Toddler Constipation

image001Having a toddler can be both fun and demanding. The moods and whims of a toddler can change every minute. Even basic activities such as going to the bathroom can become a challenge for many parents. Some toddlers may go to the toilet every day whereas others may not go for one, two or multiple days, altogether. You may get panicky when your toddler does not go to the toilet; however, constipation in toddlers is often not a cause of concern as it is usually caused due to dietary habits or ignoring the urge to go for a bowel movement.

How Can You Tell If a Toddler Is Constipated?

The average time a toddler will go to the bathroom is once a day. Usually, a toddler is considered constipated if they have a bowel movement less than three times a week and if their stools are very hard and there is difficulty in passing them. Additionally, American Academy of Pediatrics defines constipation in children as large, hard and dry stools that are associated with pain and soiling or presence of blood.

You should not worry if your toddler suffers from constipation once in a while. However, if the constipation symptoms in your child remain for two weeks or more than that, then they have chronic constipation. In such cases, you should consult your pediatrician.

Your physician may ask you to note down the frequency, and consistency of your toddler’s stool and also if any blood is present. Other symptoms that may accompany toddler constipation are:

  • Pain in stomach
  • Bloating of stomach
  • Feeling of nausea
  • Decreased appetite
  • General irritability and crankiness
  • Child cries or screams while passing stools
  • Child tries to avoid going to toilet
  • Soiling of diaper or clothes occur in between bowel movements

Causes of Toddler Constipation

Your toddler may develop constipation due to variety of reasons. Some of the common ones are described below:

Causes

Description

Diet and dehydration

A diet rich in processed, fast foods, and sweets and poor in fiber is a common culprit in causing constipation in many toddlers. Constipation may also result from not drinking enough fluids during the day.

Change of foods

Stools may also get affected when there is a change in diet, for example, during the transitioning from breast milk to cow’s milk or when you introduce new foods.

Holding it

Constipation may also result from the habit of holding it in. Toddlers are often more interested in playing than going to the toilet. Some children may find it embarrassing to use the toilet, especially public ones.

Fear of pain and discomfort

If your toddler has a history of constipation and painful bowel movements in the past, then they may avoid going to the toilet for fear of discomfort or fear that going to the bathroom would hurt.

Change in normal routine

Some toddlers may become constipated when there is a change in the routine such as going for a vacation.

Physical inactivity

The movement of food in the digestive tract is promoted by indulging in regular physical activity and toddlers who lack physical activity may become constipated.

Illness

Constipation may occur as a result of changes in appetite caused due to a stomach infection or any other illness.

Medicine

Constipation can occur due to some medicines or supplements such as narcotic pain medicines and high dose iron supplements.

Physical anomalies

Rarely, physical anomalies in the intestines, rectum or anus can lead to constipation. A child’s ability to go to the toilet is also affected by disorders such as cerebral palsy.

How to Treat Toddler Constipation

1. Avoid Certain Foods

Avoid giving your toddler too much quantity of foods that have a binding effect such as cooked carrots, bananas, and large amounts of dairy including yoghurt, milk, cheese and ice cream (adequate amount of dairy for a toddler is 2-3 servings per day).

2. Eat More Fiber

Increase the fiber intake of your toddler. Give them foods rich in fiber such as cereal, fruits and vegetables, and whole wheat crackers. Give them at least 2 servings of fruits such as prunes, plums, apricots, raisins etc every day. At least 3 servings of vegetables should be given every day. Substitute white bread with whole wheat bread.

3. Exercise

Increase the physical activity of your toddler by encouraging them to crawl, or walk every day. This promotes the circulation of blood to all the organs. Ensure that your child gets involved in any type of physical activity for at least 30 to 60 minutes per day. Exercise improves the movement of bowels.

4. Increase Fluid Intake

To avoid constipation, increase the fluid intake of your child. Encourage them to drink water; you can also add about 4 ounces (no more than that) of apple or prune juice to their diet.

5. Massage the Belly

Give a gentle massage to the belly of your baby can also relieve toddler constipation. Watch the video to learn how:

6. Don’t Rush Potty Training

Don’t pressurize your child to get potty trained as this may cause them to get afraid of going to the toilet.

7. Improve Bowel Habits

Encourage your toddler to go to toilet at regular times especially after eating food and whenever there is an urge to go. Ask them to sit on the potty for at least 10 minutes. You can place a small stool under the feet of your child for support. Make using the toilet a positive experience for your child by rewarding them with a story or a sticker every time they use the toilet.

8. Discuss with the Doctor

You can discuss various treatment options with your child’s physician. He/she may suggest some over-the-counter stool softeners or a suppository or a laxative in case your child is having severe constipation. Using these treatment measures especially a suppository occasionally is fine, but it should not be used regularly. Moreover, you should always consult with your physician before using a suppository in your child. In case tears, known as anal fissures develop in the skin near the anus due to passage of very hard and dry stool, do mention them to your physician. You can also apply some aloe vera lotion to the tears for quick healing.

Watch a video to learn tips to treat toddler constipation: