Caring for an infant can be challenging, especially when trying to figure out why she's upset. Constipation in infants can lead to fussiness and feeling uncomfortable. Causes of infant constipation vary and likely aren't due to vitamins found in formulas or given as a supplement. There are ways to help relieve constipation to help infants feel more comfortable.
Breastfed vs. Formula-Fed Infants
Iron-fortified infant formulas contain the essential vitamins and minerals an infant needs; most healthy formula-fed infants don't require a vitamin supplement. Breast-fed babies get most essential nutrients from breast milk with the exception of vitamin D, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Breast milk alone doesn’t provide adequate vitamin D, and although babies can get vitamin D from exposure to sunlight, most parents are advised to limit their baby’s sun exposure due to risks of skin cancer. Before giving an infant any type of vitamin supplement, consult a pediatrician.
Vitamin Supplements for Breast-fed Babies
Pediatricians may sometimes recommend iron supplements for breast-fed or premature infants to help prevent iron deficiency, which can cause developmental problems. Poly-Vi-Sol is a popular liquid infant multivitamin containing vitamin D that some pediatricians recommend; Poly-Vi-Sol is also available with iron. Fluoride supplementation may also be recommended for babies after 6 months old, according to Heidi Murkoff in her book "What to Expect the First Year."
Infant constipation is more common in formula-fed infants compared to breast-fed infants, according to Murkoff. The American Academy of Pediatrics defines constipation in formula-fed newborns as firm stools less than once a day. In breast-fed newborns, this may be normal. Constipation is sometimes hard to detect, because each baby has a different bowel movement pattern. In general, if stools are hard to pass, painful, bloody and occur only every three or four days, consult a pediatrician.
Vitamins That May Cause Constipation
Vitamins typically don’t cause constipation in infants; however, certain vitamins such as vitamin D may cause constipation if taken in excess. Many mothers fear giving iron-fortified formula or supplements will cause constipation. However, an article published by the American Academy of Pediatrics in the Journal Pediatrics says studies show no difference in the amount of constipation between infants fed iron-fortified formula compared to low-iron formulas.
Treatments for Infant Constipation
Pediatricians may recommend helping reduce constipation by giving an infant small amounts of water or prune juice, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Baby foods such as prunes or pears may also be recommended. For an older infant, high-fiber foods such as whole-grain infant cereal, soft fruits and vegetables can also help with constipation.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Vitamin D Supplementation
- What to Expect the First Year; Heidi Murkoff; 2003
- The American Academy of Pediatrics: Constipation
- American Academy of Pediatrics: Iron Fortification of Infant Formulas