Tag Archives: Babies

When the going gets tough… Constipation in babies

31 Jan

“I got something to tell you

I got something to say

I’m gonna put this dream in motion

Never let nothing stand in my way

When the going gets tough

The tough get going”

This Billy Ocean hit from the eighties has become somewhat of an anthem in my household. You see, the start of the new year also marked the start of a new era for Boy Wonder – eating solids. It was an exciting time for all involved. Mr Wonderful and I basked in the joy of another milestone reached. Our two labradors set up camp beneath the highchair waiting for precious morsels of food to rain down on them. And the squeals of delight Boy Wonder made after swallowing each mouthful of food left us in no doubt as to how he was feeling about solids.

A couple of weeks later, Boy Wonder’s squeals of delight were accompanied by bouts of grunting and panting. At the end of his evening meal he would gaze off into the distance, a look of sheer determination enveloping his cute little face. What is he trying to do? Why is his face turning various shades of red? Where did that bulging vein in the middle of his forehead come from? Wait a second – when was the last time I changed a soiled nappy? That’s when it hit me, my little man was constipated.

Constipation in babies is a topic I am often asked about at the pharmacy. According to Billy Ocean when the going gets tough, the tough get going. How exactly does one get going? As a parent or carer what can you do when the going gets tough?

Baby bowel movements

Understanding your baby’s bowel movements can be pretty hard (sorry, I had to go there). Generally speaking stools should be formed, soft and easily passed. When it comes to a baby’s bowel movements, there’s no “normal” number – only what is normal for your baby. Your baby may pass a stool after each feed, or wait a day or more between bowel movements. A baby’s individual pattern is determined by several factors including what they eat or drink, how active they are, and their metabolic rate. For example babies that are exclusively breastfed very rarely become constipated, although they may not poo for several days or up to two weeks.  If you pay close attention to your baby, you should be able to tune in to his or her unique bowel habits.

Since it can be hard (sorry, I did it again) to determine what is normal and what is abnormal, a scale can be used to classify the appearance of the stool. One such scale is the Bristol Stool Form Scale shown below.

      

Stools at the lumpy end of the scale are hard to pass and often require a lot of straining, while those at the loose or liquid end may be too easy to pass. The ideal stools are types 4 and 5, as they are most likely to pass easily and are least likely to leave you with an annoying feeling that you left something behind.

What is constipation?

Many babies strain and go red in the face whilst doing a normal, healthy poo. Note that on its own this is not a sign of constipation. Constipation is defined as a combination of:

  • Infrequent passing of stools
  • Excessive straining
  • Excessive stool hardness (see types 1 and 2 above)
  • Pain on passing stools

True constipation in babies is uncommon and should always be checked by a doctor or maternal and child health nurse.

What causes constipation in babies?

There are several constipation-causing culprits including:

  • Not enough breast milk: Exclusively breastfed babies are rarely constipated. Breast milk has the perfect balance of fat and protein, and produces stools that are almost always soft. In the rare cases that constipation does occur in an exclusively breastfed baby, it may be because the baby is not receiving enough milk.
  • Formula: Formula that is made up incorrectly or changes to formula (especially when swapping to follow-on formula or cow’s milk) may cause constipation.
  • Dehydration: Babies not receiving enough fluids become dehydrated. Their system responds by absorbing more fluid from their food and drink and from waste in the bowels, resulting in hard, dry stools that are difficult to pass.
  • Introduction of solids &/or inappropriate solids: Babies often become mildly constipated when they are introduced to solids. It is important to use the correct solid foods for the age of your baby.
  • Anal fissure: Sometimes a hard stool causes a little tear or crack in the skin around the anus. This is called an anal fissure and can be quite painful. Not wanting to be sore, the baby may ‘hold on’ causing the stool to become even harder and more painful to pass.
  • Medical condition or illness: Although uncommon, constipation in babies may be caused by an underlying medical condition.      That’s why it’s always a good idea to seek advice from a doctor, nurse or  other healthcare professional if your baby passes hard, painful stools, just to make sure.

Treating constipation in babies

Suggestions to treat constipation in babies include:

1. Get the formula right

If you feed your baby formula, check the formula tin to make sure each bottle is being made up correctly. Always measure the water first and then add the formula powder. Be sure to only ever use the scoop provided in the formula tin. You may also wish to speak to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist about switching brands.

2. Keep baby hydrated

In warm weather, formula-fed babies require extra fluid such as cooled, boiled water between feeds. Breastfed babies may require more frequent feeds.

3. Move it baby

If your baby can crawl, encourage them to do a few laps. If we’re not at the crawling stage yet, try some leg pumping. While lying on their back, gently move baby’s legs in a forward, circular motion like pedalling a bicycle.

4. Make the right food choices

Switching from rice cereal to barley or oat cereal, or adding pureed fruits or vegetables to cereal, once your baby is ready for them may assist with constipation. Cut down on constipating foods like rice, bananas and carrots, and consider introducing some pureed prunes, apricots or pears to loosen those stools. Ask your doctor, nurse or an accredited dietician if you are unsure about what foods to introduce when.

