Constipated kids: How to get your toddler to poop
Only when you’re a parent do you feel relief when another person poops.
When our little one experiences constipation, it’s not fun for the whole family. It is pretty common though, especially when starting solids, or toilet training.
Just think of how you feel when you can’t go to the toilet. Grumpy, irritable, bloated, uncomfortable are just some of the words that spring to mind. It’s the same for little kids, they just can’t explain it.
So, we asked Sanitarium senior nutritionist Stephanie Polson to answer the most common questions about kids and constipation, as well as share the dos and don’ts to help keep your child’s digestive system moving.
What are the signs and symptoms of constipation in kids?
For toddlers and preschoolers, signs of constipation include crankiness, bloating, nausea, tummy pain, loss of appetite, hard poop causing discomfort or straining. You may even find them “holding on” by crossing their legs, squatting or avoiding going to the toilet.
Is it normal for a child to poop just once a week?
The range of “normal” is varied when it comes to frequency of bowel movements in children. While some children may poo several times a day, for others it may be a couple of times week.
No matter how often they go, it’s more about how hard their poo is when it’s passed and whether it hurts when they go to the toilet.
What causes constipation?
There are a few reasons. It may be little ones just don’t go to the toilet. It may be they are having way too much fun and are just too busy to go to the toilet, or they may be afraid to go if it hurts or doing a poo has hurt in the past. Constipation can also be the result of being sick and not having enough to drink.
When it comes to diet, not eating enough fibre can cause constipation. In fact, more than a third of young Australian children don’t get enough fibre.
What are the dos and don’ts to keep kids regular?
- Up their fibre. Eating a range of different fibres is key when it comes to good digestive health for kids and adults alike. We can do that by loading up our plates with different wholegrains, veggies, fruits and legumes. As a high-fibre cereal, Weet-Bix Little Kids Essentials is a great start to the day and provides 25% of their fibre needs in one serve. Try a wholegrain bread sandwich or beans on toast at lunch. Snacks can also help with plenty of fruits and veggies to choose from. Even air-popped popcorn is a fibre fix.
- Try natural helpers. The insoluble fibre from wholegrains is more effective when it comes to getting things moving and for preventing constipation. Wholegrains are also far easier to get kids to eat than prunes and prune juice! So that’s food like wholegrain cereals, wholegrain breads, as well as brown rice and legumes.
- Encourage your child to drink up on water. Always have a bottle on hand and role model drinking water yourself. As a general rule, the more fibre you eat, the more water you need to drink.
- Establish a regular toilet routine. Try to make going to the toilet a habit that’s linked with daily activities, like waking up in the morning, or before the bath of an evening. Bowel training requires consistency and encouragement.
- Remember movement encourages movement. Encourage plenty of active play throughout the day.
- See an expert. Visit your GP or an Accredited Practicing Dietitian if diet changes aren’t helping and/or your child is in pain.
- Choose refined foods. Fibre from wholegrains is better than refined grains for digestive wellbeing. When it comes to introducing more wholegrains, start slow to make it easier for kids to accept the swap. Familiar foods like Weet-Bix are a good start – Weet-Bix Little Kids Essentials is 97% wholegrains and high in fibre – or try sandwiches with one wholemeal slice of bread and one white slice – they look great cut into fun shapes which make it hard for little fingers to resist.
- Make them sit on the potty or toilet until they go. Forcing them to try won’t help things along and can lead to negative associations with the toilet.
- Let your child labour. Too much pushing and grunting can cause some nasty side effects like anal fissures. Same applies to adults.
- Use laxatives Unless advised by a GP or dietitian. They don’t address the cause.