Constipation and Infant Reflux

Patient Expert

Constipation and infant gastroesophageal reflux sometimes occur together, effectively doubling the misery since both constipation and reflux may cause fussiness and digestive discomfort.

Constipation is defined as hard, dry bowel movements. A constipated infant may cry out, strain, pull up her legs or have blood in the stool. Infant constipation may be caused by diet, medication or dehydration.

Keep in mind that an infant may strain and appear to be in pain when passing a bowel movement, whether or not she is constipated. In addition, there is a great deal of variability in the frequency of bowel movements so infrequent bowel movements do not necessarily mean your baby is constipated. Review your child's symptoms with the doctor and get an accurate diagnosis first.

If your baby is constipated and has gastroesophageal reflux, she may be fussy and uncomfortable for several reasons. Since the digestive system is one long tube, a back up in the lower digestive system from constipation can actually worsen reflux. Food may stay in the stomach too long and cause bloating, fullness and backwashing.

Many pediatricians and pediatric gastroenterologists understand the importance of aggressive treatment for both constipation and reflux. However, it is easy for parents and doctors to overlook constipation when the reflux symptoms may be the focus of evaluation and treatment. Therefore, your observations and questions about constipation will help the doctor assess the situation and suggest helpful treatments for both constipation and reflux.

Keep in mind:

·         There is a great deal of variability in bowel movements according to the age of your baby and her diet. Don't try to self-diagnose constipation.

·         The symptoms of reflux and constipation may overlap. Both may cause fussiness, poor feeding and crying during and after a meal.

·         Special formulas and thickeners used to treat reflux and food allergies may cause constipation or worsen constipation.

·         Try non-medication treatments first. While there are medications to treat constipation, it is often preferable to change the diet or increase fluids first.

·         Always check with the doctor about the dosing and use of medications for the treatment of constipation. While there are several over the counter and prescription medications available, always ask the doctor for advice on the dosing and frequency of using constipation medications.