Easy Ways To End Constipation in Children

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child constipation
Ali Khalili, MD
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.

Possible Causes

Constipation means that bowel movements happen less than two 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 medications, 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)," says Ali Khalili, MD, Director, Pediatric Gastrointestinal Laboratory at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. “Also, encourage your child 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.”

These healthy tips from Dr. Khalili also can help avert childhood constipation:

  • Promote regular physical activity. Kids need at least one 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 he or she has to use the bathroom. Never force toilet training, and be patient as children master the challenge.

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

Related Links

The pediatric gastroenterology team at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s provides rapid access to care for infants and children of all ages with gastrointestinal concerns. Learn more about pediatric gastroenterology services at UH Rainbow Babies & Children's.

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