Constipation is very common among small kids. Toddler constipation is described as absence of bowel movement or non-passage of stool/ motion by a child for 4 days or more. The child may be passing hard stools with pain while passing the stool. When a child has difficulty in having bowel movements or when he cries or hesitates to poop or when a child’s stool is hard and large, then the toddler is constipated.
Constipation is normal in kids and not a cause of serious concern if the child is constipated once in a while. It is preventable and mostly managed by dietary changes and exercises. However, if a child suffers from constipation for two or more weeks at a stretch, then it is highly recommended to consult a pediatrician.
Causes of Toddler Constipation
Constipation in toddlers is mainly due to lack of adequate water and fibre intake. Kids having a fatty diet with products such as milkshakes, cheese, butter, burgers, candies, cookies, chocolates and ice creams are often constipated.
In other cases, medications prescribed for ADHD or iron supplements also cause constipation. In babies, transition from breast milk to baby formula, or from baby food to solid food may sometimes cause constipation.
The main causes of constipation in toddlers are:
Diet: Dietary habits are the major cause for toddler constipation in most cases. A diet that is rich in fats, processed foods, sweets, and milk, and too light in fibers like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables causes constipation. A child drinking too much milk and inadequate water can suffer from constipation, because it makes the stools harder.
Lack of Physical Activities: Exercises help in the movement of food through the digestive process and smoothen the bowel movement. Lack of physical activities can result in constipation.
Holding it: An average toddler would be more interested in playing with toys than in going to the bathroom. Toddlers rebel against the toilet training process, and sometimes express their power struggle in a refusal to go by holding the stool in. This can lead to constipation in kids.
Medicines: Some medications can lead to a constipated toddler, including iron supplements or narcotic pain medication or medications given for ADHD. The low dose iron in baby formula does not cause constipation.
Illness. Changes in appetite due to any illness may lead to constipation.
Fear of Discomfort: Previously constipated toddlers who had painful bowel movements in the past avoid using the bathroom out of fear that it will hurt again. This results in a buildup of stool in the lower bowels, which makes it even more difficult and painful to pass.
Treatment and Remedies for Toddler Constipation:
• Increase the Daily Water Intake: Ensure that the child has a good amount of water after each meal and has extra drinks when it is hot. Give ice blocks if the child doesn’t drink or rebels to take water.
• Serve More Fibres: Foods rich in dietary fibers such as whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables can prevent constipation. Decrease the amount of sweets and complex carbohydrates (especially junk food) and increase the quantity of fruits and vegetables in the diet. Try giving mashed bananas, popcorns, undiluted apple juice or Kiwi Crush (a kiwi fruit drink) daily. Also give foods such as whole-meal cereal, dal / pulses and fruits and vegetables such as prunes, figs, apricots, plums, peas, cauliflower / broccoli, sweet corn, potatoes and baked beans.
• Encourage Exercises and Outdoor Play: Encourage your kid to play outdoors at least an hour daily. This would help to relieve the constipation often to a considerable extent.
• Encourage a Regular Toileting Habit: Ensure that your child sits for at-least 10-15 minutes at the toilet, at about the same time daily to inculcate the habit of passing stool. This would be useful for kids who rebel a lot during toilet training and hold-on the urge of going to toilet.
Toddler Constipation Relief:
In cases that the constipation lasts for over a fortnight, visit the pediatrician and the doctor may prescribe mild laxatives like lactulose, milk-of magnesia or other medicine to soften the stool. Do not give any over-the counter laxative medications for kids without a doctors’ consent.