5. Have a bath

A nice, warm bath may help baby’s muscles to relax. Just be prepared for them to poo in the bath…

6. Healing hands

A gentle tummy massage may help move things along. Measure three finger-widths below the navel and apply gentle but firm pressure with your fingertips. Gently but firmly move your fingers in a clock-wise direction for about three minutes.

If the idea of touch appeals to you, you might consider an osteopathic treatment. Sometimes the nerves that supply the lower third of the bowel don’t function as well as they could due to lower back tightness. This causes a slowing down in gastric motility resulting in a sluggish bowel. Once any serious disease has been ruled out by a doctor, osteopathic treatment aimed at improving lower spinal and pelvic movement often improves bowel function. Babies often enjoy this hands on treatment and leave feeling relaxed and sometimes even asleep!

For those of you in Melbourne I highly recommend the experienced, baby-friendly folk at St Kilda Osteopathy.

7. Seek help

It is extremely important to talk to a healthcare professional about treatment options. Many over-the-counter treatments that make bowel movements more comfortable are available, but should never be used without the advice of your baby’s doctor, nurse or pharmacist.

There are also some things you should NOT do to treat constipation in babies:

  • Don’t give prune juice – it contains a natural bowel irritant and is not suitable for infants under nine months of age, even when diluted.
  • Don’t add any form of sugar, malt extract or rice cereal to formula – it will not help the constipation.
  • Don’t introduce solids before four to six months of age – it’s not recommended as a way to treat constipation.

Hopefully by following the above advice, constipation need not be a constant worry for you. By providing your baby with a healthy diet and enough fluids, your baby’s bowels should stay healthy. But at least you’ll know what to do when the going gets tough…

Where to get help

  • Your doctor, maternal and child health nurse, or pharmacist
  • The Maternal and Child Healthline: 13 22 29
  • Nurse-on-Call: 1300 606 024
  • The Royal Children’s Hospital: +613 9345 5522

Taking baby steps in 2012

5 Jan
A pregnant woman

About a week after giving birth to Boy Wonder I decided it was time to venture out into the big wide world. I was super excited to take him to the pharmacy and show him off to my colleagues. I rummaged through my wardrobe until I found a dress I could actually fit into, herded Boy Wonder and Mr Wonderful into the car and off we went.

“Hey Ren, great to see you. When’s the baby due?” This was the greeting I received from a regular customer when I arrived at the pharmacy. In my delirious, sleep-deprived state I started to laugh. The customer looked at my belly and said “surely not long to go now”. Needless to say, I was beyond horrified. Wasn’t it obvious I had already delivered my precious bundle? Did I still look pregnant? Are you kidding me?

Now I’ve spent time with many a pregnant woman and new mother alike, sisters, friends, customers. I know that in most cases the human body still looks pregnant after giving birth. I know that it generally takes six weeks for a woman’s uterus to contract back to its original size and position. I know that for many women myself included, it takes a good forty weeks to gain all that baby weight. What I did not know was that when I found myself in this intensely vulnerable position, all of my knowledge would fly out the window. Having been somewhat of a featherweight for most of my life, I was suddenly 25 kilos heavier and incredibly insecure.

I returned home that day feeling utterly demoralised. I jumped online to try and find a quick and easy way to lose my baby weight. What I ended up stumbling upon however was a post on Mia Freedman’s website Mamamia showing photos of rock star Pink and Jamie Oliver’s wife Jools just days after giving birth. And guess what? They still had their bellies! These images reminded me that bodies generally don’t bounce back after giving birth. It takes nine months to grow a baby, so why expect to take just weeks to “bounce back”? The vast majority of women take months or even years to lose the weight they gained during pregnancy. Most healthcare professionals, me included, would recommend that you take your time and follow a healthy approach to your weight loss goals. The time had come to practice what I preached…

Five months have passed since that fateful day in the pharmacy and I am proud to report that I have lost more than half of my baby weight. It hasn’t been an easy slog but I’m getting there. I’m not going to lie – I have certainly had my moments. Just ask Mr Wonderful how many tanties I’ve thrown whilst trying to select an outfit for a night out with the girls or even just dinner with the family. Not pretty!

We recently welcomed in 2012. New Year’s Eve is a great time to look back over the past 12 months and forward to the coming year. It’s a time to reflect on the changes we want to make and goals we wish to achieve and resolve to follow through on them. And so I have come to the realisation that there is a new little man in the world thanks to me and my body, and that I need to be a good role model for him and teach him how to be healthy.

How does one begin to achieve this goal of better health after pregnancy? It’s all about taking baby steps…

Step 1. Consider your eating habits

To help you keep up with the demands of being a new parent as well as speeding your recovery from labour and birth, aim to eat a healthy, nutritious and varied diet. Most women find that if they eat for their hunger and eat a healthy diet, the baby weight comes off pretty naturally. Keep snacks such as carrot sticks, apple slices and rice crackers around the house to keep you from feeling hungry and to provide you with much needed energy throughout the day. Just remember that no matter how badly you want to lose the weight, you mustn’t eat less than 1800 calories a day, especially if you are breastfeeding.

