Managing constipation in a baby can be difficult. A baby who becomes constipated has difficulty passing a bowel movement and stools become firm and dry. She may strain or grunt during the process and stools are often small. Feeding your baby certain foods such as sweet potatoes can help her avoid constipation or resolve this situation if it happens. Consult your child's pediatrician if constipation persists.
Although they have part of the same name, sweet potatoes are not actually potatoes at all. While potatoes are types of plants known as tubers, sweet potatoes come from the morning-glory family and are a type of storage root. These healthy foods contain vitamins A and C and are a source of carbohydrates. You can prepare sweet potatoes in a variety of different methods, such as frying or stewing; they may also be used as baby food. Many people begin giving their babies mashed vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, at about 4 months, as they begin to eat solid foods. Sweet potatoes are among foods that infants can eat that are also effective at resolving constipation, Akron Children's Hospital reports.
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Constipation occurs when there is not enough water in the digestive tract to keep stools soft. If the body absorbs too much water during digestion, the stools become hard and difficult to pass. Constipation does not refer to the actual frequency of stools. Depending on your baby's diet, it may be normal for her to have a bowel movement only once every couple of days. Constipation may also happen when you introduce a new food to your baby. Babies that are breastfed often have stools that are softer than babies who are formula-fed.
Sweet potatoes may work to prevent constipation in your baby because they contain fiber. Fiber is found in some plant-based products; it is the portion of the plant that is not digested. As it moves through the digestive tract, fiber absorbs some water, keeping stools soft and easy to pass. One half, cooked sweet potato without the skin contains 3.9 g of fiber. If your baby becomes constipated and she is more than 4 months old, you may try giving her a serving of strained sweet potatoes each day to help regulate stools.
If you notice that your baby is grunting or straining while having a bowel movement, it might not necessarily mean she is constipated. For some babies, this is normal during a bowel movement, as long as stools are not hard and dry. If your baby is constipated and you have tried giving strained foods such as sweet potatoes with no relief for three days, you should call your doctor for further advice on treating this situation.
- AskDrSears.com: Constipation
- Akron Children’s Hospital: Constipation in Infants
- Consultative Group on International Agriculture Research: Sweet Potato
- Colorado State University Extension; Dietary Fiber; J. Anderson, et al.; December 2010
- Princeton Online; Constipation; Mark B. Levin, M.D., et al.; 2005