When a baby has severe constipation and gas, she might cry for hours at a time. As a parent, that can make you feel frustrated, helpless and very worried. But gas and constipation are normal problems in a baby. When these conditions make your baby scream consistently over several days or cause other symptoms such as fever, rashes or bloody stools, it's time to call her pediatrician.
Constipation happens when food particles congeal in the gut and block the colon. In general, very young babies fed on milk don't experience too much constipation. As a baby starts on solid food, constipation becomes a greater risk. Severe constipation causes great discomfort in babies. Babies can't take enemas or stool-softening drugs without a doctor's approval. If your baby is older than 2 months, a 2-oz. serving of prune juice twice per day might help ease the symptoms, according to the MedlinePlus online medical encyclopedia. If your baby has started solid foods, feeding her mashed peas, prunes or other high-fiber foods also helps dislodge constipated stools.
When your baby feeds, hiccups or breathes in sharply, he sometimes draws air into the stomach and digestive system. Some of this air comes out of his rear end; in other cases, gas gets trapped inside, causing discomfort and even pain. If you press the stomach of a baby with gas, it might feel tight and hard. Burping a baby by holding him against your shoulder and rubbing his back helps to ease trapped gas from the stomach. For severe and stubborn gas, lie your baby on his back and lift his legs to the stomach to gently force out more air.
Colic describes a range of symptoms that can make a baby cry for 3-hour periods at least three times a week, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. You'll notice clear signs that your baby is unhappy. For example, she might tense her limbs and ball her fists. Both severe gas and constipation may play a role in colic. When crying, babies gulp in more air, making gassy symptoms worse. If you're breastfeeding, avoid eating spicy foods and caffeinated beverages, as well as foods you know cause you to have gas yourself, as these can affect the breast milk and trigger colic.
If your baby has persistent bouts of constipation and seems to cry nearly all the time, this can suggest other health complications. For example, a newborn with severe constipation may have Hirschsprung disease, a condition that blocks the bowels. Symptoms include a swollen belly, bloody diarrhea, green vomit and excessive gas. Another possible, though rare, cause is cystic fibrosis. This condition triggers excess mucus production. Cystic fibrosis often causes severe constipation and gas in babies, particularly newborns. Both cases require medical treatment and advice from a doctor.
- University of Maryland Medical Center; Infantile Colic; March 2010
- MedlinePlus; Constipation; David C. Dugdale, III, M.D.; August 2010
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse; What I Need to Know About Hirschsprung Disease; February 2010
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Cystic Fibrosis?