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Children's Health

Is mineral oil safe to give an infant?

08/20/2008

Question:

My 10 month old, who is breastfed, has stuggled with constipation since she was about 2 months old. Her stools are large and hard. I give her prune juice regularly and that has helped to increase the frequencies of her stool but not the consistency. My mother said I had the same problem when I was baby and that she gave me mineral oil everyday. Is that safe? I have read that it can block vitamin absorption and that there is a danger of babies aspirating the oil and developing pneumonia. If it is safe, how much should I give her and should I mix it with food?

Answer:

Thank you for your question regarding constipation in infants. This is a very common problem and is seen both with breast fed and formula fed infants. It causes parents considerable concern, but in most cases is not caused by any serious condition or allergy. You have already tried one of the most helpful remedies by using fruit juice such as apple or prune juice. This can be given in about one ounce servings or day either mixed with formula or alone for breast fed babies. Mineral oil should not be used in infants for constipation. It may be advised for older children, but never in infants.

If infants have occasional difficulties with constipation rectal stimulation with a thermometer or glycerin suppositories can be used occasionally. In infants who have tried the juice without success may be advised to try polyethylene glycol. This would need to be discussed with your health care provider. Please discuss these remedies with your health care provider to make a treatment plan for your child.

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Response by:

Allison A Macerollo, MD Allison A Macerollo, MD
Clinical Assistant Professor of Family Medicine
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University