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December 2021

Easy Ways to End Childhood Constipation

Constipation can cause children a lot of discomfort—and parents a lot of concern. But childhood constipation is very easy for parents to handle and prevent with simple strategies.

Man and his young son playing basketball as part of a healthy lifestyle to prevent constipation.

Possible causes

Constipation means that bowel movements happen less than 2 times a week, and stool has become hard, dry, and difficult or painful to pass. Constipation is common in children and can happen at any age.

A diet that lacks liquids and fiber can cause childhood constipation. But it can also occur if children wait too long to go to the bathroom. Children might delay bowel movements for a wide variety of reasons. For instance, they may do so if they:

  • Have had painful bowel movements in the past

  • Feel stressed about potty training

  • Would rather not interrupt playtime with a potty break

Sometimes constipation results from an illness, such as diabetes, or certain medicines, including antacids.

What parents can do

Parents can help prevent and relieve most cases of constipation by making sure their child’s daily diet includes plenty of water and other fluids (such as clear soups). Also, encourage them to eat higher-fiber foods. Fiber speeds the passage of food and waste through the digestive system. Good sources of fiber include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains (such as whole wheat bread, pasta, oatmeal, and cereal).

The following healthy tips can also help avert childhood constipation:

  • Promote regular physical activity. Kids need at least 1 hour of exercise each day.

  • Limit fatty foods. Large amounts of meats and sweets in your child’s diet may cause constipation.

  • Establish good bathroom habits early. Make sure your child knows not to delay a bowel movement. Also, watch for signs that your toddler may need to have one, such as rocking up and down on toes. Teach your child to tell you when they have to use the bathroom. Never force toilet training, and be patient as children master the challenge.

If bouts of constipation last longer than 2 weeks, talk with your child’s pediatrician. Also, see the pediatrician if you notice blood in your child’s stools, on toilet paper, or leaking from your child’s rectum.

 

 

Online Medical Reviewer: Ray Turley, MSN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Rina Lazebnik, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 6/1/2020
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