As parent, there’s nothing more heartbreaking than seeing your child in discomfort of any kind—even if it’s something seemingly as harmless as constipation. I know this well, both as a physician and a mom to two young children. But, while constipation is a very common problem for little ones and adults alike, it shouldn’t be considered the norm. Even constipation in babies and toddlers is often easily treatable, even without the use of over-the-counter medications that contains chemicals we can’t pronounce and have to Google to find out what they are (not to mention what side effects they might bring along!). In other words, Miralax should be the last solution, not first option when treating constipation in kids. I recommend always taking a more integrative or holistic approach, especially when little bodies are involved.
So how do you determine whether or not constipation is to blame for your tiny one’s tummy troubles? Here’s what you should look out for at every age and stage.
If your baby is breastfed, she will likely pass fewer stools than formula-fed babies because breast milk is easier for infants to digest. And if you know your child well, she’s likely to spring it on you when you’re least prepared! If you’re formula-feeding, keep track of how often baby’s going number two. If she’s gone more than 24 hours without stooling, she may be constipated, especially if you’ve changed her diet in any way—for example, switching from breast milk to formula, introducing solids or not incorporating enough fiber-packed fruits and veggies in her diet.
- Excessive fussiness
- Unusually stiff stool
- Slight blood in stool
- Less than one bowel movement a day
What You Can Do About it:
Increase her water consumption. Even though she’s getting plenty of liquid from the breast or bottle, supplementing with an additional 2-4 ounces (¼-½ cup) of water a day can help regulate her bowels.
Give her prune juice. Most babies quickly develop a taste for juice, thanks to its sweetness. And we all know its benefits when it comes to moving along bowel movements. Start small, with 2 ounces after feedings.
Feed her fiber foods. Think bananas, peaches, plums—anything that is fiber-filled will help your solids-eater (4-5 months old)
Move her legs. Sometimes simple leg movements can help stimulate baby’s bowel movements. When she’s lying on her back, move her little legs around like she’s riding a bicycle.
If your baby’s potty-training or already potty-trained (woohoo!), you might notice some hesitation or plain-old protesting when it comes to going number two—not only because he’s not use to it, but because he’s having trouble getting it out. Again, changes in his diet may play a role as well as not drinking enough fluids.
- Stomach pain
- Refusal to poop
- Difficulty potty training
- No stools in three to four days
What You Can Do About it:
Many of the same solutions above will work for your toddler, but here are a few more to try:
- Go easy on allergy-triggering foods. Many food allergies and intolerances are known to cause constipation, for example gluten or soy, so try keeping these off your child’s plate to see if that helps easy up the constipation.
- Offer up a supplements. I like using probiotics with at least 5-10 billion CFU (check the bottle). Look for higher lactobacillus quantities (gut-friendly bacteria) and with strains of bifidobacteria. Another great supplement is magnesium—aim for 25-50 mg of the stuff a day. I recommend citrate or glycinate.
Now that your kiddo might be going to the bathroom on his own, you’re probably less attuned to his every bowel movement. But as parents, we still have our instincts. Oftentimes stress can lead to constipation, too, so if he’s anxious about something like starting a new school or having difficulty with peers, the emotional upset might affect his gut functions.