Baby Constipation And Bananas: When Can Babies Eat Them?
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Many parents of constipated babies have asked me, if bananas either cause or relieve constipation in babies. Their confusion mostly stems from contradicting information on the internet! Some articles claim that bananas should be avoided if you want to prevent constipation in babies. Others tell them that bananas are a great constipation remedy.
So, can bananas cause constipation and when can babies eat them? Actually, bananas can do both, cause and relieve constipation! It depends on the circumstances. As a general rule, wait until your baby is 12 months old, before you feed her bananas. Also, make sure they are only part of a more balanced diet if you want to avoid gastrointestinal problems.
Here are the reasons why this is so important and under what circumstances bananas can cause and relieve constipation:
When Can Bananas Cause Constipation in Babies?
As mentioned earlier, some articles on the internet claim that bananas will relieve baby constipation. Others tell you the exact opposite!
Likewise, I have met many parents who told me that their baby became constipated from bananas. Others told me, they helped relieve constipation. So who is right and who is wrong here?
The funny truth here is: they are both right! However, our Western Medicine is unable to explain this discrepancy.
So in order for you to understand why bananas can do both, cause and relieve constipation in babies, we need to look at how the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) looks at the digestive system and the problem of constipation in particular:
How Digestion Works According To TCM
What you need to understand is, that TCM looks at the digestive tract like a burning fire. A strong and healthy digestion requires the fire to burn just at the right temperature, in order to be able to digest food properly and extract its energy.
That energy is subsequently used to provide all other organs with energy. They require it to maintain their normal function.
Now, according to TCM, foods that you feed your baby, have an impact on the temperature of the baby’s digestive fire. That is why in TCM, we distinguish between foods which are cooling, warming and neutral in nature:
While cooling foods have a cooling effect on the body, warming foods do the exact opposite. Neutral foods, on the other hand, do not have an impact on the temperature of the body.
Please note the cooling or warming effect of a food is not necessarily related to the actual temperature of the food. For example, mint tea is usually hot when we consume it. Yet, it has a cooling effect on the body.
Baby Constipation From A TCM Point Of View
When it comes to babies, the fire of the digestive system is “not yet burning properly”. That’s because its digestive system is only just developing and so the stomach temperature is still very low.
As the digestive system develops, the fire will naturally increase in temperature. Eventually it will be ready to digest foods which are more difficult to absorb. However, this takes time.
Because of that, feeding a baby either an overly cool or overly warm diet could be fatal and harm the still immature digestive system.
This is where bananas come into play: Bananas are considered a particularly cold food in TCM. And just like extreme cold slows down movements in the nature, such foods can slow down the movements in your baby’s body (6).
Digestion-wise, bananas can slow down the transportation of stools. This can lead to stomach cramps, bloating and, you guessed it right, constipation.
Under Which Circumstances Can Bananas Relieve Constipation in Babies?
While cooling foods decrease the temperature in the body, warming foods can do the exact opposite.
Just as heat dries up water in the nature, warming foods can dry up fluids in the body (6). Digestion-wise, if a person mostly eats warming foods, her stools can dry out. The digestive fire simply “becomes too hot”. This can cause constipation.
Such a condition of “excess heat” however, does not necessarily have to be caused by food. Hot weather, medical conditions, medications etc. can all have the exact same effect on the body. Eventually, they dry up all the fluids in the body.
From a TCM point of view, we would need to cool down such a system, because it became too hot. This is again, where bananas come into play, as it is considered a cold food.
In other words, if your baby suffers from constipation caused by excess heat, then and only then, can cold foods like bananas relieve constipation by decreasing the temperature in the body – given of course that your baby receives enough fluids to rehydrate her once the system has cooled down (remember that the excess heat dries up her fluids)!
So Should I Feed My Baby Bananas?
Since bananas are a particularly cold food according to TCM, it is advisable to postpone the introduction of this food to a later stage. In other words, I recommend sticking to the following plan:
- Don’t feed your baby bananas as long as she is less than 12 months old! Her digestive system is simply not able to cope with such cold foods.
- If you insist on feeding her bananas earlier, wait until she is at least 9 months old! Steam the banana, mash it and add a pinch of cinnamon. Cinnamon is a warming herb, so it will balance out the cold from the banana.
- When your baby is constipated, you can continue feeding her banana if she is older than 1 year old. However, make sure it is part of a more balanced and varied diet (i.e. a mix of cool and warm foods)!
