Before we look at infant constipation in more detail, let's remind ourselves just what constipation is!
A simple definition is the inability to have a comfortable and regular bowel movement. A normal range is having a bowel movement between 3 times a day to 3 times a week.
We all suffer from constipation from time to time but sometimes it becomes persistent and uncomfortable. While the most common causes of constipation are poor diet and lack of exercise (with adults), for some groups other factors also have an influence on our ability to eliminate waste from the body. As a craniosacral therapist I have found that constipation is a common problem among babies, toddlers and pregnant women. These groups have special needs and experiences that make them prone to constipation.
Let's now move on to looking at Constipation in infants and toddlers.
In my own experience, the following are the most common causes of constipation in babies:
Let me explain a little about the connection between a traumatic birth and constipation. If intervention was necessary at birth, the baby is often left with a restricted spine and head. The compression on the baby’s bones can prove excessive if the use of forceps or vacuum is needed. Or, indeed, the total lack of compression is also a problem if the baby is delivered by c-section.
Excessive compression on the head or neck leads to tension on the baby’s nervous system which in turn triggers digestion and elimination problems. Craniosacral therapy can assist in helping your baby to recover from a heavy birth process which at the time was necessary for safe delivery. With the help of a craniosacral therapist the little head and spinal bones can slide gently into place freeing the vagus nerve which allows the baby to relax.
Other problems clear up too! Baby is now happy to sit in their carry tot, lie on their backs, sleep for longer periods and are happier and more content.
Other symptoms include discomfort related to Infant Colic and general feeding difficulties. The following is an example of the approach that I have found very effective in relieving Infant Constipation (names have been changed).
Marie's parents arrived on my doorstep through a referral from a friend. They were at their wit's ends with Marie - she was six weeks old and in pain a lot of the time. She suffered from extreme infant constipation.
As I mention elsewhere, I often see this type of symptom in young babies following difficult births and this was the case with Marie.
The good news was that we were treating her at such a young age. I had a number of other clients who brought their children as toddlers and four-year olds - all suffering from constipation for a number of years. This becomes a much longer-term issue to treat.
Marie cried all through the treatment - which can be distressing - but is quite normal. However, I find that the parents tend not to notice as they are used to this crying. Although it does pay to have an isolated treatment room like mine or have understanding neighbours!
Baby Marie came back for a second visit two weeks later. She had started to "go" on a more regular basis in the meantime. We had a further session - similar to the first - over the next 50 minutes.
We then set a date for a third appointment, but I got a call from Marie's Mum two weeks later - Marie was now going twice to three times a day and was both feeding and sleeping on a more regular basis.
As stated elsewhere, it is useful to keep an eye on your infant/toddler during growing spurts to see if any of the symptoms of constipation in infants reappear - and then to book a single CranioSacral Therapy session to keep on top of it.
Dolore's came to me with her son Cian's constipation as a last resort. Read her story here.