What Can I do if My Baby or Child is Constipated?
What Can I do if My Baby or Child is Constipated?
This content has been reviewed and approved for quality and accuracy by James O'Loan (GPhC: 2084549)
Have you gone to change your baby and found that the little present they usually leave for you in their nappy just isn’t there?
Or maybe your child is finding it difficult to go to the toilet and tries to avoid pooping like the plague?
Your child could be suffering with constipation, and today we’re going to find out what that is, why it’s happening, and what you can do to help.
Constipation simply means that you can’t poo, or find it more difficult to poo, and it can happen to people of all ages.
When you’re constipated you may poo less than 3 times a week, which can make you feel very uncomfortable and bunged up.
You may also find that your poo is more difficult to push out, as it’s larger, harder, drier, or even lumpier than usual. Now isn’t that a pleasant thought?
If your baby is constipated, the easiest sign to look for will be when, or if, they’re pooping.
If they’re pooping less than three times a week, then they could be constipated.
Some of the other symptoms babies and toddlers might show when they’re constipated include:
Dry, hard, or pellet-like poo
Unusually smelly wind or poo
Feeling irritable, grumpy, or generally unhappy
Being less hungry than usual
A firm tummy
If your child is struggling with constipation and you think they could benefit from some medication, you’ll need to speak to your doctor.
Laxatives should only be given to babies and children under 12 under doctors orders, as they’ll want to keep an eye on your child's progress.
You’ll usually need a prescription to pick up a child-friendly laxative, and you should not give over the counter laxatives designed for adults to your child unless advised to do so by a medical professional.
If you don’t want to give your child a laxative, there are some home remedies you can use to help get things moving for your child, and you may want to consider giving your child a high-fibre supplement to help restore their regularity.
There are lots of reasons why your child may be constipated, and it usually isn’t anything to worry about.
Some of the most common reasons why both children and adults get constipated include:
Not getting enough fibre in their diet, for example, not eating enough fruit, veg, or cereals
Not drinking enough, or dehydration
Not getting enough exercise
Changing their diet, for example, changing from milk to solid foods
Having problems while potty training
Feeling worried or anxious about something, for example, going to school or nursery, or getting a new little brother or sister
Ignoring the urge to poo or trying not to poo
Side effects of some medications
A change in diet can cause anybody constipation, and babies are no exception.
However, some mothers find that their baby becomes constipated when they switch from breastfeeding to infant formula.
This is because formula can be harder for babies to digest than breast milk, and their digestive systems need a little time to get used to their new diet before getting back to normal.
Babies rarely get constipated when they’re breastfeeding, which is just one of many reasons why breastfeeding is great for your little one!
Some parents might be confused to find that although their baby or toddler is constipated, they may still poo in their pants or fill a nappy.
This can happen even in potty trained children, but don’t worry and don’t get mad at them for soiling themselves, they may not even realise it’s happening!
This problem is called ‘overflow soiling’ and it can happen when a child is constipated and have large or hard poo stuck in their bums.
When fresh poo tries to leave their system, it can leak out around the blocked up hard poo, making it seem like your child has pooped in their pants.
Once the hard poo has cleared out and your little one is in a regular toilet routine, this problem will usually get better.
Constipation is common in toddlers when they’re learning to potty train.
The whole thing is very new for them and it can take some getting used to, as any parent will tell you!
When your child is constipated they may find it painful when they poo, which will stop them from trying, causing a big fuss at potty time.
If your child tries not to poo, this will only make them more constipated, making the pain worse when they try to poo, and on and on until you’re pulling your hair out.
Stay calm! There are things you can do to help both you and your child manage this unhappy potty training constipation loop.
As well as treatment from your doctor or pharmacist, there are a few simple things you can do at home to help your child’s constipation.
Here are a few of our top tips that can help them to get things moving.
Dehydration can be a big cause of constipation, so make sure your little one is well hydrated if you want to keep them regular.
If you’re formula feeding your baby, try giving them some water in between feeds to keep them hydrated.
When your children start to eat solid foods, it’s important to make sure they’re eating a healthy, balanced diet that’s full of nutrients.
Fibre is an essential carbohydrate that’s found in fruits, vegetables, and cereals, and it helps to keep you regular.
If your little one is constipated, make sure they’re getting plenty of fibre from fruits and veggies, and consider using a high fibre supplement for children over 1.
Some of the best fruits that can help to ease constipation include strawberries, apples, pears, prunes and grapes, and feel free to chop them up or puree them if that helps your little one to get their 5 a day.
If your child is old enough to walk by themselves, encourage them to get up and have some fun!
Staying active has a host of benefits as well as being a good way to encourage regular bowel movements.
If your little one is too young to walk, you can help them to get things moving.
Lie them down on their back and move their legs as if they were pedalling a bicycle, and give their little tummy a massage if they’re comfortable enough to let you.
Getting your child used to going on the potty and into a toilet time routine can help to ease constipation.
When they’re sitting comfortably and feeling happy it will make going to the toilet easier.
Make sure to give them lots of encouragement as they potty train and give them as much time as they need to get things done - nobody likes to be rushed!
Feeling worried or anxious can cause constipation in people of all ages, and children are no exception!
Lots of things can cause your kids worry, including nursery or school, moving house, or even just learning how to use the potty.
Ask your child if anything’s bothering them and try to ease their worries, especially if they’re stressed about potty training, and you may find that they’re going to the toilet regularly quite soon!
Although constipation usually won’t require a doctor's visit, there are a few times when you should take your little one to the doctor to make sure everything’s okay.
Make sure to see your GP if your child experiences any of the following:
Their constipation isn’t improving with treatment
They get constipated regularly and it lasts a long time
They’re bloated and it lasts for a long time
You notice blood in their poo
They lose weight unexpectedly
They feel very tired all of the time
Now you should know everything you need to know to help you get your little one through that nast bout of constipation.
Remember, if there’s anything you’re unsure about, contact your doctor or our friendly Chemist 4 U pharmacists, they’ll be happy to give you some good advice, any time!