Dr. Betti Hertzberg Ressler is a Board Certified Pediatrician on staff at Miami Children's Hospital. Dr. Hertzberg developed the toilet training video "Let's Go Potty." She is the co-author of "The Doctor's Book of Home Remedies for Children."
Constipation in babies
Question: My 9 week old son has severe problems trying to open his bowels. He strains for about 5-6 hours, and eventually after a lot of pain and screaming, he passes very soft, and messy stools. He is fed formula milk, and also gets ample water and fruit juices, so what could be causing such discomfort with my sons passing of stools? He has recently been discharged from hospital for having a Kidney infection, and is currently on antibiotics, could these be the cause?
Answer: Dear Ashley,
If your baby did not have any problems with having a bowel movement prior to
being admitted to the hospital, it seems that there was some change in his
routine. This may include a different environment, possibly a different
schedule of feeding and most definitely the medications (antibiotics) that he
received in the hospital. Antibiotics are wonderful drugs that cure many
infections. They do have side effects which usually subside after they are
finished. The digestive system seems to be most affected because bacteria
which is normally found there is also reduced or wiped out along with the
bacteria causing the infection. These wonderful drugs can't separate the
Kidney infections in a young child are appropriately treated with in-hospital
antibiotics (I'm assuming intravenously), followed by oral antibiotics at
home. Sometimes intravenous antibiotics are also given after the child leaves
The straining may also be due to colic. The introduction of fruit juice and
possibly other foods may be part of the problem. Water in addition to his
normal milk feedings (not in place of) is good for kidney function and helps
to maintain a normal stool pattern. You said ample fruit juices. Was that a
little or a lot?
Fruit juice, especially apple juice, has a high natural sugar content which
causes water to be drawn from the intestines. This in turn may cause cramping
and colic. Parents should be reminded that when a child has stomach cramps
or diarrhea, withhold the juices. They may make these symptoms worse.
Your son is also at the ripe age for developing "COLIC." This condition comes
on suddenly with no apparent signs of other illness. Pediatricians and
parents (and pediatrician parents)! are still looking for a good answer as to
why it happens. Guessing, the immature digestive system has a major role.
Allergy? Genetics? We're still looking for why it happens in some babies and
not others. Statistically, first born male infants are affected more often.
By the time you read this, your son will have finished his antibiotics and
hopefully, his BM's are back to normal. If not, please talk to your
Also see: What is the cause of ITP and is there anything that can prevent it from recurring?
Can a pediatrician comfortably prescribe and manage ADHD medication or is it better suited to a psychiatrist?
Ask Dr. Betti your questions
This information is not intended to be a substitute for visiting your pediatrician. If you or your child has specific concerns, you should see your doctor for a diagnosis and treatment.