If your baby has dry, hard stools, she may be constipated. Babies follow their own schedules for defecation; you cannot identify irregularity by comparing your baby's bowel movements to a typical schedule for other children. However, if your baby defecates less often than is usual for her, she may need to see a doctor. Certain foods -- including green beans -- may help relieve your baby's constipation. Never give your baby laxatives or suppositories.
Hard stools and increased time between bowel movements are classic symptoms of constipation. Additional symptoms include loss of appetite, crankiness, abdominal cramping, nausea, rectal bleeding and anal fissures, which are small anal tears. Also, if your baby withholds stools, the increased stool size may cause her rectum to stretch when she does defecate. This may lead to an inability to recognize the urge to defecate until the stool is so large as to require assistance. Liquid resembling diarrhea may travel around the stool and leak out the anus. This problem is called encopresis.
Babies who breast-feed typically do not become constipated; some baby formulas may cause constipation that can be resolved by switching formulas. However, when it is time for babies to transition to solid foods, they may experience mild constipation; this often is because the food used to transition is rice cereal, which is low in fiber. Sufficient fiber is necessary for bowel regularity. Dehydration also may cause constipation. When your baby does not drink enough liquid, her body absorbs fluid from food and waste, leading to dry stools. An underlying medical condition is another possible cause, though it is less common.
Increasing your baby's fiber intake by feeding fiber-rich solid foods may help. Fiber is the bulky part of food that the human body cannot digest; it softens stool. Green beans are a high-fiber food, as are most vegetables. Whole grains, nuts, beans and some fruits and cereals also are rich in fiber. A teaspoon of bran mixed into your baby's cereal is another way to increase fiber intake. A few tablespoons of apricots, pears and pureed prunes may help, too. Feeding homemade baby food is another option as it is generally contains more fiber than store-bought food.
Dietary modification typically is beneficial for constipation, but there are other ways you can help your baby. Babies under 6 months may respond positively to 2 ounces of water given twice a day to increase liquid intake. A warm washcloth on her stomach can help, too, according to the California Women Infants & Children organization. Babies older than 6 months may benefit from increased physical activity. If she is not yet crawling, move her legs as if she were pedaling a bike. Additionally, 2 ounces of water mixed with apple or prune juice twice a day increases hydration.