Constipation in toddlers and how you can help them

How can I help my constipated toddler?

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When you become a parent, there are certain topics of conversations that, pre-kid, you would never imagine having. But from the moment your baby is born, their health and wellbeing become your number one priority. 

Naturally, you become invested in every aspect of their life. And when we say every, we mean every. Even their poo becomes a normal topic of conversation: from how many dirty nappies they have a day to the exact colour of their poo. It’s not glamorous, but taking a vested interest in their bowel movements defines the meaning of true love. 💩

So when your little one gets clogged up, it can be a super stressful situation to navigate. When you’re toilet-training your toddler, it’s pretty common for them to get anxiety around doing number twos, which can result in constipation. Similarly, if they have a traumatic experience on the toilet, this can result in an ongoing fear and the desire to hold onto their stools. Here’s what you can do to support a constipated toddler: 

How to make a toddler poop when constipated

  • Fluids, fluids, and more fluids! Water will really help get things moving. Avoid milk because it can clog them up even more. 
  • Offer them fibre-rich foods: Pears, plums, peaches and prunes are seriously high in fibre and can work as a treat to get things moving. Rotate these in your child’s diet to help keep them regular, and then dose them up when they need a little extra help. Prunes can be particularly effective in getting things moving, so remember to start with small amounts and work up depending on your child’s needs.
  • Swap out your bread: Wholemeal bread instead of white bread will make a world of difference. 
  • Eat your veggies! Aim to try and give your little one at least three servings of vegetables a day. 🥦
  • Cut down on milk: Once your child is 18 months old, decrease their cow’s milk intake to 500 ml per day. Too much dairy can block them up.  
  • Move their body: Exercise is another easy way to help promote digestion in your little one, so get moving! 🤸
  • Try distracting them: Getting their mind off the task at hand is another strategy to test out. Read them their favourite book or sing them a song they love and see if it can distract them. 

How can I help my constipated toddler?

Never use shameful language or get angry with them, especially if they have an accident. You don’t want to create more anxiety around the situation. Instead, you could try introducing a reward system that celebrates and supports your child when they do a poo on the toilet. A sticker chart or the promise of a fun activity can really help encourage them. Whatever you choose, just remember to make a big deal out of the moment. Maybe it’s even as simple as a celebratory family poo dance! 🕺

Modelling the behaviour you want your child to pick up can also help the issue. After each meal time (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), normalise going to the toilet and asking your child if they’d like to come with you and sit on the toilet after you. 

Having an open and honest chat with them about why they might be feeling anxious can also be really beneficial. Many children are scared of falling into the toilet, so it could be as simple as getting a sturdy footstool and a potty seat insert. 

Avoid forcing them to sit on the potty until there’s any action. They’ll do it when they’re ready. If they’re new to the concept of sitting on the toilet, their brain is simply trying to unlearn the process of going to the toilet in their nappy. Patience and support are vital during this transition period. 

If they’re fully toilet-trained and are simply clogged up, make sure they are eating plenty of bowel-friendly foods (think peaches, pears, or prunes) and avoid sugary foods that will block them up even more (e.g. pasta, rice, bananas, dairy, and white bread). 

Signs and symptoms of constipation (via the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne)

  • Stomach cramps (the pain tends to come and go)
  • Your child to feel less hungry than usual
  • Irritable behaviour
  • Anal fissures (small splits of the skin around the anus) that cause pain and bleeding when doing a poo, which can be caused by straining to pass a large, hard poo
  • Holding-on behaviour such as squatting, crossing legs, or refusing to sit on the toilet.
  • If your child is constipated, they might look more bloated than usual, and you may even be able to feel hard lumps of poo if you press gently on their tummy.

When should I see a doctor?

If there’s still no luck and it’s been several days since your child had a bowel movement, you should seek medical help. Your GP will be able to advise you if you need to use a laxative or stool softener. Never use these without medical guidance. 

Most cases of constipation will usually be resolved within a few days, but never hesitate to seek medical help if you’re worried. Keeping a close eye on their diet and making sure they’re getting plenty of fibre-rich foods will hopefully see your little one return to regular programming in no time.

Related Articles
Baby foods that help with constipation – and cause it!
The best ways to relieve constipation in babies
Coping with constipation during pregnancy

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