According to the Journal of Pediatric Health Care, childhood constipation accounts for 5% of all pediatric outpatient visits to a primary care provider. So, we know it’s a common issue among babies and children but what causes it?
It can be caused by a medical condition such as spina bifida or Hirschsprung’s disease, but many young children initially experience constipation that becomes a cyclical process. If a child is constipated it may be painful when having a bowel movement. This may cause the child to be fearful of the next bowel movement and then hold it in. This causes the stool to be hard and the next bowel movement may be even more painful. This cycle will continue and the issue will persist. Enemas are a good option in order to achieve complete bowel evacuation, which is the best first step in treating chronic constipation.
Diet and hydration can help. It’s important to keep constipated children hydrated. When constipation is an issue for an infant, offering apple or prune juice can help.
For older children, foods that are high in fiber are a good way to alleviate constipation as well. Some foods high in fiber are whole grains, yams, oranges, tangerines, mango, papaya, cauliflower, broccoli, lima beans, kidney beans, berries, dates, prunes and raisins.
Foods that may cause constipation should be avoided. Some of those foods are: bread, pasta, potatoes, fried greasy foods, corn, high-sugar foods like cookies and pies and dairy products.
Overall, a diet with enough fiber (about 20 to 35 grams each day) helps the body form soft, bulky stool. Give your child at least one cup of vegetables and one cup of fruit a day, choosing whole fruit instead of fruit juice.
If your child continues to show signs of chronic constipation, make sure to consult with a pediatrician.