Constipation in Children

What causes constipation in children? Read on and learn all you need to know about constipation in children, what you can do to prevent it and common treatments

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Baby and Child Constipation Symptoms

Children can have varying bowel movements, depending on their age. 

Newborns have more frequent bowel movements in a day, sometimes with each feed.
Breastfed babies may have bowel movements without pain up to 7 days apart, as breastmilk is more easily digested and absorbed by the body. Breastfeeding stools can range from as infrequent as once in several days to as many as 10 to 12 stools per day. Your baby’s stool is likely to be soft and the colour of mustard.
Babies drinking formula milk may have stools that are bulkier.

You may be alarmed that your baby is not passing motion for days, or think that your child should have a bowel movement each day. However, the frequency of bowel movement is not a good indicator of constipation. Rather, it is the ease of passing motion and the consistency of his stools that matter.

Your child may have constipation if he experiences any of the following:
His bowel movements are irregular or less frequent than usual.
He has difficulty passing stools which are often harder than usual.
He complains of a stomach ache, or pain at the anus when passing stools. There could be slight bleeding due to a minor tear at the anus.

Related: Chronic Constipation

What Causes Constipation in Young Children

1. Diet – as your child’s diet changes, so does his bowel movements. If he is not taking enough fibre or fluid, his stools can harden and become more difficult to pass out.
2. Holding the urge to go – your child may not want to disrupt his play, or is afraid of passing stools due to an earlier painful episode. Frequent holding back of bowel movements can lead to harder stools.
3. Emotional anxieties – are you trying to potty train your child too early? Or is there a new baby in the family, or a new pre-school to adapt to? Emotional factors may disrupt bowel movements too.

Related: 4 Reasons You Keep Going to the Loo

What Can You Do If Your Child Has Constipation

More fibre helps – offer your child more fibre-rich food such as wholegrain crackers, fruit and vegetables.
More water please – let your child drink more water or milk to increase the fluid in his diet.
Exercise more – being active promotes regular bowel movements.
Make time for the potty or toilet – help your child get used to taking “toilet breaks”, just like how he also needs to take time off from play for meals and naps.
Be patient and keep calm – being anxious over your child’s bowel movements or potty training can be counterproductive.

Related: Stomach ache

Learn more about the common conditions that children face:

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Constipation in Children

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