There are few things as agonising (for both child and parents!) as toddler constipation. The straining, wailing, crying and even tantrums, combined with the fact that most toddlers are going through potty training truly make this a tough experience. Naturally, stressed parents look out for solutions that bring about instant relief for toddler constipation.
Before we give you tips on how to bring about instant relief for toddler constipation, it’s important for parents to know the basics about this poopy problem.
Is My Toddler Constipated
This is a good question to ask, because some toddlers might go for days without pooping as part of their regular cycle, leaving parents wondering if their kid is really constipated or not.
According to health experts, in general, a toddler will have a bowel movement once a day. If a child poops less than three times a week, or if their stools are hard, large and tough to pass, then it’s likely they are constipated.
However, for some toddlers, pooping just twice a week is their “normal”. For such children, constipation could set in if their bowel movements reduce to anything less than what is regular for them.
If your child experiences constipation from time to time, don’t worry; it’s very normal. Conversely, if your toddler experiences persistent constipation and it persists for two weeks or longer, you should consult a paediatrician.
Your doctor might want you to monitor your toddler’s bowel movements, including how frequently they occur, how big and firm they are, and whether any blood is present. Along with constipation, there are other symptoms you should watch out for, such as:
- Stomach ache
- Appetite loss
- Screaming or crying when having a bowel movement.
- Not using the restroom (signs that your child is doing this include clenching the buttocks, crossing the legs, turning red, sweating, or crying)
- Traces of liquid faeces or smears in the diaper or underwear (soiling)
Causes of Toddler Constipation
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The following are the most common causes of constipation in toddlers.
Toddlers can be notoriously fussy when it comes to food. As such, many of them eat diets high in dairy, sweets and processed foods, and low in fibre and adequate fluid. This will inevitably lead to constipation.
A change in diet — for example when your little one transitions from breast milk/ formula to cow’s milk — might trigger constipation. Likewise when he tries new foods.
Keep in mind that iron in milk formula does not cause constipation. However, other added ingredients — like casein or those thickened with rice powder — might. If you think your child’s formula might be causing constipation, consider trying out another brand.
Some medications like antibiotics, or supplements like high-dose iron supplements, can trigger constipation in little ones.
3. Holding their poo in
Toddlers are little busybodies, and in their worlds, there are so many more important things to do (like playing) than going to the toilet! Also, they love familiarity, so if they have to poop in an unfamiliar toilet (for example, at a new preschool), they might hold it in. This can cause constipation.
4. Previous discomfort
A toddler who has had a painful or difficult bowel movement in the past might avoid pooping out of fear it will hurt again. This eventually turns into a cycle, causing stools to build up in the lower bowels, becoming bulkier and harder to pass.
5. Change in routine
Some toddlers may not want to use the restroom when on vacation or in an unfamiliar bathroom.
6. Lack of physical activity
Exercise facilitates the passage of food through the digestive system.
7. Toilet training issues
Your child can protest and hold in their poop if you start potty training them too soon. A voluntary decision to resist the need to urinate can soon turn into an uncontrollable habit that is difficult to break if toilet training turns into a willpower struggle.
8. Physical conditions
Rarely, chronic constipation can be brought on by an anatomical issue with the intestines, anus, or rectum. The capacity of a youngster to use the restroom might also be impacted by cerebral palsy and other nervous system diseases.
Common conditions like tummy bugs can disrupt your child’s regular bowel movement. Other times, constipation could be a symptom of food intolerance, such as to dairy or gluten.
Rarely, chronic constipation could be a sign of conditions such as a problem with the bowels, rectum or intestines.
Complications with Constipation
Although it might be uncomfortable, constipation in children is typically not a serious condition. However, issues could arise if constipation persists.
- Skin fractures that hurt at the anus (anal fissures)
- Rectal prolapse, which occurs when the rectum protrudes through the anus
- Stool restraining
- Postponing bowel motions due to discomfort, which leads to impacted stool building up in the colon and rectum and leaking out (encopresis)
Toddler Constipation Do’s and Dont’s
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To aid in preventing childhood constipation:
Give your child high-fibre foods
Your child’s body can produce soft, thick stools with the aid of a high-fibre diet. Increase the amount of high-fibre foods you give your children, such as fruits, vegetables, beans, whole-grain bread and cereals. Start by introducing just a few grams of fibre per day if your child isn’t used to a high-fibre diet to stop gas and bloating.
For every 1,000 calories your youngster consumes, 14 grammes of dietary fibre are advised.
This amounts to daily consumption of roughly 20 grams of dietary fibre for younger kids. It is 29 grammes per day for young women and adolescent girls. And it’s 38 grams per day for young men and boys in their adolescence.
Encourage physical exercise
Regular exercise helps to promote healthy bowel function.
Establish a bathroom routine
After meals, give your youngster regular time to use the restroom. If required, give your child a footstool so that they may sit comfortably on the toilet and have the necessary leverage to lift a stool.
Remind your youngster to obey the call of nature. Some kids lose themselves in their games to the point where they disregard their bowel movements. Such delays can cause constipation if they happen frequently.
Reward your kid for effort, not for outcomes. Give them little incentives if they try to urinate. Stickers, a unique book or game that is only available after (or potentially during) bathroom breaks are some examples of potential prizes. A child who has soiled their underwear should not be punished.
