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Dealing With Your Toddler's Constipation

How To Help A Toddler With Constipation

Camille Freking, MS Pharmacology Profile Photo

Written by Camille Freking, MS Pharmacology on November 9, 2021

If you’ve ever had a toddler with constipation then you know it can be really painful and uncomfortable for them. So you might be wondering: what can I do to help my toddler who’s constipated? This article will give an overview of constipation, especially in kids, and then look into some treatment and prevention methods to get your little one feeling better.

Overview

“Poop” is a big deal for toddlers. Between potty training and all the dietary changes that happen at this time, there’s a lot of changes in their life that can affect their ability to make regular bowel movements.

Just like with adults, every toddler has a different “normal” poop schedule that can vary greatly from kid to kid. That being said, toddlers usually poop once a day and, in general, a child who’s constipated will poop fewer than three times a week and will have difficulty making bowel movements.

Although it might be worrying to your little one, becoming constipated occasionally is nothing to worry about and can easily be treated. In fact, constipation is a really common problem. However, if they are experiencing symptoms of constipation for longer than a couple of weeks, it might be a good idea to call your pediatrician.

It’s also important to get your toddler medical attention for their constipation if they experience fever, abdominal swelling, weight loss, or extreme pain during their bowel movements due to constipation.

Symptoms

While the most obvious symptom of constipation is the inability to poop, there are a few other symptoms that you can look for in your toddler. These include:

  • Large and dry bowel movements
  • Pain before, during, and after pooping
  • Stomach pain and cramps
  • Blood on the surface of the poop
  • Bloating
  • Loss of appetite
  • General crankiness
  • Traces or smears of liquid stool in their underwear
  • Avoiding the toilet (often because of the pain caused by pooping)

Causes

Although constipation is relatively easy to treat, there’s a wide range of causes. This section will dive into some of the most common causes of constipation in toddlers so you can narrow down what exactly is causing your little one’s discomfort.

Diet

One of the most common causes of constipation in toddlers is their diet. When your kid eats too much dairy and sweets and not enough fiber, it’s hard for their body to properly process foods. Examples of high-fiber foods that are important to incorporate into your little one’s diet include whole grains, fruits, and veggies. Also, if your kid is allergic to cow’s milk or dairy products in general, they are likely to experience some form of constipation.

Another dietary cause of constipation is not drinking enough water. Oftentimes if your child is dehydrated their poop ends up being dry and hard to pass.

Dietary changes can also be a cause of constipation. Every parent knows that the switch from breast milk or formula to cow milk is a big one, but what you might not know is that it can often lead to constipation. Similarly, when little kids transition from baby food to more solid foods, they can experience changes in their stool that might lead to constipation.

Withholding

Another common cause of constipation in toddlers is withholding, or intentionally ignoring the need to poop for various reasons. If they are busy playing, it’s common for little ones to ignore the need to go to the bathroom because what’s going on in front of and around them is far more interesting.

Kids also tend to withhold when they’re in an unfamiliar place and have to use a public toilet. If they’re with a new group of people or peers, your toddler might also be more inclined to withhold because of feelings of embarrassment around pooping.

Problems Potty Training

If your toddler seems to be resisting potty training, they might also try to hold their poop in to protest the switch to a toilet.

One of the main reasons toddlers resist potty training is if you try to make the switch from diapers to a toilet too soon.

If you think your toddler is intentionally refusing to go because they’re unwilling to use the toilet, it might be a good idea to keep them in diapers for a bit longer because intentionally withholding is a hard habit to break.

Routine Changes

Just like with adults, toddlers are aware of and affected by routine changes. These changes can be small, such as the changing of seasons or even an exceptionally hot day, or large such as travel or high levels of stress. Regardless of the size, any routine change can lead to constipation in toddlers as they try to process it.

One classic routine change that can lead to constipation is the move from staying at home with a parent or going to preschool and moving into kindergarten. Starting school outside the home is often exciting and overwhelming for toddlers. The range of emotions that this switch provokes can lead to constipation.

Medications

There are also a few medications that can lead to constipation in toddlers and children. Some high-dose iron supplements and narcotic pain medications can cause constipation. Certain antidepressants have also been shown to cause constipation.

If you think your child’s medication is causing constipation, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about possible solutions to this problem.

Treatments

Now that you know the symptoms and causes of constipation in toddlers, there are a few different at-home treatment options that you can try if your toddler is experiencing constipation.

Juice

One way to help your toddler when they’re experiencing constipation is to give them pear, white grape, or prune juice. By giving them around 4 ounces of one of these juices per day, you can give their digestive system a jump start. These juices contain a sugar called sorbitol, which isn’t digested well (in a good way) and therefore stays in the stool, making it softer and easier to pass.

Abdominal Massage

You can also try giving your little one an abdominal massage when they’re constipated. By rubbing their lower tummy or bicycling their legs, you can help them move the poop through their system.

Alternative Ingredients That Help

If the previously mentioned cures don’t work, there are a few ingredients you can try.

Organic sennosides can provide overnight relief for occasional constipation. Generally, it produces bowel movements in 6 to 12 hours and is safe for kids two years old and older.

If you think your child’s constipation is a result of stress, you can also try giving them a non-GMO homeopathic remedy with chamomile to help them feel more balanced and relaxed throughout the day.

Prevention Methods

There are also a few things you can do to try and prevent constipation in your toddlers. That being said, although these measures will help, remember that constipation in little kids is totally normal.

Get Active

One of the simplest ways to prevent constipation in little kids is to encourage them to be active every day. Moving around and exercising in any way promotes bowel movement and allows the body to properly process food.

Make a Schedule

If you think your little one is forgetting to go to the bathroom or avoiding it because they’re distracted, it’s a good idea to make a poop schedule for them. This might look like taking them to the bathroom 15 minutes after every meal to get them in the habit of trying to poop at least three times a day.

Incorporate Fiber Into Their Diet

Lots of fiber in your child’s diet will lead to soft, easy-to-pass stool. You can incorporate fiber easily by swapping out sugary, processed cereal for whole-grain cereal and giving them veggies with every dinner. It’s recommended that young kids get about 20 grams of fiber per day.

Lots of Fluids

Given that drinking lots of fluid can soften stool, it’s a good idea to give your toddler lots of fluids during the day so that pooping isn’t painful. Although they might gravitate toward soda and juice, water is the best fluid for kids to regularly have.

Conclusion

Although constipation can be frustrating for both kids and their parents, there are lots of at-home remedies that can help ease the symptoms of constipation. There are also several small changes that you can make to your toddler’s diet and routine to get their bowel movements regular. Good luck!



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