Constipation is common among children. As parents, you may notice that your child has constipation if:
Their poop is large and hard; it looks like rabbit droppings or little pellets.
They are straining or in pain when they poop.
They may have some bleeding during or after pooping because their poop is hard.
Another sign to look for is when a child has a poor appetite or stomach pain that improves after they poop. Soiled pants are one of the symptoms of constipation in children aged one and up, as runny poop may leak around the hard constipated poop. This is called overflow soiling.
Constipation is common in toddlers aged 2 to 3 years old, according to health professionals. This is because usually at this age, parents start to potty train their children, which makes them feel uneasy about the whole poop situation.
Here are some tips that you may try to prevent your child from experiencing constipation or to help them while they are constipated.
Make sure they drink plenty of fluid. Most of the time, children are unable to tell you if they are thirsty, especially if they are merely 1 year old. One of the tips that we can practice is to always make sure their sippy cup is full and within their reach so that it will be easier for them to drink water whenever they want. Sometimes children are so occupied with playing that they do not drink water, so it is best to remind them every few hours to drink water.
Consume a high-fiber diet. This means to load your child's plate with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, high-fiber cereals, whole-grain breads (look for at least 3-5g of fiber per serving), and a variety of beans and legumes, such as lentils and chickpeas. One of the good sources of fiber that children love most is popcorn (but prepare it with the minimum amount of sugar, butter, and salt). You may also let them prepare their own popcorn or fruit salad; this will even stimulate their appetite, and of course they will learn and enjoy the process. Foods containing probiotics, such as yogurt, can also promote good digestive health.
Doing a lot more physical activity. Sedentism can also be detrimental to bowel movements. Children under the age of five require at least three hours of physical activity per day. So, let them move around, let them jump and climb, but keep in mind that all of this must be monitored and done in a safe environment, especially for young toddlers.
Regular toilet time. This is especially true for children who are undergoing toilet training. Encourage your child to use the toilet first thing in the morning and after every meal or snack. Set a timer for every 30 to 45 minutes to take them to the bathroom. Instead of suggesting, "Do you need to go to the bathroom?" simply say, "Time to go to the bathroom now." Having regular toilet time also means helping them have regular time for everything else, such as their mealtimes and their naps. This will also help them easily adapt to this new habit of going to the toilet whenever they feel the urge.
Stool softener to clear the bowels. These are safe for children, but they need to be used under the supervision of a doctor or pharmacist. A common mistake when it comes to using stool softener is that parents tend to stop using it after their child has their first normal-looking bowel movement, but stopping too soon may just set your child up for another episode of constipation. So, what you can do is talk to your doctor; it is okay to let your child stay on stool softener for a few weeks. At the same time, try your best to cultivate lifestyle and dietary changes that can improve your child's bowel movements.
In conclusion, always try to monitor your child's bowel movements so you may notice any changes, especially if they are under 2 years old, as they cannot verbally tell what is going on in their body or if they are in pain. Noticing it early will allow you to better prepare to assist them in relieving their bowel condition than if it is already chronic. Also, if it has been too long already or if your child is in pain whenever you press their abdomen (to this extent), it is best to seek advice from a doctor regarding your child's condition.
National Health Service (NHS) U.K. Constipation in children. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/baby/health/constipation-in-children/ (Accessed on April 1, 2021).
National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Disease (NIDDK). U.S Department of Health and Human Services. Symptoms and Causes of Constipation in Children. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/constipation-children/symptoms-causes (Accessed on April 1, 2021).
Mayo Clinic. Constipation in Children. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/constipation-in-children/symptoms-causes/syc-20354242#:~:text=Constipation%20in%20children%20is%20a,constipation%20in%20children%20are%20temporary. (Accessed on April 1, 2021).