Constipation, a common problem among toddlers in Singapore, quite literally a pain in the butt. At some point, every parent has witnessed their little one huddling in a corner, with their face scrunched up, trying with all their might to just squeeze that poop out. But oftentimes, parents don’t take this too seriously, as it usually resolves and doesn’t pose too much of a problem – or so we think. In truth, it can be more than that, so to get to the butt of this problem, here’s how to #ReallyKnowPoop and learn how to help manage your child’s constipation problems.
Do Singaporean Parents #ReallyKnowPoop?
In order to get to the butt of a child’s constipation problem, we must first have a proper understanding of child constipation. To find out more about how much Singaporean parents #ReallyKnowPoop, Friso Singapore conducted the first of its kind survey on 1,000 Singaporean parents on their toddlers’ toilet habits. Turns out, constipation is prevalent amongst children in Singapore with over 1 in 2 parents stating that their child experiences it once every few days or once every few weeks. As such, 91% of the respondents stated they are either ‘confident’ or ‘very confident’ in identifying constipation in their children.
But what do Singaporean parents do upon recognising the all-too-familiar signs of child constipation? Surprisingly, many aren’t too alarmed by it. Perhaps it’s because it’s so common or that it doesn’t seem to pose any major health threat to their children, many parents actually adopt a wait and see approach when it comes to child constipation. In fact, 53% of the parents stated that they would wait for a few days, or even weeks, before seeking out a doctor!
Singaporean parents largely attribute child constipation to dietary factors and that explains why 71% of the parents shared that they attempt to remedy the situation on their own. If you grew up in Singapore, you’re probably well acquainted with the Chinese medicated oil that generations of parents believe is the panacea to all manner of tummy troubles! That, or scouring the Internet for child constipation remedies, in the case of more modern parents.
Despite constipation being a common problem among toddlers in Singapore, these findings show that Singaporean parents may not #ReallyKnowPoop all that well. Yes, they can identify toddler constipation, but they severely underestimate the impact of environmental factors such as stress and changes to a child’s routine, on child constipation. Remember, there’s more to child constipation than just dietary factors!
The findings of the Friso #ReallyKnowPoop Constipation Survey demonstrates that parents would benefit significantly from learning about the causes of constipation. Holistic and early intervention is key to managing constipation. This means that parents need to look beyond their toddler’s diet, and also consider environmental and social contributing factors. In doing so, they will be successful in identifying and managing constipation with confidence. This will prevent the situation from spiralling.
So, apart from diet, what could cause child constipation? When toddlers experience momentous milestones such as weaning, transitions to kindergarten, and so on, these experiences can be associated with a risk of constipation. Here’s a list of common causes:
- Withholding: your child may not want to stop playing or may be afraid of using the toilet or may be withholding pooping due to painful bowel movements caused by large, hard stools
- Toilet training issues: if a child is not ready, or simply doesn’t want to, he or she may ignore the urge the poop which in turn becomes a habit
- Changes in diet: insufficient fibre-rich fruits and vegetables or fluid, switching from all-liquid to semi-solid diet
- Changes in routine
- Cow’s milk allergy
- Family history
- Medical conditions such as an anatomic malfunction, metabolic or digestive system problem or other underlying conditions¹
Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Child Constipation
If a child experiences constipation once in a blue moon then yes, you don’t have to lose sleep over it. However, Dr. Christina Ong, Senior Consultant and Paediatric Gastroenterologist, cautions, “If constipation is left untreated, it may lead to hard, dry stools which can be painful to pass. In some cases, toddlers may even avoid using the bathroom to escape discomfort, leading to a more severe, or even a chronic condition.”
The key to managing constipation lies in taking proactive steps as a holistic early intervention.
Help Manage Child Constipation
The first step to manage constipation is to clear all the hard bowels. For this you need to see a doctor and obtain rectal medications. If there are anal fissures caused by child constipation, these need to be sorted out as well, so that your child doesn’t withhold bowel movements in fear of pain.
Once this is done, you must patiently and consistently make some changes in your child’s diet, lifestyle and toileting habits to prevent constipation from reoccurring. In some cases, the doctor may recommend stool softeners for a longer time. In addition, you should:
- Ensure that your child’s diet contains enough fruits and high-fibre foods that act as natural laxatives (vegetables, prunes, fruits)
- Decrease consumption of constipating foods such as food containing dairy
- Consider specialised formula milk containing prebiotics and probiotics for nutritional support as both could help maintain a healthy digestive system
- When your child is ready, start establishing regular toileting habits²
- Explore TCM options such as medicated oil, massage and Epsom salt baths³
If your child’s general health is affected by constipation despite these changes, has significant stomach pain or blood in stools or is unable to pass a bowel movement after four days in spite of increasing fluid and fibre intake, do seek medical attention!
Mums and Dads, remember, there is more to constipation than you might know. The key to successfully managing constipation is to take proactive steps towards holistic early intervention. It’s also important to educate yourself more on this topic as understanding the science and signs of constipation can help you manage the problem with confidence and to make the necessary changes for your child to better manage constipation. Left untreated, it will be a bigger problem than the occasional discomfort and pain they experience. Make sure that you #ReallyKnowPoop!