Of the multitudes of things that can stress a parent out on the daily when it comes to our kids, toddler constipation is right up there.
If you rather fancy the idea of spending inordinate amounts of time worrying about another human being’s bowel movements, then parenthood is definitely for you. In the early years of motherhood and perhaps even beyond, not a day will go by without you fretting over the frequency, consistency and colour of your child’s poop. When it comes to toddler poo, what is normal and when should you be concerned?
Constipation in toddlers – When should I be worried?
Constipation in toddlers and children is actually quite common and can be treated. Children from the age of 12 months onwards should be having around one to two bowel movements a day. If they skip the odd day here and there, it shouldn’t be anything to worry about but the NHS states if your little one doesn't poo at least three times a week, there is a chance that she could be constipated.
Constipation usually comes along with symptoms, so watch out for:
- they don't poo at least three times a week
- their poo is often large, hard and difficult to push out
- their poo looks like "rabbit droppings" or little pellets
You may be able to treat constipation yourself by making simple changes to your diet and lifestyle (see below). If these changes don't help and the problem continues, you should see your GP.
If your little person hasn’t been having regular bowel movements and has any one of the above symptoms, it’s time to take some action. But what can you do when your toddler is constipated?
Here are 7 tried and tested methods to make sure your child “goes” with ease so you both can finally relax.
1. Increased fibre reduces constipation in toddlers
Increasing your child’s fibre intake through fruits and vegetables and some cereals and legumes should help relieve constipation. The NHS advises young children get plenty of fruit and vegetables which have lots of fibre. To relieve symptoms, up their intake slowly by adding foods such as prunes, apricots, berries, melon, oranges, peaches, plums, pears, mangoes, broccoli, spinach, peas, beans, sweet potatoes, whole-grain bread, and bran cereal (if these foods are new to your child, you’ll have to introduce them into their diet slowly and not all at once).
2. Dehydration can make constipation in toddlers worse
One of the main causes of constipation, in general, is dehydration. If there is not enough water in one’s system when food is travelling from the stomach to the large intestine (colon), the large intestine will soak up water from your food waste (poop) making it hard and dry and therefore extremely difficult to glide the rest of the way and come out.
Ensuring that your little one is drinking enough water or getting plenty of fluids is a must. When they are playing, their sippy-cup or water bottle is often the last thing on their minds so make sure you regularly offer it to them to get their fluids up so that they are adequately hydrated.
3. Speak to your GP about DulcoSoft
DulcoSoft works with the body to provide comfortable relief from constipation. With its gentle mode of action, it can be used from the first signs of constipation and is suitable for use on children over two-years-old*.
* Not for children under 2 years. For children 2-8 years, pregnant and breastfeeding women, advice from a doctor is recommended.
How does it work? The active ingredient macrogol 4000, attracts and retains the water naturally present in the colon to soften the stools and make bowel movements more comfortable.
DulcoSoft is a medical device. Contains macrogol 4000. Always read the label.
4. Getting your child into a relaxed pooping position can activate the bowel
When your child is having fun and playing all day long, they might be inclined to “hold it in” while they continue their exciting escapades. If they’ve previously had a painful bowel movement, they might be reluctant to even entertain the idea of doing a poo. Getting your child to relax and calm down a little bit in a “pooping” position might be just the ticket into finally getting the poo out.
Try sitting in a seated position with your child sitting on you, facing you. Make sure their legs are bent at the hips and knees, almost like they are crouching. Rock back and forth, sing their favourite songs, and stroke their back to get them to relax and feel comfortable. Anatomically, humans were made to poop in a squatting position, so if your child is backed up, even getting into this position could start to encourage the movement to happen.
5. Make using the loo a happy habit
If the child senses that going to the toilet is urgent or important it could stress them out. Making the whole toilet-going experience a happy one could help them get into a regular pooping habit which will make everyone very happy. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) advise using a bowel habit diary, and reward systems to help your child get into a rhythm.
Firstly, you have to remain calm and appear nonchalant because they can sense your mood and reflect it. Secondly, if your child is of potty-training age or older, try to get them into the habit of pooping at a regular time, perhaps after breakfast in the morning.
Get them to sit comfortably on the toilet with a stool under them for at least ten minutes (or until the magic happens), put on some songs or read them a story to get them to relax. If nothing happens after a while, don’t let them sense your disappointment, and try again after the next meal.
6. Massage your constipated toddler’s belly
Abdominal massage has long been used to relieve constipation in adults and children alike, and if you feel confident enough (and your child will sit still long enough to let you), you could try giving your baby’s belly a little rub down.
According to the NHS website, you should try gently moving your baby's legs in a bicycling motion or carefully massaging their tummy to help stimulate their bowels.
It shouldn’t be painful and you could make it into a little game. Getting someone to distract them, or putting on their favourite children’s show (there’s no use in denying that the TV comes in handy at times like these) can also help to keep them still. Get your child to lie down on their back, rub a little body cream or almond or coconut oil into your palms and gently rub onto your child’s belly. Using your thumbs or the first three fingers on each hand, start from the belly button and make circular motions downwards, pressing lightly.
7. Get your constipated toddler moving around
Usually, at that age, toddlers are little busy bodies that can’t keep still but, in the day and age of Disney, Peppa Pig, and Youtube videos, you might notice that your little one isn’t quite as active as they should be. If this is the case, it could have a lot to do with why they are constipated. Get them out and about and moving around for at least an hour a day as exercise helps move the food through the digestive tract enabling bowel movements.
Once a little one has started weaning they should be drinking enough water (Institute of Medicine's Dietary Reference Intakes for Electrolytes and Water, suggests 1 litre per day for children between 1-3).
For more information around constipation-relief for the whole family, please visit www.dulcolax.co.uk
SAGB.DULC188.8.131.524k - Jan 2019