At a recent press launch I found myself in the middle of a group of mothers of youngish babies, all agitatedly discussing the problem of constipation in their little ones. They were very distressed about it so I asked GP and writer Dr Rob Hicks for advice. This is what he says:
‘Constipation in babies and children is common: about one in three parents report that their child has experienced constipation at some time. It need not mean not going to the loo at all. A person is constipated if they go less often than they would normally, produce less motion than normal – usually small hard dry pellets – or have to strain to go. Some babies and children normally go once a day, some more often, and others only a couple of times a week. Any of these patterns can be normal for that child.
Invariably constipation arises when a child isn’t getting enough fibre and liquid in the diet. Babies who are not yet weaned can be offered extra water in between feeds. But if the baby is being fed formula, do not dilute the feed more than advised on the packet; always follow the instructions. For weaned babies and children, diluted prune or apple juice provides the necessary liquid and also gives the bowel a little stimulation to help it to work. Pureed fruit and vegetables also provide extra liquid and fibre. Switching to wholemeal bread and brown rice helps too.
Lactulose liquid (available from the pharmacist) helps to keep liquid in the motions, as well as drawing in extra fluid, so they become softer and easier to pass.
DIY treatments include massaging a baby or child’s tummy in a clockwise direction for a few minutes (in the mornings and through the day) can help get things moving. Also try moving the baby’s legs in a bicycling motion.
If your budget allows, cranial osteopathy can help overcome constipation. To find a qualified professional, visit the Sutherland Society at cranial.org.uk
It’s easy for a stressed environment to develop when things are not happening as they should but stress and/or pressure will hinder progress. A relaxed atmosphere is what’s needed when trying to pass a motion so make the environment comfortable and soothing for your child, and allow them plenty of time when they’re trying to go to the toilet. Playing calming music may help, try Dr Hicks’ Classic FM Music for Babies (£9.98 from drrobhicks.co.uk/classicfm-babies.htm, where you will also find his Podcast on Constipation and Laxatives). Mothers have also liked Baby Cello and Baby Harp, each CD £10 from Cala Records, tel: 020 8883 7306, calarecords.com
Try these simple measures for a few days, but if there is no improvement after a week, or if at any point a child is clearly unwell, vomiting, has lost their appetite, or has tummy pain, then seek medical advice immediately. If you cant get to your GP, you can call NHS Direct 24 hours a day, on 0845 46 47, or visit nhsdirect.nhs.uk
A reader praises the natural supplement Superior Hair, which contains a combination of nutrients that may help prevent hair loss in both women and men, as well as encouraging new growth. She had been taking some ‘horrible meds’, which affected her luscious locks but reports that taking this supplement over months helped regain her hair. It costs £25 for 90 capsules, dose three daily. But please do remember that nothing would be a quick fix, and no remedy will work for everyone.
It’s so satisfactory when something delicious is also really good for you. (Makes up for all those times I was told to eat up things I hated as a child.) Cherries contain at least 17 antioxidants, the beneficial vitamins that our bodies need to stay healthy; the Montmorency variety, which is included in Cherrygood, is particularly potent. Research shows that cherries may help insomnia, support your immune system, reduce muscle inflammation so you won’t ache as much after exercising, and can lower levels of uric acid in the blood, which is one of the common causes of gout. Cherrygood is available at supermarkets nationwide, rrp £1.39 for one litre of Original Cherry, or a low sugar version, Original Cherry Light. PS don’t forget to eat lots of other fruit, salads and veggies too.
Website of the week: bracollect.co.uk
This new charity initiative – known as the ‘Bra Bank’ – is supported by model Bianca Gascoigne, and asks you to donate unwanted and worn bras, which will be sent on to remote villages in Kenya and Zimbabwe to give women there the physical support they need while working their land and carrying children. The remainder will be recycled in aid of Breast Cancer Campaign.