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.


Children can have different types of normal bowel movements, depending on their age. 
  • Newborns have more frequent bowel movements in a day, sometimes with each feed.
  • Babies who are breastfed usually have soft, mustard-coloured stools that can be passed as infrequently as once in several days to as many as 10 to 12 stools per day.
  • Babies drinking formula milk may have stools that are bulkier and tend to have bowel movements daily, or once in 2 days.

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 they show some of the following signs and symptoms:
  • Stomach aches
  • Irregular or infrequent bowel movements
  • Difficulty passing stools
  • Passing small, hard stools
  • Pain and/or slight bleeding at the anus when passing stools due to a minor skin tear
  • Soiling of undergarments in between bowel movements
  • Bloating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Signs of general discomfort (e.g., Crosses their legs, stretches, clenches their buttocks, or twists their body on the floor

Related: Chronic Constipation

Causes of Constipation in Children

1. Changes in Diet: 

As your child's diet changes, so will their bowel movements. If they are not consuming enough fibre-rich foods or fluid, their stools can harden and become more difficult to pass. Constipation is a common issue when children transit from an all-liquid diet to solid foods.

2. Holding the Urge to Pass Stools: 

Your child may not want to disrupt their play, may be uncomfortable to have a bowel movement outside theirr house, 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? Emotional factors may disrupt bowel movements too.

4. Changes in Routine: 

Travelling to a different country or starting out at a new school can disrupt the child's routine and affect their bowel function.

5. Medications: 

Certain medications such as antihistamines, antidepressants, and iron supplements can contribute to constipation.

6. Medical Conditions: 

There are some rare anatomic (e.g., malformation of the intestines) and functional (e.g. irritable bowel syndrome) causes of constipation. Other medical conditions such as thyroid gland disorders or neurological disorders can also lead to constipation. 

Related: 4 Reasons You Keep Going to the Loo


  • Increase fibre intake by offering your child more fibre-rich foods such as wholegrain crackers, fruits, vegetables, and beans.
  • Reduce consumption of junk food as they can slow down digestion.
  • Ensure your child has adequate hydration by drinking more water or milk.
  • Encourage regular physical activity to promote regular bowel movements.
  • Help your child get used to taking "toilet breaks", just like how they need to take time off from play for meals and naps.
  • If your child is taking a medication or supplement that may cause constipation, consult your doctor to switch to alternative medications that may not induce constipation.
  • Be calm and supportive. Reward your child whenever they have a successful bowel movement and do not punish a child who has soiled their underwear.

Bring your child to see a doctor if

  • Their general health, appetite or activity seems to be affected.
  • They have severe tummy pain.
  • Constipation is associated with abdominal distension and vomiting.
  • There is blood in the stool.
  • No bowel movement is noted for more than 4 days.
  • They begin to soil their underclothes.
  • Constipation is associated with leg weakness

Related: Stomach ache

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is meant purely for educational purposes and may not be used as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should seek the advice of your doctor or a qualified healthcare provider before starting any treatment or if you have any questions related to your health, physical fitness or medical condition.

Learn more about the common conditions that children face:

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