Constipation is not a pleasant experience and can be easily avoided using three easy steps. Constipation is the same in children and adults alike. However, young children are more prone to bouts of constipation, predominantly through dehydration.
To prevent constipation, do the following:
- Increase Fluids
- Increase Fibre
- Encourage Good Habits
When Should You Seek Medical Assessment?
- Has severe abdominal pain that is worse when moving
- Has a fever
- Is vomiting
- Has a swollen or distended abdomen
Constipation means that the content of the bowel (poo) has become hard or impacted and built into a large ball. In children or adults who are particularly dehydrated, the appearance of small pebble-sized poo is present.
The problem stems from the individual pebbles sticking to each other to form a large ball in the bowl. When the urge to push out the poo arrives, the ball can be as small as a golf ball or as large as a baseball. Passing hard, large, painful stools is a common problem in young children. Mild cases can be treated at home with over-the-counter medication that softens the stool if the child has recurring problems with constipation.
What Are The Common Causes Of Constipation In Children?
- Not drinking enough water or hydrating fluid
- Not enough fibre in the diet from fruit and vegetables
- Lack of exercise
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement and holding it in
- Anal retentive nature
- Changes in habits or lifestyle, such as travel, pregnancy, and old age
- Problems with intestinal function
Call a doctor if your child has ongoing signs of constipation not treated with the above suggestions.
For infants four months or older: add small amounts of fruit juice, such as prune, pear, or coconut juices. Avoid feeding them cheese, bananas, and apple sauce, as they can increase constipation.
For infants four months or older: add baby foods such as peas, beans, carrots, potatoes, prunes, peaches, plums, and apricots.
Consult with your child’s doctor regarding the use of enemas, bowel irrigation and suppositories if they are medically required in severe cases on clinical advice.
For children, one year or older: offer more water with hydrating powders such as Gatorade or Hydrolyte to add electrolytes to assist with rehydrating the body and softening the stool.
Increase the amount of fibre in their diet by giving them whole foods with the skin on, like apples, potatoes, carrots, oranges, and peas.
Introduce whole fruits and vegetables such as peas, beans, and broccoli, and whole-grain foods such as brown rice, whole wheat bread, nuts, and legumes. Four prunes a day is also a very good source of fibre and will provide a natural laxative effect if used regularly in the overall diet.
Cut down on candies and sweets.
Limit products containing lactose like milk, yoghurt, and cheese while constipated and have them medically assessed for immune system intolerances to products like gluten, or having undiagnosed irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, or colitis.
Establish And Encourage Good Hydration And Eating Habits Early
Get your toddler to sit on their training potty or the toilet after every meal.
Under supervision, have your toddler stay on the potty or toilet for 10 minutes each time. Give them a book or toy to distract them and let nature do her thing.
Have your toddler keep their feet on the floor when they are on the potty. Use a footstool if they are on the toilet so that their knees are slightly higher than the hips.
The squatting position is the best position to void the bowels, but the developed world tends to use toilets that do not provide steps to lift the knees above the hips into the ideal poo delivery position.
Reward your child for having a bowel movement and wiping the area clean. Teaching them how to wipe their bottom correctly is teaching them basic personal hygiene from the get-go and is very important. Let them try to wipe away their own poo and clean up what is left, then ensure they always wash their hands with soap after using the toilet.
If anxiety about toilet training is playing a role in constipation, try the pull-up underwear designed to be the bridge between nappies and normal underwear until the child is ready to continue with toilet training. Every child is different, and you cannot rush the toilet training process. Some children will get it quickly and be self-sufficient in a week. Others will struggle with it for some months. Don’t let the frustration from either side cause lasting psychological issues. Deep breath, release. It will happen when the child is ready.
Forced toilet training in children not ready to make the transition naturally, can, and often does, result in the child soiling themselves at inappropriate times into their teenage years. This is a psychological condition; they may never grow out of it or continue well into their late teens without professional intervention.
When Should You See Your Paediatrician Or Physician Promptly?
- If symptoms and regular constipation continue
- There is blood in the stool.
- There is continued abdominal pain even after a bowel movement
- The stool is jet black every time and looks like charcoal.
- The abdomen is swollen or distended and painful on movement.
Never give an infant or child a laxative without talking to a paediatrician or family GP first!
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