Constipation in children is a common problem, especially when children are being potty trained at around two to three years old. But what defines constipation is not as simple as the frequency of your child’s bowel movement. Other factors that need to be taken into consideration include the consistency and the size of the poo, the presence of blood on the surface of hard stool, abdominal pain and breastfeeding.
Symptoms of Constipation in Children
Your child may be constipated if they have the following symptoms:
- Less than 3 bowel movements a week although not exclusively breastfed
- Stools that are hard, dry and difficult to pass
- Their poo looks like "rabbit droppings" or little pellets
- Struggle or in pain during a bowel movement
- Presence of blood on the surface of hard stool
- Have soiling accidents
The Mayo Clinic also suggests that if your child is crossing their legs, clenching their buttocks, twisting their body, or making faces; they may be attempting to hold in their stool for fear that it will hurt, and avoid having a bowel movement instead.
Poop Vacation in a Breastfed Baby
It's important to note that babies who are exclusively breastfed very rarely get constipated. Breastfed newborn babies younger than 6 weeks old should have at least 3 stools a day.
After 6 weeks of age, most healthy breastfed babies have less frequent bowel movements and could even go up to a week or even more. This is because breastmilk is easily digested that there is not much left over for any further bowel movements. Just remember to note that as long as the bowel movements are soft and when they finally have them, the child is likely normal and not constipated.
Of course, once you start feeding a baby with solid foods such as cereal, he will probably have more regular bowel movements and his poo will probably be firmer.
Ways to Prevent & Treat Constipation
Constipation in children is usually not serious. In most cases, you can treat your child at home to help their constipation. Here are a few suggestions that you should consider when treating your child for constipation.
- Keep your child well-hydrated. Drinking enough water and other liquids helps stools move more easily through the intestines.
- Serve food with more fibre, less sugary and less starchy. High-fibre foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain bread can help prevent constipation while a diet full of fat, sugar or starch can slow the bowels down. When adding more fibre to your child's diet, start by adding just several grams of fibre a day to prevent gas and bloating.
- Get them to be physically active. Regular physical activity as simple as playing catch, running around the park or riding bikes can help stimulate normal bowel function.
- Create a toilet routine. Having your child sit on the toilet for 10 minutes at the same time each day helps create a routine and uses the body's natural tendency to move the bowels.
If the condition of your child doesn’t improve or has not have any bowel movements for 2 weeks, take your child to the GP.
The longer your child is constipated, the more difficult it can be for them to recover, so make sure you get help early.
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