We’ve all had our own share of experiences in dealing with our kid’s dirty diapers. Cleaning up your child can sometimes be messy, but having to deal with constipation is really hard (oops…no pun intended). A constipated toddler can send a mom into panic mode, mostly because we don’t know what to do! However, toddler constipation is very common. We've rounded up facts and tips that you can keep in mind if you are wondering how to help a constipated toddler.
What is Constipation?
If your child has a very hard stool and fewer bowel movements than normal, it means that they could be constipated. Signs that you should look out for are:
- Bowel movements that are very painful or difficult to push out
- Passing stool that is quite hard and large
- Fewer bowel movements than normal, especially if it is less than three movements in a week. (This number will differ from one child to another, but keep track of your child’s regular bowel movements.)
When food moves through the large intestine or colon it absorbs water and makes stool. Contractions or muscle movements then push the stool towards the rectum where most of the water is soaked up. But when the colon or large intestine absorbs too much water, the stool gets dry and hard. Constipation usually happens when there is not enough fiber or water in your child’s diet.
Constipation in your child can worsen because dry and hard stool is very painful to push out. If constipation is not sorted out in time, over a period, your child’s body will stop sensing the need to go altogether. In worse case scenarios, constipation can cause small tears or hemorrhoids in the anus and your child will be even more afraid to poop.
Why Constipation Happens in Toddlers
- Potty training- One of the most common reasons for constipation is learning to adjust to the toilet – in other words, “potty training”. Some kids don’t like to use the toilet for bowel movements because they are so used to going in their diapers and they just can’t get the concept of the toilet. This could be due to power struggles with you (the parents) when they hold onto their bowel movements on purpose.
- Diet- Another reason is when there is not enough fiber or water in your child’s diet. So eating too much fast food, junk, and soft drinks could be the cause. Change in diet especially in babies when changing from formula or breast milk to solid foods is a common issue as well.
- No exercise- Lack of exercise and movement is another reason. Some kids get used to watching TV and not walking or running around!
- Stress- Surprisingly stress can also be a factor leading to constipation. For instance, if your kids are starting a new school or there are problems at home it can affect how your little one’s gut functions causing constipation or even diarrhea.
- IBS- Irritable bowel syndrome is another reason for constipation. If your child is stressed or eats certain foods that are too spicy or fatty it can cause constipation, as well as gas and stomach pain.
- Medical issues- Rarely, constipation also has underlying medical issues. If constipation in your child lasts for 2 to 3 weeks then you should consult your family doctor or pediatrician as soon as possible.
Easy Remedies for Toddler Constipation
- Encourage your kids to drink more fluids – Drinking adequate water and fluids throughout the day will help stool to pass easily. School-age kids will need at least 3 to 4 glasses of water a day. Toddler constipation instant relief home remedies are prune juice, apple, or pear juice in quantities of about 2 to 4 ounces per day.
- Include more fiber – Fruits, vegetables whole-grain bread are high fiber foods for toddler constipation. Since fiber is not digested, it helps to clean out the intestines by pushing the bowels out. On the other hand, sugary, starchy, and fatty foods slow down bowel movements. If you are wondering what to give your toddler for constipation, try including apples, beans, oatmeal, pears, ripe bananas, whole-grain fruit, popcorn and oranges, flax meal, bran, or even yummy homemade fruit smoothies.
- Get them moving – Exercise and physical activity will trigger your kid’s bowels, so play a game of catch or encourage them to go riding on their bikes or engage in other types of exercise and physical activity most days each week.
- Use petroleum jelly – Applying a little bit of Vaseline around the anus will act as a lubricant and provoke them to poop. You can also use diaper cream to help them if constipation has caused fissures around the anus.
- Develop a routine- Maintaining a proper routine and eating time will help your kids to get into a routine for their bowel movements as well. For instance, you could feed them breakfast a bit earlier so that they have enough time to use the bathroom if they need to before school.
- Getting them into the habit- Sometimes it’s just a matter of habit, i.e. if you are still in that potty training stage; get your child to sit on the toilet at the same time each day for at least 10 minutes.
These simple yet effective toddler constipation remedies in mind will surely go a long way in relieving your child from pain and discomfort.