Doctor Betti
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 son will be a month old this Saturday. I breastfed for about a week but he did not seem to be getting enough from me so we went to formula. We had started with Enfamil Low Iron because he was on that in the hospital for a day when he had jaundice then we went for our first visit & the ped wants him on Similac w/Iron so we are using that now - well when we went to dr I told her that he had a hard stool they tested it there in office - no blood so she suggested light karo syrup and 4 oz water or 1 teaspoon mixed with formula that worked he had a bowel movement. Now the last time he went for me was yesterday at around 1pm - pees alot but no poop. We have not put the Karo in bottles again because we don't want to have to keep using that (sugar)he grunts alot with red face, passes gas, burps etc but no stool today. Now I know it has only been a day but do you think he is having a problem digesting the formula. He does not seem to be as fussy after eating but he still looks like he is struggling to poop. I have also given him Milicon drops for gas. Please advise. Thank you. - Cassie

Answer: Dear Cassie,
The digestive system of your baby is immature as far as being able to absorb and digest the milk he is drinking. Keep in mind that any formula available today is made be very similar to human breast milk. Similar, but not the same!

We have not been able to exactly duplicate breast milk. There are antibodies and other nutrients that are produced by mother and mother nature that make it a perfect food for every stage of a young baby's' life. Back to your concern regarding constipation.

Although every baby is different, sometimes certain foods (milk in this case) may cause some discomfort and symptoms of indigestion such as gas, colic and hard or loose stools. The protein in formula is larger than breast milk, making it harder for baby to digest. The addition of Karo syrup is used by some as a temporary measure to soften stools. If baby's' stools remain difficult to pass without the use of karo or other remedies, possibly a change in formula may be tried.

The addition of some extra water in between feedings (not in place of) may help to soften stools.

One important thing to remember!! Babies have not yet developed muscles in their lower colon. This means that when stool is ready to be passed, the feeling is uncomfortable for baby. This is why sometimes he will grunt and appear to have pain. Colic is the term used for this crampy pain which magically disappears after the stool is passed.

Talk to your child's pediatrician for measures that have been used to remedy this situation.

As the baby's' digestive system matures, he will be better able to tolerate his formula and other foods that will be introduced at a later time. If there are questions of allergy or intolerance, discuss these with the pediatrician.

Dr. Betti

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.