Constipation affects 25–30% of young children, which means approximately one in three children will struggle with this condition. Not only is constipation uncomfortable, and sometimes painful, but it can also cause other health complications.
In this post we break down the causes, symptoms and foods to eat (and avoid) to help kids have happy tummies!
Causes of Constipation in Toddlers
There are several factors that can contribute to constipation in toddlers, but here are some of the most common:
- Toilet Training
Toilet training sometimes involves a battle of wills, and your toddler may withhold stool as he/she adjusts to the process. What may begin as a voluntary decision not to go can become an involuntary habit that can be difficult to change. Withholding also causes stool to become hard and impacted, making it more painful to pass, which exacerbates withholding.
Certain medications can make your child more prone to constipation, including pain relievers like Motrin and iron supplements.
- Dairy Allergy
If your child is intolerant of dairy, or consumes too much dairy, this can make them constipated.
- Changes in Routine
Any significant change in routine can also lead to constipation, like travel, extreme weather (particularly extreme heat), moving, a new sibling, or other stressors. Toddlers who start preschool or any new routine outside the home may also express reluctance to go.
- Changes in Diet
Changes in diet, or if your child doesn’t get enough fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, can lead to constipation.
Fluids keep things moving, so if your child isn’t drinking enough water or other non-diuretic fluid, this increases constipation risk.
Symptoms of Constipation in Toddlers
Signs and symptoms of constipation in toddlers include:
- Fewer than three bowel movements per week.
- Stomach pain (if your toddler isn’t speaking yet, look for signs of stomach pain, including holding an arm or hand over their abdomen or lower belly).
- Signs of withholding, including making faces, crossing legs, and twisting the body.
- Bright red blood on the surface of hard stool.
- Pain while having a bowel movement.
- Stool that is hard, dry, and/or difficult to pass or that resembles pellets.
- Traces of liquid or pasty stool in your child’ underwear – a sign that stool is backed up in the rectum
- Frequently recurring urinary tract infections.
Constipation isn’t usually a serious medical condition, but if your toddler has a fever, blood in the stool (not just on the outside of the stool), abdominal swelling, weight loss, or reduced appetite for more than a day or so, it’s time to see the doctor.
Foods to Eat to Prevent Toddler Constipation
Fiber, Fiber, and More Fiber!
Diet plays an important role not just in relieving constipation but also in helping to avoid it. Ensuring your toddler is eating enough fiber can go a long way toward helping avoid this uncomfortable condition. The amount of fiber that is appropriate depends on age and gender, so be sure to check with your pediatrician to determine the right amount for your child.
Foods that are rich in fiber – and are also good for your child – include:
Whole Grains: whole wheat bread, oatmeal, whole wheat pasta, and bran based cereal.
Nuts: (as long as your child does not have a nut allergy): almonds, peanuts, and pecans.
Fruits: berries, oranges, pears, and apples (leave the skin on!).
Legumes: kidney beans, black beans, soybeans, lentils, and chickpeas.
Vegetables: collard greens, broccoli, green peas, and carrots.
It is also important for your child to get plenty of water – staying hydrated is key helping prevent constipation.
Foods to Avoid
- Foods with little or no fiber are good to avoid if your child is showing signs of constipation. Some examples of these include:
- Processed foods like microwavable dinners, hot dogs, and processed lunchmeat (like bologna).
- Fast Food
- Snack foods with little/no nutritional value, like chips, or frozen meals.
- Meat (high amounts of protein can promote constipation).
- Dairy (high amounts of dairy can also promote constipation).
- Caffeine and caffeinated drinks
DocuSol® Kids Can Help!
The last thing a parent wants to do when their child is not feeling well is to make them wait for relief. Parents and caregivers can help young ones with constipation not only feel better faster but avoid further complications by being aware of the reasons and signs of constipation.
Many over-the-counter treatments for children’s constipation contain bisacodyl, a known irritant. DocuSol® Kids, a first-of-its-kind formula, does not. The non-irritating DocuSol® formulation functions as a stool-softening, hyperosmotic laxative by drawing water into the bowel from surrounding body tissues, replicating a normal bowel stimulus. This unique formulation provides children ages 2–12 fast, predictable relief of constipation .