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  • Writer's pictureMegan Dunn

What is infant dyschezia?

Infant dyschezia is a condition characterized by at least 10 minutes of straining and crying before successful or unsuccessful passage of normal, soft stools in an otherwise healthy infant less than 9 months of age. Typically, this condition may start when baby is about one month old, after introduction of formula, or when complementary "baby foods" are started.

Parents may describe a healthy infant, who cries for 20–30 minutes, screaming, and turning red in the face with effort, until a bowel movement finally takes place. The stools are soft and free of blood. These crying episodes, exhausting for the infant and anxiety provoking for the parents, occur several times daily.

For infants, a successful bowel movement requires two coordinated events:

1. relaxation of the pelvic floor muscles (a thick sheath of muscles that span the underlying surface of the bony pelvis)

2. and an increase in abdominal pressure to squeeze out stool.

Infants with dyschezia have not yet learned to coordinate those two required actions. Crying is how they increase their abdominal pressure. They cry until, by chance, they relax their pelvic floor muscles at the same time and a bowel movement occurs.

For the fist few weeks of life, many activities such as sucking, swallowing, urinating, and stooling are accomplished reflexively. As development proceeds, these reflexes decrease and instead baby starts to gain control of these processes.

No treatment is necessary

No tests or treatments are necessary. Infant dyschezia rarely lasts more than a week or two. It will resolve spontaneously as the child develops.

Soothing your baby with skin-to-skin, rocking, and movement may help ease baby's fussiness. Some rhythmic movement and gentle touch - like baby massage - can also sooth baby and help with the passage of stool.

To help soothe your baby, you can try:

Vertical Rocking- Laying baby on a firm, safe surface (like a blanket on the floor) and while holding their hips and thighs gently push/pulling them up and down.

Happy Baby Rolls- With baby on their back, bring their hands and feet together and roll baby side-to-side

Stir the Soup- With baby on their back, hold their thighs and start making slow and gentle circles. Go in both directions an equal number of times.

I Love You Massage - Use your hand to gently massage baby's belly. First "draw" an I on the left side of their belly, followed by an upside down L beginning on the left side, and finally an upside down U starting on baby's left.

Tiger in the Tree "Colic Hold"

Lie your baby face-down over your arm with their head nearest your elbow and their legs near your hand. Use your other hand to hold baby securely. Stroke your baby from head to toe using a soft palm. You can can sing or talk to your baby while doing this hold. Some babies prefer you to stand and sway or bounce.

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