Constipation in babies: The best solution can be found in breast milk
Objective: How good bacteria can help ease constipation thus HMOs important
A young baby needs intense care and attention in the early years and this even extends to noting how their poo and pee looks. How frequently are they passing stools, what colour are they, are they hard or soft –every mother keeps a tab on it. it is important to check your baby’s stools as it is a gateway to their gut health.Constipation, even among babies is very common. But just like adults, babies can also benefit from this fibre present in breast milk.
What causes hard stools in babies?
1 in 5 babies experience constipation. It is a great source of discomfort for babies and anxiety for parents. Changes in the infant stools usually come when their diet changes. Especially when babies first start to eat solid foods from breast milk, they can experience constipation.1 Constipation means the poop is sitting around in your baby’s gut for a long time.2
But breastfed babies never face constipation. This is because of an ingredient abundantly found in breastmilk called ingredient called Human milk Oligosaccharides or HMOs.
What are HMOs?
They are prebiotics which means they cannot be digested in your baby’s tummy and reach the gut as it is. It is here that bacteria get to ferment it. Only the good kind of bacteria can ferment and breakdown prebiotic HMOs in your baby’s gut.3
This combination of prebiotic fibre and good bacteria helps relieve constipation in babies in the following way4
- First, in your baby’s tummy, prebiotic HMOs absorbs water and turns into a jelly. This automatically makes your baby’s poop ‘heavy or bulky’. Higher amount of water means easy to pass the poop!
- Second, good bacteria help the poop to ‘absorb or retain’ more water. Bulky soft poop is now easy to pass.
- Third, selective increase of good bacteria helps the poop to ‘move faster’ through your baby’s gut rather than keeping it there. This again means no constipation.
Tell me more about prebiotic HMOs
There are more than 1000 different HMOs present in breast milk, but the most common one is called 2-FL’ or 2’-fucosyllactose.5 Did you know, the total amount and composition of Prebiotic HMOs secreted in the breast milk differs in women? Genetics, continuing breastfeeding for long, mothers who deliver before the due date, the health of the mother and her geographical location seem to influence the levels of prebiotic HMOs in mother’s milk. This makes breast milk very unique and made especially for the baby.6
Breast milk is naturally rich in prebiotic HMOs. Science and technology have been able to produce prebiotic HMOs. HMOs are produced using well-researched, pre-approved technology and are generally recognised as safe (GRAS). These HMOs are identical in structure to those naturally present in breast milk.5 If you are worried about your child’s poop, check about prebiotic HMOs with your baby’s doctor.
- Fabrizio V, Harris CL, Walsh KR, Wampler JL, Zhuang W, Wu SS. Softer More Frequent Stools in Infants With Difficult Stooling Fed Hydrolyzed Protein Formula With Added Prebiotics: Randomized Controlled Trial. Front Pediatr. 2022 May 31;10:894626. doi: 10.3389/fped.2022.894626. PMID: 35712635; PMCID: PMC9194470.
- Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. We've Got the Scoop on Poop. Available from:https://www.chla.org/blog/smart-bites/weve-got-the-scoop-poop. Accessed on: 17 November 2022.
- Milani C, Duranti S, Bottacini F, et al. The First Microbial Colonizers of the Human Gut: Composition, Activities, and Health Implications of the Infant Gut Microbiota. Microbiol Mol Biol Rev. 2017;81(4):e00036-17.
- Scholtens PA, Goossens DA, Staiano A. Stool characteristics of infants receiving short-chain galacto-oligosaccharides and long-chain fructo-oligosaccharides: a review. World J Gastroenterol. 2014 Oct 7;20(37):13446-52. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v20.i37.13446. PMID: 25309075; PMCID: PMC4188896.
- Reverri EJ, Devitt AA, Kajzer JA, et al. Review of the Clinical Experiences of Feeding Infants Formula Containing the Human Milk Oligosaccharide 2'-Fucosyllactose. Nutrients. 2018;10(10):1346.
- Ray C, Kerketta JA, Rao S, et al. Human Milk Oligosaccharides: The Journey Ahead. Int J Pediatr. 2019;2019:2390240.