I know, I know; I can hear you scraping your chairs closer already.
When you’re childless (or childfree, depending on your viewpoint) you’re fairly certain you know how to bring up a child, could do better than the frazzled looking mum in the supermarket with her screaming children, have the best ideas on nutrition and discipline etc. Not exempt from this is constipation. I don’t know about you guys, but my child would never be constipated because I’d feed her right.
Unfortunately, life’s not that simple.
Isabel has never been a big pooper. Even in her first 6 months while she was still exclusively breastfed, she would poo as little as once every 2 weeks. This isn’t uncommon in breastfed babies because mum’s milk is the “perfect” food and almost totally digested by the body.
Anyway, at 6 months when we introduced food (and I mean good, healthy homecooked food; fruit and vegetables etc) it took her 16 days to finally poo. By this point I’d totally cut out solid food 3 days previously and had gone back to exclusive breastfeeding. In the end I resorted to giving her a few teaspoons of warm sugar-water which seemed to work (or was a big fat coincidence, you know).
As you can imagine, that poo was quite uncomfortable for her. Subsequent poos, whilst more frequent, weren’t really that much better. I mean, without wanting to get into too much detail, they weren’t hard but they definitely weren’t what she was used to.
In hindsight, we should have sought help then. Instead we asked around, did a bit of Googling, fed Izzy prunes and as much veg as she would eat (and she ate it, she loved veg) and made it up as we went along.
Somewhere around the 8-9 month mark, problems ongoing, Isabel started showing what we thought was a reaction to egg. If she ate egg in the day, she would be up all night screaming. Literally up. She wouldn’t lie down. The only way to get her to sleep was to prop her on our chest and rub her back. Of course this meant bugger all sleep for me but needs must and all that. We cut out egg completely (it didn’t help). I lived on 2 hours sleep a night for about 3 months.
Around the same time, Isabel started showing weird behaviours towards pooing. For a long time, we thought she was having trouble going (duh) because she’d pull herself up, stand completely rigid, grip tightly onto a piece of furniture and go purple in the face. I learned to pick up on these signs, at which point I’d grab her and ‘force’ her legs into a squat position to make it easier to go, because I thought it’d help.
Around 12 months, problems STILL ongoing, I went back to work. Within days, Isabel started pooing 2-3 times a day. Nice soft poos, exactly as she should at that age. At Christmas, I had 2 weeks off, and she stopped pooing again. Sigh. (I didn’t make the connection between me being there, and not being there, until later on.)
Post-Christmas we decided we were not willing to get back into the no-sleep / no-poo mess we’d been in previously, and so we finally sought proper help.
It turns out that Isabel wasn’t having problems going. She was stool withholding. Her early experiences pooing meant that she was scared to go, so she’d hold in her poop, which meant it built up and became hard, which meant it hurt when she went, which meant she was scared to go, which … well, you see the pattern. By holding Izz into a squat position I was preventing her from withholding successfully, but (and this is only my theory, I must add) at the same time creating a negative poop association with me, hence pooing fine for my mum after I’d gone back to work.
Isabel started on lactulose to treat the constipation early in the year. It took over a month to find the right dose for her (20ml a day, the max a child her age can take) and a week of taking that dose before we saw any effect. She started pooping regularly on Thursday 3rd March and has gone every day bar two since then. Some days she’s gone twice, or even three times.
I’m not sharing this poopy tale of woe because I think the majority of my readers are interested. I recognise that most of you don’t even have children yet. Also, the irony of posting about poo the day after berating mommy bloggers is not lost on me. Nonetheless, I despair that a problem so common (infant stool withholding and childhood constipation) is discussed so little. If only I had known we could have sorted Isabel out straight away. Pratting about with prunes is all well and good if your kid has a low fibre diet, but when they’re already eating all the right foods it really is time to look for a solution elsewhere.
If your worried about your baby’s bowels and want more advice, I can recommend highly ‘Constipation, Withholding and Your Child: A Family Guide to Soiling and Wetting’ by Anthony Cohn, ISBN: 9781843104919 (that’s a clean link, no affiliate tagging). Don’t wait, get it sorted: for their sake and yours.