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Constipation in toddlers

Toddlers are usually very fussy by nature and their moods and behavior can vary by the minute. Also, the parents can never be sure about their whims

Even when it comes to something as simple as going to the toilet, the parents may not know what to expect. Most toddlers have go to the bathroom as per the demands of the body, while others may not visit the bathroom for even three days at a stretch, irrespective of whether they have a bowel movement or not.

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When a toddler has not visited the bathroom during the day, the parents may become worried. But it should not lead to any unnecessary panic as constipation in toddlers does not result in any serious health consequences. Most cases of constipation in toddlers result from dietary causes or from refusal to have a bowel movement.

Symptoms of constipation in toddlers

  • The average toddler has a bowel movement at least once in a day.
  • If any child has bowel movement less than three times a week, and if the stool of such a toddler is hard and difficult to pass, then it can be said that the child is constipated.
  • As per the American Academy of Pediatrics, toddlers with stools that are large, dry and hard; and which are accompanied by painful bowel movements and blood in the fecal material, then that child is constipated
  • Constipation in toddlers is not a cause for undue worry. But if the constipation continues for two weeks or more, then it may be called as chronic constipation. In that case one should consult a pediatrician.

As per the doctor’s advice, the mother should keep watch on the bowel movements of the toddler and also observe for other symptoms, as shown below which occur along with constipation.

  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • General irritability
  • Bloating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Crying out in pain during bowel movements
  • Bits of liquid stool in underwear or diaper, indicating soiling.
  • Toddler avoiding the toilet

Causes of constipation in toddlers

There are several causes for constipation in toddlers that range from diet to medications. Some of the most common causes are discussed below:

  • The diet: Intake of only processed foods and sweets which are poor in fiber. Not consuming enough fluids can cause constipation as it makes the stool harder. Change of diet such as changing from mother’s milk to cow’s milk or to solid diets or new foods.
  • Fear of pain and discomfort: A toddler’s past experience of pain while making bowel movements may cause some children to avoid the toilet thinking that it may hurt once again. This hold up of stool causes it to collect in the lower part of the bowel, making it harder and bigger resulting in increased difficulty for the stool to pass
  • Holding it in: At the young age of 2 years, most children find more enjoyment in playing with the toys than visiting the toilet. Some children feel embarrassed or afraid and feel uncomfortable in going to the toilet. This can result in constipation in toddlers
  • Change in routine: Moving on tour or a vacation and thus away from their normal toilet can make the toddlers unwilling and uncomfortable to go bathroom.
  • Illness: Illness can affect the appetite and the intake of diet which in turn cause the constipation.
  • Lack of physical activities: Exercise and physical activities helps the movement of food through the digestive system, and lack of it can cause constipation in toddlers
  • Anatomical problems: In rare cases, physical abnormalities in intestines, rectum or anus can cause constipation in toddlers. Also, cerebral palsy and other nervous system conditions may cause constipation.
  • Medications: Certain medications and the supplements can cause toddler constipation.

Treatment for constipation in toddlers

Some of the ways to treat constipation in toddlers are listed below:

  • Changes in diet: Increase the intake of fluids and fiber foods such as fruits, fruit juices, vegetables, beans, whole grain breads and cereals. Avoid fatty foods that are poor in fiber. Such changes in diet can soften the stools, allowing them to easily pass through.
  • Improving bowel habits: Encourage the toddler to use the bathroom at regular intervals. Create a conducive and positive atmosphere in the bathroom that is to the liking of the toddler. All efforts of the toddler to regularly have bowel movements should be rewarded by the parents
  • Exercise and other physical activities: Allow the toddler to play at least one hour a day. Moving the body results in the movement of the bowels and can thus aid in the resolution of constipation in toddlers
  • Medications: In case, the constipation in toddler is caused due to consumption of certain drugs, then parents must consult a doctor before stopping its intake. The doctor may also prescribe certain other medications to treat constipation in toddlers.
  • Ground flaxseed meal –Grounded Flax is known to be a fiber-rich laxative and if you sprinkle it in the toddler’s food, it can result in better bowel movement. Just make sure that you do use unground flaxseeds because it can cause more harm to the system.  If the toddler is more than two years or more, one teaspoon per day is enough.
  • Yoga- There is a position in Yoga known as ‘apanasana’ which is done by moving the knees to the chest, this can help in good bowel movements to adults as well as toddlers.  You have to lay the toddler on its back and lower the legs straight and press the knees to the chest area. Do this five times and you can find that not only the abdominal reasons become strong but even there is better bowel movement for toddlers, without constipation issues.
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