A. Probably, although the definition of constipation has more to do with whether or not a child's bowel movements are hard and/or painful then how often she is having them. If she is having infrequent bowel movements but they are soft, then she isn't constipated. Still, with only 1 or 2 bowel movements a week, she is probably having bowel movements that are very hard or large or like little balls or pellets, and if she is, then she is constipated.
The usual factors that cause children to become constipated include drinking too much cow's milk, having a diet low in fiber and not drinking enough fluids.
In addition to your child's diet, the other main factor that contributes to constipation is having infrequent bowel movements. This often occurs after a child has had a large, hard and painful bowel movement, which can occasionally occur in anyone. After this, because she may associate having a bowel movement with pain, she will try to hold her stools. This creates a viscous cycle, where bowel movements are painful, so she holds them in, causing her stools to be even larger and harder, which causes more pain when it finally does pass. Many parents mistake the behaviors that children develop to hold in stool as straining to have a bowel movement, but they are usually stiffening their muscles or fidgeting as an attempt to hold their stool in and avoid a painful bowel movement.
Treating Constipation with Dietary Modifications
The ultimate goal in treating constipation is for your child to have a soft bowel movement each day.
One of the main ways to prevent and treat constipation is by modifying your child's diet. This includes decreasing foods that are constipating, including cow's milk, bananas, yogurt, cheese, cooked carrots and other foods that are low in fiber. For children that drink a lot of milk, soy milk is a good alternative, as it is usually much less constipating than cow's milk.
Another important dietary change is increasing the amount of fiber in your child's diet. How much fiber does your child need? The usual recommendation is that children should have 5-6 grams of fiber plus their age in years each day. So a 4 year old should have 9-10 grams of fiber each day.
It can be helpful to learn to read nutrition labels to choose foods that are high in fiber. Fruits and vegetables, especially if they are raw and unpeeled, are good choices. Vegetables that are particularly high in fiber include beans, especially baked, kidney, navy, pinto and lima beans, sweet potatoes, peas, turnip greens and raw tomatoes.
Other foods that are good for children with constipation include vegetable soups (lots of fiber and added fluid), and popcorn. Extra bran can also be helpful, including bran cereals, bran muffins, shredded wheat, graham crackers, and whole wheat bread.
It is also important to increase the amount of fluids that your child is drinking. He should have a minimum of 2-3 glasses of water or fruit juices each day. Apple juice, pear and prune juice, or other juices high in sorbitol, are good choices.