Corn syrup, a sugary, thick substance used cooking, is not a normal part of a baby's diet. In fact, babies should generally avoid products containing corn syrup because they only offer empty calories in the form of sugar. However, corn syrup is sometimes used medicinally to treat constipation in babies, but it should only be used under the advice of a health care professional. If your baby is under 2 months of age and is suffering from constipation, consult your pediatrician before trying to relieve constipation at home.
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Parents should not give a baby corn syrup without first consulting a health care professional. DrHull.com states that 2 teaspoons of corn syrup in each bottle for several feedings may improve constipation. It is important to use corn syrup in a bottle of formula and not feed it directly to the baby.
Following several doses, the baby will likely have softer and more frequent bowel movements. The reason for this effects is the high level of sugar found in the syrup. The digestive system can only process so much sugar. Combined with sugars found in the formula, the baby's digestive system will be somewhat overloaded. This results in much of the sugar being passed down to the colon, causing looser bowels.
Corn syrup, like honey, may contain clostridium botulinum bacteria spores. KidsHealth.org explains that these spores are often found in canned foods but nearly any food can be contaminated from dirt and dust. A baby who consumes the spores can develop a moderate to serious illness called botulism. Symptoms of this bacterial infection include constipation, poor feeding, weakened cry, reduced movement, weakened muscles and breathing problems. Botulism can be treated but it can be very serious when it affects babies.
Infants given corn syrup to improve constipation will need to be gradually weaned from the treatment. Giving the child other high sugar drinks or foods can cause more diarrhea that may be accompanied by cramping. Examples high sugar foods include apples and prunes. DrHull.com explains that these are high in sorbitol, a type of sugar that passes through the body to the colon and brings more fluids to the fecal matter. Giving a baby too much sugar can cause unnecessary discomfort and may also fill the baby up too quickly without providing adequate nutrition.
Alternatives to Corn Syrup
There are several methods of relieving constipation in a baby without the use of corn syrup. The National Institutes of Health recommends adding fruit juice to the baby's diet and offering high-fiber foods to a baby who is eating solids. Just 2 to 4 ounces of water can be enough to soften a baby's stools. Apple, prune or pear juice or purees can have the same intended effect as corn syrup by adding more fluids to the colon because the sugars can't be fully digested. Moderate or persistent constipation may require a rectal suppository or enema. Caregivers should discuss these options with a health care provider when an infant has gone three days or more without a bowel movement or is in discomfort.