Toddler constipation can be extremely frustrating for a parent. More often than not, parents of toddlers pay pretty close attention to their kid’s diet and toilet habits. As this is the time when toilet training usually occurs, you are usually well aware of nearly everything your child consumes and also watch for any signs of discomfort or upset. When a toddler becomes constipated, it can make them miserable. Also, it can make them fearful of having a bowel movement, which can cause the problem to intensify.
Fear of having a bowel movement can create a problem for them and result in the toddler trying to hold their bowel movements in. Not everyone has a bowel movement every day but if your toddler goes days without having a bowel movement and/or shows signs of pain and distress when it’s potty time, this is a problem. Maybe they’re screaming when they have a bowel movement, crossing their legs to prevent it from happening, or refusing to use the potty altogether. Some of this behavior occurs anyway when kids aren’t ready to become toilet trained, so this can be very confusing.
Signs of Toddler Constipation
Signs of constipation in a toddler can vary from the absence of regular bowel movements to the bowel movement being hard or painful. When a toddler has painful bowel movements just a few times, it can cause them to try to hold it in due to an association with pain. This can make the problem worse for several reasons. When we don’t have regular bowel movements, the moisture in the stool in your intestines is absorbed back into your body. This can have a spiral effect because it causes the movements to become more uncomfortable which makes the toddler resist even more. If the problem continues, you’ll wind up with a toddler who is terrified of going to the bathroom and it can make life unhappy for both of you. Even if your toddler isn’t fighting the movements yet, if they’re having difficulty in going at all they may cry and clench up to prevent a bowel movement from occurring.
Our bodies need to expel waste. If we have a healthy and varied diet (with plenty of fiber and liquids to stay hydrated) and get plenty of exercise, we should have regular, easy bowel movements. If we are not, we need to examine the following factors:
A Healthy Diet
A healthy diet can make your toddler’s bowel movements more comfortable and regular. While we know toddlers can be extremely picky eaters, ensuring they have a well balanced, healthy diet is essential from both an immediate health perspective and for instilling healthy eating habits into their psyche. It’s been documented that children who are offered a variety of foods are more likely to try new things. On the other hand, a child that will eat only macaroni and cheese has likely had that bad behavior humored or supported by parents worrying their kid will “starve” if they don’t give in. High fiber diets including whole wheat breads (not bleached or enriched), legumes, and fresh fruits and vegetables will help prevent toddler constipation.
Keep Kids Moving
A sedentary lifestyle can cause things to back up as well. Keeping your toddler active can help increase the regularity of their bowel movements. Plenty of playing and exercise will stimulate their organs and metabolism to give them a healthy appetite and promote good digestive and lifestyle habits.
Drinking Enough Fluids
Staying hydrated is critical to maintain good overall health. Again, ambient moisture in the stool will help it pass easier. When someone is constipated and goes for a long time without having a bowel movement, their body will leach the moisture from their stools—making the problem worse. Staying hydrated when constipated is as important as staying hydrated when suffering from diarrhea.
Preventing Toddler Constipation
If you are having problems with toddler constipation regularly or expect that it could become a problem, it’s important to take action as soon as possible. It may require a little time to find workable methods but toddler constipation is a common problem typically resolved without medical intervention. If your child is already resisting having a bowel movement, the first step is to make their eliminations more comfortable so the fear dissipates. Temporary use of baby glycerin suppositories and stool softeners may appear to help them in the short term but medical solutions present their own side effects and difficulties so it’s best to try the natural approach. On a long-term basis, it’s important to ensure toddlers’ diet allows them to have easy bowel movements on a regular basis. Use of stool softeners, suppositories and laxatives on a long-term basis can also cause chemical dependency so this is not recommended, especially where toddler constipation is the issue.
If your child doesn’t seem to be responding to dietary changes and does not seem to be holding their bowel movements in, it’s important to seek medical attention. While a large majority of toddler constipation problems are very common and can be overcome with some dietary changes, other problems can be more serious and require medical attention.
Toddler constipation can be a source of frustration and upset for both the toddler and his or her parents. Everyone wants to have healthy and happy children and constipation makes everyone unhappy. Finding ways to make the child’s bowel movements more comfortable so they do not fear them is the first step. The second step is to continue a sensible diet and exercise. Toddler constipation is generally very common but consult with a pediatrician about your concerns to ensure a medical condition is not causing this problem.