For a list of suitable baby foods depending on your baby’s age, please refer to my blogpost “Baby Foods That Help With Constipation“! The blog post does not only list foods which can help a baby with constipation. It also includes foods which are generally suitable for babies up to 24 months of age.
Here are some more questions that parents have asked me regarding bananas:
Can Babies Eat Too Many Bananas And Is Too Much Of It Bad For Her?
The problem with too much banana is that it could harm the digestive system of your baby. This is particularly true if she is less than 12 months old.
It is important that your baby’s diet is balanced. Balanced means two things:
First, a balanced diet is supposed to contain both, fruits and vegetables of different kinds. This is important so that your baby receives a wide range of different nutrients that her little body needs.
And second, TCM-wise, a balanced diet means that these fruits and vegetables are supposed to be a combination of cooling and warming foods.
This is important in order to maintain just the right temperature within the digestive system.
If a diet consists of overly cold foods like bananas, the system cools down. The stomach’s ability to process foods is then impaired.
Subsequently, the spleen won’t be able to properly extract the foods’ energy to nourish other organs in the body. As a consequence, the baby might develop gastrointestinal problems like stomach cramps, bloating, constipation etc.
Is Eating Banana Daily Good For Babies?
Bananas contain lots of valuable nutrients, particularly vitamins (B5, B6 and Vitamin C) as well as minerals (particularly potassium and magnesium) (7).
As such, they are a valuable source of those nutrients for your baby. Because of that, I would never completely ban bananas from her diet’s plan!
However, since they are considered a cold food according to TCM, I would not recommend to feed your baby bananas on a daily basis either. As we have seen, this could cause gastrointestinal problems like constipation.
If you still want to feed your baby bananas on a daily basis, I recommend keeping the number of bananas to half a banana per day up to the age of 2 years and then one banana per day at most from the age of 2.
Whatever the case, they should always only be part of a much more balanced and varied diet only, containing warming foods too.
At What Age Can A Baby Have Banana?
Some parents plan to give their babies bananas from as little as 2 months of age. And clearly, this is way too early!
Others intend to introduce bananas as the very first food once they become 6 months old.
And I do understand how tempting that is, given the soft consistency and sweetness of bananas. From the looks of it and also given their valuable nutrients, you would instinctly tell that bananas are the best food to introduce solids.
But not quite!
Instead, when introducing solids, start with foods which are neutral from a TCM point of view. Neutral foods are the ones which do not have an impact on the body’s temperature.
This will protect the stomach and spleen, rather than weakening these two organs by feeding her cold foods like bananas!
This is important, because together, stomach and spleen form the very basis of the digestive tract. They have the task to provide all other organs with the energy that the spleen extracts from the food which has been digested by the stomach.
In general, I recommend that you wait until your baby is 12 months old, before you start feeding her bananas. At 12 months, her digestive system is much more developed and better able to cope with cold foods like bananas.
You can introduce them at 9 months too, if you think you have to, but then it is wise to steam and mash them and add cinnamon. Cinnamon is a warming herb and will balance out the coldness.
Can Babies Eat Frozen Bananas?
If bananas have been frozen and then thawed, it is okay for babies to eat them.
With that said, a mother once asked me, if it is okay if her baby sucks at a frozen banana. It was meant to ease the pain during the period of teething.
My honest answer was that in general, I would rather not have a baby suck at frozen foods. This is because, the baby will inevitably swallow some of the cold fluids which come from the frozen food from the thawing process.
Unfortunately, anything that has a considerably lower than room temperature (particularly cool drinks and the likes) is a bad idea. It will take away energy from the stomach.
This is, because the digestive fire has been cooled down by the cold and the body needs to somehow provide the energy that is needed to bring the digestive fire back to its supposed temperature.
With that said, once the child is older, an occasional cold treat will hardly do any harm. It is the continuous consumption of frozen or chilled foods which may cause the stomach’s energy to stagnate and which may eventually impair the digestive system’s ability to absorb nutrients.
It is a well known fact (also in Western Medicine) that the continuous poor absorption of nutrients can eventually lead to chronic diseases (8).
Can I Freeze Banana Puree For My Baby?
Yes, you can! In fact, scientific studies have found that frozen fruits and vegetables do keep their nutrients, although the general public usually assumes that they lose them (9, 10).
Surprisingly, even the valuable electrolyte potassium, which can be found in bananas, is robust to thawing (11).
However, keep in mind that the quality of frozen food depend on a range of factors, the most important being (12):
- The temperature of the freezing unit
- Fluctuations in temperature
- Length of the storage
Requirements Regarding The Freezing Temperature
The temperature of the freezing unit should be at least -18 degrees Celsius (- 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit) or less, to preserve all nutrients (12).
