Constipation: what is it? What causes it? And how can you help?
Your toddler may poo once a day or once every few days. Constipation is not how often your toddler does a poo, but what it comes out like.
Signs and symptoms of constipation in your toddler can include:
- Hard, pebble-like poo;
- Poo is painful to pass;
- Poo is infrequent – Remember frequency will vary between toddlers, so base this on your own child’s ‘normal’. If your child hasn’t had a motion for two weeks then it may be time to seek advice from your doctor;
- Frequent small amounts of runny poo that slips out without your toddler knowing. It can be poo seeping around a larger mass in the bowel. This can be seen as skiddies on their undies or accidents;
- Your toddler may be irritable, refuses food and complains of a sore tummy.
What can cause constipation?
- Lack of physical activity;
- Lack of fibre: This can be caused by having a poor diet consisting of too many processed foods and less natural fresh foods; or excessive amounts of cows’ milk and not enough solid food;
- Holding a poo in for long periods. This may occur if has been uncomfortable or unpleasant for your toddler to poo in the past. It may have been from being teased, pain, lack of privacy, embarrassment, smelly toilets, or simply too busy to stop. Holding on causes the bowel to swell and become less functional;
- Some food intolerances;
- Lack of water or other fluids: Dehydration causes hard poo that can be difficult to pass.
How can you help?
- Increase fibre: Ensure your toddler is receiving a balanced diet, including whole grain cereals, fresh fruit and vegetables. Limit their intake of highly processed foods and foods high in sugar;
- Get active: Encourage daily physical activity and play;
- Have a toilet routine: Encourage regular toilet sitting about three times per day after meals. Make the bathroom a comfortable and relaxing environment by providing a stool to rest their feet on, using a smaller toilet seat or potty, and giving them plenty of time;
- Stay hydrated: Ensure they are getting plenty of water throughout the day by offering water with each meal and snack, and always having a water bottle handy;
- Supplement; Although a balanced diet and exercise should always be the first option, there are oral supplements which may assist with constipation. Always seek medical advice before trying these methods.
- Consult the professionals: Talk to your doctor if your toddler’s poo doesn’t stay soft and regular as there might be an underlying cause.