Can Breastfeeding Cause Constipation?

In this article about constipation and breastfeeding, we’ll talk about it from both angles, in mother, and in baby.

Breastfeeding shouldn’t cause mom to experience constipation

Dealing with constipation during pregnancy is frustrating enough, but dealing with it while breastfeeding can be a nightmare. If you were hoping that your constipation would go away after you gave birth, then it’s normal to be really frustrated that you’re still having problems. It’s normal to blame breastfeeding and to wonder if it is the cause of all of your problems.

However, breastfeeding is not the problem. It’s much more likely that you are experiencing a problem from medication you are on, your prenatal vitamins, or you could even be mentally unable to push, due to a fear of pain. All of these problems can add to constipation and can leave you feeling worse than before.

If anything, breastfeeding has been known to cause the opposite effect in mothers (loose stools or diarrhea). Nursing causes the release of oxytocin in mother, which causes the uterus to contract, which can then stimulate the colon to do what it does best.

Is breastfeeding causing baby to be constipated?

It’s also normal for mothers to worry about whether or not breastfeeding is causing constipation in their new baby. Mothers need to remember that bowel changes are normal as the child ages. Colostrum has laxative properties, but will disappear from the milk when the baby is around six weeks old.

This can cause the baby to have fewer bowel movements during the day, which can concern parents. As long as the baby is wetting regularly, is happy, and is gaining weight, then there aren’t any problem and breastfeeding isn’t causing constipation.

It is actually fairly common for breastfed babies to go as long as 7-14 days without pooping. No joke. Breast milk is formulated to give the baby just about everything she needs, and not a lot of extra. This is why breast milk poops are so innocuous (compared to the poops of adults or older children). There just isn’t much “waste” in them to make them super gross and stinky.

If your baby is exclusively breastfed, pees regularly, but doesn’t poop, you should not feel alarm AT ALL. My babies always pooped regularly, sometimes 4-5 times a day while breastfeeding. But I had a good friend who had a baby the same age as mine and her baby almost never pooped during breastfeeding. Like ever. They saved a fortune on diapers and didn’t learn the pain of how awful a poop going up the back of a sleeper is until they introduced solid foods.

Need help with constipation?

If it has only been a few weeks after delivering your baby, you really want to avoid constipation if at all possible. It is not a good idea to be bearing down hard on the toilet if you can help it.

The primary way to resolve constipation problems is to change what you are consuming. The first thing you’ll want to do right away (if you aren’t already) is to increase the amount of fluid you are consuming. Dehydration is a common cause of constipation, and as a new breastfeeding mom, you might not yet have dialed in just how much fluid you need to drink to support your own system and to produce milk enough for your child.

Next, you’ll need to add foods that should make it easier to get through the period of constipation. Prunes are a classic food to consume to battle constipation, because they work. Prune juice, and apple juice also, pull water from the lining of the colon into the hard blockages to help move them through.

Once you are cleared up, you’ll need to continue to eat foods that won’t stop you up. Foods that have a lot of fiber, such as whole grains (not processed up), oatmeal, and whole fruits and vegetables (raw), like:

  • applies
  • lentils
  • chia seeds
  • kiwi
  • flaxseed
  • pears
  • beans
  • rhubarb
  • artichokes
  • kefir (fermented milk beverage containing probiotics)
  • figs
  • sweet potatoes

Avoid fast food, processed grains, fried foods, green bananas, cheese, alcohol, persimmons, and red meat until your constipation issues have resolved.

Changing foods didn’t help?

If you find that changing your diet isn’t help, or you are struggling to eat the foods that help you poop (maybe because you just don’t like them), consider artificial fiber (such as Metamucil) or ask your doctor for something you can use to help you avoid constipation, such as a stool softener. Your doc is surely going to tell you to improve your eating habits. But food aside, she’ll be able to give you some good advice otherwise to help you avoid constipation.

Coffee can help stimulate the colon, but tea or soda won’t. It can help you poop whether you consume it hot or over ice.

Also consider taking a walk, as exercise can also help your system get moving when things are otherwise stopped up.

Not working? Try a warm bath, and give yourself a light massage down there to encourage that area to relax. (can work for babies too, this is why they often poop in the bath)

Save the enema unless there is no other solution. If you are post partum and are considering an enema to get your body moving again, give your doctor a call before you do it, to make sure that you don’t do anything that risks damaging stitches or other work down there done by the doctor during the delivery.

For more info about breastfeeding, check out our Breastfeeding FAQs post: 100 Breastfeeding Tips For New Moms.

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