Moreover, even with temperature fluctuations present, the temperature should ideally stay below -18 degrees Celsius.
Don’t Store Them In The Freezer For Too Long!
Finally, please note that the longer you store fruits and vegetables in the freezer, the lower the retention of vitamins and minerals in the foods.
In other words: if your freezer is able to do cooler temperatures than -18 degrees Celsius (- 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit), you can store vegetables and fruits up to six months.
If your freezer can only do warmer temperatures, about -10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit) and/or if there are fluctuations in temperature, make sure that you do not store fruits and vegetables for more than 3 months in the freezer!
How To Freeze Banana Puree
- Peel the bananas
- Mash them
- Squeeze a bit of lemon juice into the mashed banana, because it will help with the preservation and avoid that the mash will become overly brown when thawing. Note however, that it is completely natural for bananas to become brown when thawing!
- Personally, I would then fill the mash into an ice cube tray: that way, you have perfect tiny little portions in each compartment, which can then be thawed one by one when you need them.
After thawing, make sure the puree has room temperature before you feed it your baby. Moreover, given that it is a cold food in Chinese Medicine, you could add a pinch of cinnamon (which is a warm herb) in order to balance out the coldness.
Summary & Conclusion
To sum up, bananas can do both, cause and relieve constipation.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, bananas are a cooling food in the sense that they cool down the body. As such, they have the power to “lower” the temperature of the digestive fire of a baby. This can slow down the movement of stools and thus cause constipation.
If, on the other hand, constipation in the baby is caused by excess heat (i.e. the digestive fire became too hot), then, and only then, can bananas relieve constipation. Excess heat can be caused by such factors like medications, medical conditions or hot weather conditions,
Because of that, it is recommended that babies are only fed raw bananas once they reach the age of 12 months. This could help prevent gastrointestinal problems, like constipation.
Alternatively, you can introduce bananas at the age of 9 months already. However, please cook and mash them first and add a pinch of cinnamon! Moreover, make sure that bananas are just a small part of a much more balanced and varied diet.
Nevertheless, do not ban bananas from your baby’s diet plan entirely, as they contain valuable nutrients.
Finally, bananas can be frozen, and studies show that there is hardly a loss of nutrients, if at all. That’s unless stored in the freezer for too long or unless the freezer unit of the fridge has temperature-related issues.
When freezing, mash them first and squeeze in some lemon juice. Lemon juice prevents the mash from turning overly brown when thawing.
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(5) Craig Thomas: Tallahassee chinse Medicine. Accessed on 04/21/2019: https://www.tallahasseechinesemedicine.com/uploads/1/0/2/7/102775734/constipation.pdf.
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(7) Jiwan, S. Sidhu and Tasleem A. Zafar (2018): Bioactive compounds in banana fruits and their health benefits. In: Food Quality and Safety. 2018 Dec; 2 (4): 183–188.
(8) Jacqueline Sam: The chilling effect of ice cream and other cold treats. Accessed on 04/01/2019: https://www.puti.org/en/meditation-health-no-19-13/.
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(10) Danesi F., Bordoni, A. (2008): Effect of home freezing and Italian style of cooking on antioxidant activity of edible vegetables. In: Journal of Food Science. 2008 Aug; 73(6): 109-12.
(11) Gislefoss RE., et al (2017): Effect of multiple freeze-thaw cycles on selected biochemical serum components. In: Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine. 2017 Jun 27; 55(7): 967-973.
(12) S. Severi, et al (1997): Effects of cooking and storage methods on the micronutrient content of foods. In: European Journal of Cancer Prevention. 1997; 6 (suppll): S21-S24.
Medical Disclaimer: The information on this page is not intended to diagnose, prevent, mitigate, treate or cure any disease! It is not personal medical advice. We recommend that you ask a doctor whenver you are looking for medical advice!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nathalie has 15+ years of experience in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), acupuncture, reflexology, Shonishin baby massage techniques, Western and Eastern massage techniques (including TUINA), as well as herbal medicine and nutrition.
She has a degree in TCM (including nutrition) and a postgraduate diploma in Herbal Medicine. Moreover, Nathalie used to work for the highly respected Asante Academy in North London and was in charge of the Maternity Acupuncture Clinic at the Whittington hospital in London. She is also a member of the British Acupuncture Council, the official regulatory body for TCM in the UK.
Today, Nathalie runs her own company and has a broad customer base in London, where she specializes in the treatment of babies and children as well as gynecologic and fertility-related issues in women.
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