Constipation in Toddlers – Causes and Treatment

Health N Care

Aug 01

Constipation is uncomfortable and painful to adults, what more to toddlers? If you’re a mom, it’s hard to see your kid go through that condition. Constipation among babies is very common problem that effect one out every 4 kids. It has also been recognised as being amongst the most common infant digestive problem reported by parents. Constipation in toddlers can be treated naturally.

Constipation in toddlers prevents regular bowel movement. This leaves toddlers feel bloated and suffer from stomach pain. Stool is hard and dry which makes it hard for toddlers to pass. Constipation can be caused by several things such as lack of fiber and liquid intake, too much intake of foods that can cause constipation or by force of habit. Laxatives, which can be bought from drugstores even without prescription can help treat toddlers’ constipation. However, since their system is not as strong as adults, these may be too strong for them. It’s best to try treating constipation the natural way first to prevent any side effects on the child. Since this condition is usually caused by low fiber in their diet, give them foods that are high in fiber such as grapes, apples, apricots, pears, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, whole wheat pasta and raisins. Let them take more liquids like water and fruit juices. Foods high in fiber aid in proper digestion thus preventing constipation.

Some foods may cause constipation if kids eat too much of these. Milk can be one of these. Though milk is recommended to be taken by kids for stronger bones and teeth, if it causes constipation, cut the amount that your kids take each day. Other foods that can also cause constipation are bananas, cheese, yogurt, carrots, junk foods, ice cream and meat. Kids who don’t have regular bathroom schedule may also experience constipation because they may not be used to defecate regularly. Practice regular schedule of putting the kids in the bathroom so they can get used to it.

What causes constipation

If we can identify and treat kids with constipation as soon as the problem is recognised then it will easier for both you and your child. Formula fed babies are more likely to have trouble from constipation compare to those who are breastfed. As Formula can firm up poop much more than breast milk. When a baby is around six months, pediatricians often give parents the green light to offer an array of baby food. What your baby eats will largely determine the kind of poop you can expect, and many different foods could contribute to constipation. Below are the most common reason for constipation in kids.

Diet: Changes in diet, or not enough fiber or fluid in your child’s diet, can cause constipation. Formula feed not made up correctly (too concentrated with not enough water) can also cause constipation.

Illness: If your child is sick and loses his appetite, a change in his diet can throw off his system and cause him to be constipated. Some medicines may also cause constipation in children

Withholding: Your child may withhold his stool for different reasons. He may with hold to avoid pain from passing a hard stool—it can be even more painful if your child has a bad diaper rash. Your child also may withhold because he simply doesn’t want to take a break from play.

Signs and symptoms of a constipated child

Signs and symptoms may vary according to the age of the child. Infants may present with grunting baby syndrome, the clinical features of which are straining, turning red in face, grimacing, and crying. Toddlers may present with passing painful and hard stool that may be associated with bleeding per rectum secondary to a small tear in the anal canal, which leads to further withholding. Parents may note that the child resists the urge to defecate by rocking back and forth on his or her toes, squeezing the buttocks together, clenching the fist and fidgeting.

Some simple steps parents can try to alleviate the problem

Leg Exercise: Lay the infant on their back and gently move their legs in a bicycle motion. This will cause the stomach muscles to move and put gentle stimulation on the infant’s intestines and hopefully make them have a bowel movement.

Warm Bath: Another way to help with infant constipation is by giving them a relaxing bath. The relaxation may help their stool pass more easily. During or after the bath, try gently massaging the tummy.

Abdominal Massage: This should only be taught to parents by a qualified health professional
Fruit juice/puree: Depending on the age of the baby – dilute fruit juice containing sorbitol – such as apple or pear can be given.

Working with toddlers

Remember it is almost impossible to get their cooperation!

  • Encourage parents to increase fluid and fibre but don’t make it the focus of treatment
  • Don’t address potty training and resolving constipation at the same time.
  • Allow ‘poo nappies’. If the child insists on using a nappy to poo then allow them to use a nappy but it must be only in the bathroom/toilet area. Then encourage sitting on the toilet/potty with nappy on, eventually working on removing the nappy completely
  • If simple interventions and dietary/fluid adjustment alone fail to resolve the problem of constipation then laxatives will need to be considered