Instant relief for toddler constipation: 5 solutions for parents
Toddler constipation is no fun for anyone, which is why you should know what to do and how to prevent it in the first place.
There are few things as agonizing (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 makes 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?
A good question to ask, because some toddlers might go for days without pooping as part of their regular cycle, leaving parents wondering if they kid is really constipated or not.
According to health experts, in general, a toddler will have a bowel movement one 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.
Causes of toddler constipation
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 breastmilk/ 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 busy bodies, 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. And 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. Illnesses and conditions
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.
Instant relief for toddler constipation: 5 solutions
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 paediatrican before purchasing and using suppositories.
Mums and dads, remember that other than these options for instant relief for toddler constipation, you can generally ward off constipation in the first place by:
- ensuring your toddler drinks adequate water every day or gets enough fluids in other ways (e.g. soups, fresh juice);
- including high-fibre foods in your toddler’s daily diet, such as multi-grain bread, brown rice, green leaves, pulses and bran cereals;
- incorporating “poop-time” into your toddler’s daily routine;
- avoiding constipation-inducing foods as much as possible. These include white bread, fast/junk food, sweets, fizzy drinks, rice-based cereals, and;
- making sure your little one gets enough physical activity every day.
Should you be worried about your toddler’s constipation?
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
Your paediatrician should ALWAYS be the first person you speak to in relation to any health issue in your child.
NEVER give your child laxatives or enemas without consulting your paediatrician first.