When something is not 100% right with our babies, we want to find the cause as quickly as possible. But pointing the finger inappropriately can mean we miss out on the real cause. It’s long been assumed that the iron content in baby formula is responsible for constipation. After all, even we grownups can experience this problem when taking iron supplements. However, a study was done to determine if it were true of baby formulas. Half of the babies were fed with low iron, half with regular, and as it was a blind study, only the professionals conducting the research knew which babies received which formula. Constipation was reported at the same rate in both groups, proving that for most children, the formula didn’t make the difference. What is known for sure is that iron is essential for growing babies, so to blame the constipation on the iron levels in the formula, and to subsequently discontinue formula as the baby’s main source of nutrition would be counterproductive.
Now, as for formula itself being the culprit, it seems that allergies to the proteins in the formula could be the determining factor. Milk proteins, especially from cows, are notorious for being difficult to break down in babies’ underdeveloped bodies. It’s a good idea to try a different brand, since each manufacturer has its own recipe and the levels of different elements will be higher or lower compared to others. You might even consider a switch to a soy formula, but one thing to note is that soy results in firmer stools.
A hydrolyzed formula is an excellent option if your baby seems to be suffering from chronic constipation. In hydrolyzed formulas, the proteins have been processed to a far smaller size, which means they are much more easily digested and very few babies, if any, can develop an allergy to these.
Once your baby is on solids, it can be easier to introduce foods with higher fiber content. Fiber is like a broom to sweep waste products through the intestines and out of the body. Some fruits and vegetables as well as grains can be very beneficial in alleviating constipation symptoms.
Obviously, a couple of episodes of constipation will not be too concerning, but if you are finding that your baby is regularly straining to empty his bowels, or that his bowel movements are few and far between, you must seek medical advice. Your doctor is the best person to decide the appropriate course of action. Iron is hugely important in a child’s diet so never take it upon yourself to eliminate it in the hopes of relieving a condition whose cause is not truly known.