If your baby is suffering from constipation, you will want to help them feel better as soon as possible. Prunes and prune juice are usually the first things recommended to treat constipation naturally, but you may be wondering just how long it will take to help sooth your little one’s tummy.
Prunes act as a natural laxative because they are high in fiber and sorbitol. Most babies will have a successful bowel movement within 12-24 hours of eating prunes. The time it takes will vary for each child due to differences in digestive tracts and the severity of constipation.
Keep reading to get a better idea of how and why prunes work and what may help them work faster for your baby.
How long does it take for prunes to work on a baby?
Prunes have long been used to treat constipation in people of all ages. Babies are no exception.
Your little one’s gut is still trying to figure itself out and some babies have slower digestive tracts than others. This is completely normal but it could mean a delay in how quickly prunes will take effect in helping to relieve your baby’s discomfort.
For an adult, a serving of prunes will usually start relieving constipation within a few hours. If constipation is severe, it may take longer. It varies from person to person, but studies have shown that prunes both soften stools and increase the frequency of bowel movements because they are high in fiber and sorbitol, a natural laxative.
Since babies often have slower bowel movements, you can expect that it may take longer for the fiber and sorbitol to take effect. Most parents report a successful bowel movement within 12-24 hours after feeding their baby prunes.
Keep in mind that some straining, gas, and going several days between bowel movements are not signs of constipation in infants. Exclusively breastfed babies rarely become constipated but may only pass stool once or twice a week. Formula-fed babies usually have more frequent movements, but even if they are more spread out you shouldn’t worry so long as the stools are soft and pass easily.
Before starting to eat solid foods, babies usually only become constipated if they are dehydrated or if they are sensitive to an ingredient in their formula or to something their mother ate. Some signs that your baby is constipated include:
- Hard, pellet-like stool
- Crying and arching back during bowel movements
- Less frequent bowel movements
When can babies eat prunes?
Constipation most frequently occurs once babies have started eating solid foods. Introducing new foods may cause your child’s digestive tract to become backed up.
Fortunately, if your baby has already started on solids, then they are ready to start eating prunes. For most babies, this is around 6 months.
Most pediatricians recommend introducing solid foods around 6 months. Traditionally weaned babies typically start with baby cereal and then gradually introduce other foods in pureed form. Prune puree is one of the best fruits to start on early because prunes are not known to pose a high allergy risk and you can always keep some on hand in case of constipation.
Parents who choose to skip purees in favor of baby-led weaning may need to get creative in offering prunes since whole prunes are difficult to chew and may present a choking hazard.
You can mash them to spread on toast or bake them into soft cookies. Older babies may be able to handle prunes cut into small pieces.
How many prunes do you need for the laxative effect?
For adults, 3 prunes count as one serving. 2-3 servings of prunes plus an increase in water intake has been shown to reduce constipation. Of course, these numbers will be different for babies.
Prune purees are typically packaged in 2-2.5 oz containers. Several parents report that just one of these containers is enough to start helping their baby’s constipation. For some babies this can be too much though and cause stool to be extra loose for a few days.
Every baby is different so there may be some trial and error needed to find out what works for your baby. Take it slow and don’t feed too much right away. If your baby’s stool becomes too loose, be sure that they are getting enough breastmilk or formula to prevent dehydration.
You can also try mixed purees, such as prunes and apples, for a less concentrated serving.
How long does it take for prunes to digest?
This varies from person to person and depends greatly on what they are eating. Several factors affect this time range such as:
- How much you eat
- How well you chew
- How solid or liquid the food is
- How much fiber is in the food
Since prunes are high in fiber, they help to speed up the digestive process.
A baby’s digestive tract is much shorter than an adult’s but it is also still developing and is not as efficient at doing its job yet. Breast milk contains enzymes to help speed along digestion so a breastfed baby may digest prunes faster than a formula-fed baby.
Your baby may take more or less time than the average adult to digest prunes, but if you don’t see a difference in stool frequency or consistency within a few days, you may want to call your pediatrician for other options.
How fast does prune juice work in babies?
If your baby is not ready to start eating solids but is struggling with constipation, you may want to consider offering some prune juice instead of purees. Prune juice does not contain fiber like the whole fruit or purees, but the high sorbitol levels can still help with constipation.
Because it is a liquid, prune juice will digest faster than purees. This could bring relief faster – many parents report a bowel movement within a few hours of offering prune juice. Giving your baby prune juice on an empty stomach may help it work even faster.
When can babies have prune juice?
Always talk to your pediatrician before starting a baby younger than 6 months of anything other than breast milk or formula. Fruit juice is also not generally recommended before 1 year of age, so check with your doctor for older babies as well.
With your doctor’s approval, you can usually start your baby on 1-2 ounces of prune juice once or twice a day as needed to treat constipation. It is not recommended that you offer more than 4 ounces a day.
Baby prune juice vs regular
You may wonder whether or not to buy baby prune juice instead of regular prune juice. Baby prune juice is generally more expensive and comes in smaller bottles.
If the ingredients on both bottles say 100% prune juice then they are most likely the same and the price increase for the baby juice is purely a labeling mark-up. However, you may want to check for preservatives or additives and consider whether or not it is organic.
Both baby and regular brands offer organic options so you can shop around to find what you like best. Or you can try making your own prune juice at home.