Review your child’s medications
Consult your kid’s doctor about alternatives if your child is taking a medicine that makes them constipated
Tell your child to drink lots of water
Ensure that your toddler drinks adequate water every day or gets enough fluids in other ways (e.g. soups, fresh juice);
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The only thing that will happen if you scold your child or make him feel ashamed is a power struggle, which youngsters almost always win. Keep in mind that he’s not skipping the bathroom to annoy you. They are attempting to comprehend a difficult process with their bodies and minds.
In the event that your child urinates in his trousers, gently guide him to the restroom, flush the contents, and explain that poop belongs in the potty.
Allow your child sit on the potty until she poops.
The body produces bowel movements when it is ready. Take note of the first indications your child gives before she poops rather than pressuring them to “attempt” by placing them on the toilet.
Does she take a break from what she’s doing, make a funny expression, or move to another area of the room? If you recognise these pre-pooping signs in your child, you can quickly get them to the bathroom (or at least to the toilet) before they pass gas.
Allow your kid to struggle.
While a little pushing during a bowel movement is acceptable, grunting and forcing excrement could be problematic (both in terms of constipation and anal fissure and haemorrhoids). Instead of pressuring them, encourage them to drink a lot of water and eat some bowel-friendly fruit (peaches, pears, or prunes!) before trying again after approximately 30 minutes.
Allow your child to consume a lot of laxatives.
The main causes of toddler constipation are recognised to be sugar and processed carbs (such white bread, pasta, and rice). Dairy products and bananas can also cause digestive issues.
Give your toddler constipation-inducing foods
While it’s impossible to avoid them altogether, you should try to limit your child’s intake of constipation-inducing foods. These include white bread, fast/junk food, sweets, fizzy drinks, and rice-based cereals.
Almost all kids are adept at using the potty to relieve themselves. Encourage your child with small steps if he is taking his time. Allow him to poop in his diaper, but when he has a bowel movement, take him to the bathroom.
Have your child sit on the potty with a loosely fastened diaper after he or she becomes accustomed to going potty in the bathroom. And when he lets the excrement fall into the toilet, stop using the diaper completely and do a joyful dance.
Toddler Constipation Instant Relief Home Remedies
If your tot is constipated, there are several things you can try to bring about relief.
1. “P” is for poop, and also prunes and pears
As mentioned previously, if your toddler loves his carbs and hates his veg and fruit, constipation is a highly possible consequence.
Of course, incorporating high-fibre foods into his diet from the get-go should help ward off constipation in the first place. But because we know this can be tough, especially with picky eaters, there are some fruits that can bring about almost instant relief for toddler constipation.
- Prunes: These work like magic on almost all constipated toddlers. Try soaking and then mashing several prunes up into a “juice”. Or chop prunes and add them to oatmeal. If your child will eat them whole, then offer a couple. While you can buy bottled prune juice in the supermarket, remember that natural is always best.
- Pears: Considered to be natural laxatives, pears can work wonders on your toddler’s poop problem. Offer them whole (skin included, for added roughage) or make them into a juice by simmering cut pears, then pureeing.
Keep in mind that any stone fruit (peaches, apricots, plums) are generally recommended to ease constipation in children.
You could try gently massaging your child’s tummy to help bring about instant relief for toddler constipation.
Step 1: Give him a warm bath to help relax him and prepare him for the massage.
Step 2: Place your child on his back on the bed or a firm surface. Make sure it’s not too cold in the room, as you’ll need to take your little one’s clothes off.
Step 3: Rub a small amount of hypo-allergenic oil between your hands.
Step 4: Massage your child’s stomach with gentle hands in a clock-wise direction. Don’t apply too much pressure as this could hurt your child.
Step 5: Combine your massage with “bicycle legs”, which involves raising your child’s legs, one at a time, and gently pushing them towards his chest.
3. Toilet positioning
The best position for the human body to effectively eliminate waste is the full-squat position. If your toddler is constipated and you have access to a squatting toilet, then encourage your toddler to use that. A potty will also work. If your toddler has already graduated to a regular toilet, place his feet on a stool so that you’re mimicking a squat as much as possible.
4. Soluble fibre
You can buy soluble fibre from most pharmacies (clear, unflavoured/ flavoured versions). They are easily diluted in water or fresh juice and are generally quite effective in bringing about instant relief for toddler constipation.
However, these are not suitable for babies under the age of one. You should also speak to the pharmacist or your child’s doctor for guidance in choosing the best option for your little one.
5. Glycerin suppositories
You can buy these over-the-counter at a pharmacy and use it at home on toddlers over the age of two. Usage instructions should be followed very carefully, and as always, it’s best to speak to your paediatrician before purchasing and using suppositories.
Constipation Danger Signs For Toddlers
It’s quite normal for occasional bouts of constipation to strike your child. But if it lasts for more than two weeks, or occurs very frequently, then you should see a doctor.
Additionally, you could watch out for the following signs, as indicated by the American Academy of Pediatrics:
- Bloody stools
- Soiling of underwear/ diaper between bowel movements
- Stomach ache
- Refusal to go to the toilet
- Crying and screaming in pain when attempting to pass stools
Remember, your paediatrician should ALWAYS be the first person you speak to in relation to any health issue in your child.
Updates from Matt Doctor
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