Constipation is a frustrating problem for many parents. One problem is that it is often mistaken for a potty training problem in younger kids and for older children, you usually don't know how often they are having bowel movements.
What causes constipation?
For the average child, constipation is usually caused by a combination of a high fat and low fiber diet. This might include drinking too much whole milk, eating a lot of other dairy products, and not eating a lot of fruits and vegetables
Some quick and easy changes to your child's diet that may make it less constipating can include:
- changing to low fat milk or soy milk (as long as your child is at least two years old), both of which can be less constipating than whole milk
- limiting your child's intake of milk to about 16 ounces a day
- avoiding other foods that are traditionally thought to be constipating, including:
- most dairy products, such as cheese, yogurt, ice cream, and as already mentioned, milk. If limiting dairy products because of constipation, be sure to find an alternative source of calcium, such as calcium fortified orange juice.
- cooked carrots
- most high fat foods, such as french fries, and processed foods
- white rice
- increasing the amount of fiber and bran in your child's diet by feeding him more high fiber foods
- increasing your child's intake of fluid each day, especially water and apple, pear, and/or prune juice
Foods and drinks that are often thought to help prevent constipation include:
- many fresh fruits that you eat with the skin on, including apples, grapes, peaches, etc. (and then be sure to actually eat the skin and not peel the fruit)
- many fresh fruits with high water content, such as watermelon and cantaloupe
- raw vegetables
- legumes (beans)
- prunes and figs
- foods made with whole grains (whole wheat bread, etc)
- shredded wheat
- popcorn (this is a choking hazard for younger kids though)
- bran cereals and bran muffins
- fiber wafers
- vegetable soup
Constipation Treatment Tips
As I already mentioned, constipation can be a frustrating problem for parents. These treatment tips will hopefully help you better manage your child's constipation. Also, be sure to talk to your child's Pediatrician for more help.
- Learn to read food labels to choose foods that are high in fiber.
- Consider using a stool softener or laxative if dietary changes are not quickly helping your child's constipation. Although there are many OTC medications available, Miralax (polyethylene glycol) is a popular option, as it has no taste or odor, works well, and is tolerated by most children.
- A schedule of having your child trying to have a bowel movement twice a day can be helpful to get him in the habit of going. Choose a time, such as right after meals, when he is most likely to have a bowel movement, don't force him, and simply encourage him to try to go for a few minutes.
- Regular exercise can sometimes help children have more regular bowel movements.
- Be sure to see if constipation is listed as a side effect of any medicines that your child takes on a regular basis.
- Encopresis, in which your child has stooling accidents, can be a complication of constipation.
- Keep in mind that constipation often takes months and months (if not longer) to correct, that constipation can sometimes be caused by something more serious than a simple diet problem, and constipation sometimes requires an evaluation by a Pediatric Gastroenterologist for more help.