The ChooseMyPlate.gov website is a great resource where you can design a personalised eating plan based on your age, activity level and weight loss goals. There is also a special section for breastfeeding mums.

Step 2. Move it mama!

Aerobic and strength training exercises are important after pregnancy to burn calories and keep your bones and muscles nice and strong. Exercise also provides many other benefits to new mothers by helping to both prevent and treat postnatal depression, regulating sleep and relieving stress.

Gentle exercise such as slow walking, pelvic floor exercises and stretching may be commenced as soon as you feel up to it, however you should wait until you get your doctor’s ok before taking up more strenuous exercise. Taking a brisk walk with your baby in the pram is enough to get your muscles working and your heart pumping. You should be aiming for at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise on most days of the week. With a new baby, finding 30 minutes in a row may prove a little difficult so break up the time into 10-minute increments and work your way up. Trust me, you can do it!

While lugging around your growing baby all day is a workout in itself, you still need to add some strength training. Your program should be focused on the re-establishment of good alignment, functional stability, core strength and flexibility. It is often a good idea to enlist the help of a personal trainer or physiotherapist specialising in women’s health. For those of you in Melbourne, I highly recommend the professional, experienced, friendly folk at Be Active Physiotherapy.

Step 3. Get guzzling

There isn’t much point in getting the nutrition and exercise right if you don’t get the hydration right. Why is water so important? If you don’t drink enough water your body goes into a kind of starvation mode and tries to hold on to everything it can. Plus, many vitamins and nutrients are water-soluble, so even if you are eating a healthy diet you may not absorb all the goodness without sufficient water. If you are drinking enough fluids, your urine should be relatively clear and you should be going to the bathroom roughly every three to four hours.

For those of you who aren’t that keen on water (I’m hearing you, I’m not a water fan), try adding slices of lemon or lime to make it a little more appealing.

Step 4. Catch some z’s

I know, I know, impossible right? But being sleep deprived can be detrimental to your health and make it harder for you to shed your baby weight. When you are tired your body produces stress hormones such as cortisol that can cause weight gain. Studies, as well as my own personal experience, show that we don’t feel like taking care of ourselves when we’re tired. People suffering exhaustion are less likely to exercise and less likely to make healthy food choices.

Try and take advantage of offers of help so that you can nap. Let your partner, a family member or friend take the baby for a walk, help with the housework, do some laundry, cook you dinner, whatever. Take that time to rest. You may also have been told to “sleep when your baby sleeps”. This is great advice! Take as many naps as you can during the day and try to go to bed early occasionally. You’ll be amazed what a difference a little shut-eye makes.

Step 5. Take the pressure down

Remember not to be too hard on yourself. Your body has most likely changed after pregnancy and childbirth. It may have matured into a more womanly shape. Your boobs may no longer defy gravity and your pelvic floor may never be the same again, but be proud of your body. It’s done a pretty wonderful job of bringing your baby into the world hasn’t it?

Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2012!

 

Who is PharmaMama?

10 Dec

Being a pharmacist is a pretty interesting job. You get to see the very best and the very worst of society. You meet people who astound you with their courage and zest for life, and others who astound you for all the wrong reasons…

I’ve been a pharmacist since 2007, but have been working in pharmacy for about 16 years now. I often wonder how I’ve stayed in the industry this long, when so many others become jaded and disillusioned. For me, it all comes down to location – working in Melbourne’s colourful and crazy bayside suburb St Kilda. Over the years I have had the pleasure of helping people from all walks of life, ranging from locals who have lived in the area for 70 plus years to young families, sex workers and drug addicts. I’ve certainly mixed with some fantastic characters and faced many challenges. However, no challenge has been so great as that of entering the wonderful world of motherhood…

19 weeks ago, Mr Wonderful and I welcomed Boy Wonder into the world. While everyone tells you that your life will never be the same again once you’ve had a child, you can’t truly understand just how life changing it is until you’re in the thick of it. I come from a pretty big family – 3 older siblings with 7 children between them. Mr Wonderful has 2 siblings and 4 nieces and nephews. So to say I’ve got experience with babies and children is somewhat of an understatement. Add to this all my years of experience in pharmacy, the textbooks I memorised through my uni days, and the countless pieces I have written on infant health issues for various clients. With all this experience and theory behind me I thought having a baby would be a breeze. What could possibly go wrong?

The main lesson I have learnt over the past 19 weeks of having Boy Wonder, and the 9 months of pregnancy beforehand, and the 6 months of trying to conceive following a miscarriage at 10 weeks is that this whole baby thing is hard work! You can have all the experience and theoretical knowledge in the world behind you, but it’s a whole new ball game when you’re in the thick of it yourself. And that’s why I decided to start this blog. To be perfectly honest I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing, but as blogger and journalist Sarah Wilson wrote in her blog earlier this year, “Enter the fray. Step in, get messy, work it out from there. Just enter.”

And so, here I am. I have entered the fray and am ready to get messy. I am going to attempt to share my journey through motherhood with you out there, and mix in a little of my expertise as a pharmacist as well. I hope you enjoy…

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