade prune juice will remain good for up to one week in the refrigerator.
This recipe takes about one hour to make after soaking the prunes overnight – which seems like a long time, I know, but if you plan ahead, you can always have some on hand for those times when pooping looks painful.
The Bottom Line:
Constipation can be a literal pain in the ass – when your baby has it, you may feel a little helpless.
The good news is that Mother Nature is here to help: with the power of prune juice.
If your baby is having problems with chronic constipation, make sure to talk to your doctor to rule out any other problems and discuss how to incorporate more fiber into their diet.