Constipation can result in hard, dry stools that are difficult for a baby to pass. When looking for a remedy to improve baby constipation, many parents turn to time-tested mineral oil. This readily available, over-the-counter laxative works by forming a coat over the intestinal surface that prevents water absorption. Although mineral oil is an effective adult constipation remedy, it is not appropriate for infants. Giving your infant too much mineral oil can result in an overdose, which can have serious health consequences.
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Doctors do not recommend mineral oil for children under the age of six due to concerns about their safety and efficacy in this age group, according to the Drugs.com database, doctors. Since it is a hydrocarbon made of distilled petroleum, pediatrician William Sears, the author of “The Family Nutrition Book” also expresses concerns about mineral oil ingestion by infants. If your baby consumes too much mineral oil, seek immediate emergency attention. Your baby might need activated charcoal, breathing support or IV therapy to treat the symptoms of a mineral oil overdose.
Potential Side Effects
Common side effects of mineral oil use include nausea, abdominal pain and cramping. Less common side effects include diarrhea, vomiting and reduced absorption of nutrients from food. Some babies might experience an allergic reaction to mineral oil. Seek immediate medical attention if your baby exhibits a rash, hives, swelling around the mouth or rectal bleeding, or if he fails to defecate within six to eight hours of taking the mineral oil.
To improve constipation, Dr. Sears suggests giving infants flax seed oil instead of mineral oil. Flax seed oil is a natural laxative oil that contains healthy omega-3 fats. Instead of sliding through the intestines like mineral oil and potentially depleting your infants’ body of nutrients, flax seed oil facilitates your infant's absorption of vitamins and minerals. Sears’ recommends giving infants 1 tsp. a day until the constipation improves.
Consult your pediatrician before giving your infant mineral oil, or any other type of laxative. He can make personalized recommendations of different laxatives or treatments that might be appropriate for your infant. Only use laxatives, even natural ones, as a last resort treatment for infant constipation. Before turning to laxative therapy, increase your baby’s liquids and add more fibrous foods to his diet.