Did you know that your baby may not be constipated even if they haven't had a bowel movement in a while? Below we explain just what constipation actually is, its causes and what you can do to help relieve it. 

How do I know if my child is constipated?

Each child is different when it comes to the frequency of bowel movements. But it is not the frequency but rather the type of bowel movement that matters. A child who is constipated will pass small, hard stools with straining or difficulty. They may have colic pains due to stools remaining in their body and they might go off their food. Because passing the stools may hurt, your child might also subconsciously try and stop making bowel movements too, which can make the problem continue.

What causes constipation?

Constipation may be caused by a number of things including a change in diet, dehydration or a minor illness like a cold. It is rarely seen in breastfed babies because breast milk is more easily digested.

What can I do to help?

There are several things you can do for your constipated child:

• Give your child extra drinks of cooled, boiled water.

• Underfeeding may lead to constipation – make sure you are feeding your child enough.

• Gently massage your child's tummy in a clockwise direction. Some baby oil on your hands may help. Only continue if your child seems relaxed and comfortable.

• Give your child a warm bath and when drying them, apply some cream or petroleum jelly around their bottom to soothe and prevent soreness.

• Move your child's legs in a cycling motion.

If you have any worries about your child's health, it's always best to talk to your doctor.