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What To Do for Painful Constipation in a Child

Your Body

Painful Constipation in Kids

Painful constipation is a prevalent issue that many kids experience. Nowadays, painful constipation in kids is especially frequent because many children overeat processed food, too little fiber, and drink too little water. They are probably following the model of adults who tend to lack a proper diet as well!

To treat constipation in kids, it’s essential to understand what it is. Constipation is abnormalities in both how a child stools and the consistency. Most healthy children tend to stool at least once per day, and the stool is soft and not painful to push out. It should also take just a few minutes.

Keep in mind that there is some variation in normal schedules for kids, so if your child follows a healthy lifestyle but tends to skip a day, there may not be cause for concern.


What are constipation symptoms?

Constipation may not feel like or appear to be a big deal. Many adults and kids are used to sitting on the toilet for long periods and pushing out hard, large volume or marble-like stools, but this is not normal. Suppose stooling is painful and takes a while; this likely signals constipation. Other signs your child may be constipated include abdominal pain and stool stains in their underwear.

If you notice any of these symptoms in your child, you may need to make some changes.

Constipation in children can occur at any point. It is most common in infants during the transition from formula to solid food, in toddlers when they just start potty training, and in older children when they begin school. Because it’s so common, it’s useful to know how to prevent it and what to do for child constipation.


What causes constipation in kids?

Diets lacking in specific nutrients, like fiber, and a lack of hydration are major contributing factors to constipation. Kids may also become constipated because they tend to withhold their bowel movements when they don’t want to stop playing. Ignoring this urge makes it more challenging to go later.

Sometimes a child lives a healthy lifestyle but is constipated for circumstantial reasons. They may experience this after taking certain medications, such as pain medications, or just because they are more stressed than usual. However, there is a small possibility the constipation is due to a medical condition like IBS.

Luckily, there are many home remedies for child constipation.


What are some constipation treatment strategies?

1. Alter their diet to introduce more fiber into their diet.

Foods that help constipation

Due to the difference in fiber/nutritional content, your child’s diet should be balanced in fruits and vegetables and brown pasta, rice, and bread rather than white carbs.


How much fiber does my kid need?

Kids less than 3 years of age need around 20 g of fiber a day. Older kids need about 25-30 g, and teens need 30-40g/day.


Which foods help constipation?

Some of my favorite foods for kids with constipation are legumes, mango, berries, peas, dried fruits, and apple and pear (with the peel on).

Great sources of fiber:

• One medium baked sweet potato with peel = about 4 g
• 1 whole-wheat bagel = about 5 g
• One medium pear or apple with skin = about 6 g
• One medium orange = about 3 g

You can find the fiber content of your favorite foods online easily!


2. Make sure they get enough fluid

Most children need a liter or 2 of water per day. Pop and other caffeinated beverages are not suitable substitutes for water because they act as diuretics.


3. Establish a bowel routine

I suggest offering potty time to kids after every meal. Yes, after breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This makes going to the bathroom a set and practiced routine instead of a daily battle. Since I’ve started trying this, my children actually stool several times a day after meals with no struggle. Keep in mind that this routine will be much easier to build if your child has regular meal times.


4. Toilet Training

My recommendation is to start putting children on the toilet after meals as soon as they show any interest. For my kids, that was around 18 months. There were very few successes at that time, but when they did have an “accidental success,” we had a huge party. Then, you reward them with whatever works for them. My older son was rewarded with a single chocolate chip when he had success. My younger son was rewarded with a sticker. As my kids got older, they had more frequent “accidental successes,” and start to connect the dots; when they tried they were rewarded. When they had success, they were rewarded. Again, the goal is a non-stressful training habit. No pressure.


5. Constipation medication

While constipation is simple to treat, it can take months for your child to get back on a routine. This is because once they have been constipated, the bowel starts to stretch out, and this can take several months to go back to normal. Therefore, treating constipation is never a quick fix. In addition to starting more fluid and more fiber, I often use a medication that brings liquid into the poo, called Peg 3350. Some children benefit from a suppository when they are very constipation such as a glycerin suppository or an enema. Ask your doctor about this if you need it.


When to See a Doctor for Your Kid’s Constipation

Home remedies for child constipation won’t work 100% of the time. While constipation does not indicate a severe issue in children most of the time, it is essential to see a doctor if constipation comes with more severe symptoms. Abdomen swelling, bloody stools, fever and vomiting, and unexplained weight loss indicate you should check in with your child’s doctor.

Stay Hydrated with These Healthy Drinks For Kids!

Happy stooling!

Dr. Dina Kulik

Dr. Dina Kulik, MD, FRCPC, PEM
Written By: Dr. Dina Kulik, MD, FRCPC, PEM

Dina is a wife, mother of 4, and adrenaline junky. She loves to share children’s health information from her professional and personal experience. More About Dr Dina.

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