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How do I relieve my child’s constipation naturally and quickly?
Constipation can be painful and traumatic, especially in children. Irregular potty times, as well as dietary and lifestyle aspects can affect a child’s likelihood for difficult bowel movements. This article will act as a comprehensive guide to getting your child back to regular!
Constipation is caused by the inability to pass hard stools. Ideal stool texture is reliant on dietary fibers and water consumption. This means that constipation can be easily solved by a quick change in diet! With some children, symptoms can be solved within a few hours with dietary supplementation alone. Others may take a few days to get back to regular bowel movements.
- What I Give My Family For Quick Relief
- Infants VS Toddlers and Above
- Treatment for Infants
- Treatment for Toddlers and Children
- A Note About Toilet Time
- Supplementary Treatments
- A Preventive Diet
- Alternative Medicine
What I Give My Family For Quick Relief
I always keep two specific products in my home for those times when my family has occasional constipation.
- I prefer Wellements Baby Move for my babies because it’s organic, Pediatrician recommended, safe for infants and toddlers 6 months or older, and no harsh laxatives! I don’t have to worry about unwanted extras because it is FREE FROM Gluten, Dairy, Soy, Dyes, Parabens, Alcohol, Artificial Colors, Artificial Flavors, and Preservatives. (Which means you do have to keep it in the frig!)
- As for my older childer (12+) including hubby and myself, we use PoopDoc’s Constipation Relief Formula #1! This stuff outperforms ALL constipation products whether they are over-the-counter, RX or even herbal. I love that there are no negative side effects such as cramping, bloating, stomach aches, etc.
Infants VS Toddlers and Above
Treatments vary from pre-weaned to post-weaned children and up, varying from treatment type to treatment dosage. This article will focus on a crunchy parent’s method for relieving their child’s constipation, with no prescription laxatives or medications. However, should your child’s symptoms not be relieved by the options listed here, please seek out assistance from your child’s doctor.
Symptoms — What to look out for!
A child experiencing constipation will show a variety of symptoms; however, most telling will be their bowel movement frequency and stool texture.
For infants, be on the lookout for …
- painful defecation that causes your child to cry or arch their back
- less frequent bowel movements
- hard stool
For toddlers and above, keep an eye out for the following:
- 2 or fewer bowel movements per week
- hard stools
- painful stool passage
- blood present when wiping
- tender or firm abdomen area
- anxiety about going to the bathroom (because of associated pain)
Treatment for Infants
The treatment for pre-weaned children is simple: increase their water consumption. Note that a child on formula should not have their formula diluted with extra water. Rather, offer water between feedings to help relieve their constipation symptoms.
Children who are being weaned from a liquid diet to solid foods have a higher chance of developing constipation due to dietary changes. To relieve these symptoms, Jill from JillCastle.com recommends that prune juice be added to their formula. “I added an ounce of prune juice to her formula every day as we were transitioning to solid food, just to keep things moving along.”
Treatment for Toddlers and Children
Children can be picky, picky, picky! That’s not new—parents have been dealing with this for ages. This picky behavior can easily lead to dietary imbalances, which can cause constipation! A lack of fiber, vitamins, and hydration can all lead to poor stool texture. The best solution to constipation is prevention, but if your child is experiencing difficult bowel movements, here is a list of foods that will encourage stool release.
The most famous example: prunes!
Prunes, as well as other similar fruits, contain the sugar sorbitol which encourages fluid retention in the bowels, ultimately helping to soften stool and flush it out! Prunes can be administered dried, puréed, or in juice form!
If your child dislikes the taste of prune juice, mix it with other juices, such as apple juice or grape juice. This will make the flavor more palatable.
Other fruit juices that provide relief are pear juice and white grape juice. Pear nectar is also proven to provide constipation relief. Fruit juice dosage is recommended 4 oz. or less per day.
There are plenty of other options than prunes alone. Increasing whole grains, seeds, and beans, as well as fruit and other veggies, will all benefit their symptoms. However, do not offer too much of these foods. An excessive amount of fiber will block up your child even more, and cause painful bloating and gas buildup. The proper daily fiber intake for children is their age + 5 grams. A two-year-old, for example, would need 7 grams/day, while a 9-year-old would need 14 grams. Be sure to encourage these foods with plenty of water and fruit juice, to help provide balanced relief.
Fruits (mashed, chopped, or whole depending on the age of your child):
- spinach and other greens
- sweet potato
Grains and Other:
- whole grain pasta
- whole grain bread
- brown rice
- seeds (chia, poppy, sesame, flax, etc. all of which can be ground with a coffee grinder and added to hot cereal)
- beans, peas, lentils
- shirataki noodles (high in glucomannan)
- molasses (high in magnesium)
A Note About Toilet Time
Regular potty time, as well as positive reinforcement, can help relieve chronic constipation symptoms. Children should be allowed 10 minutes or more during potty time to ensure full opportunity to clear their bowels. But what kid can sit happily for 10 minutes! To create positivity around toilet time, offer encouragements to your children. Keep a potty log, and award stickers for every attempt they make, culminating in a reward after a set amount of attempts. Never force your child into potty time, as this can create negativity around the activity, furthering their fear and discomfort.
Children should be kept on a regular bathroom schedule. Children should be taken to the bathroom 30 minutes within the time after they wake up and after every meal. This regiment should be regular and predictable and should be kept up even on vacations. If your child regularly denies potty time, change your methods! Do not ask, “Would you like to use the bathroom?” or “Do you need to go potty?” Rather, inform: “It’s time to go to the bathroom!” This simple change will encourage the routine, and allow for regular bowel movements—ultimately working to prevent constipation.
If your child is still reluctant and refuses to go to the bathroom due to painful constipation symptoms, try to help them understand what’s going on. Draw a picture or tell a story about how the stool is like a car on a highway or a boat on a river! It can get stopped by a traffic jam, or by a beaver dam, but it has to keep going! Helping your child understand that going to the bathroom will relieve their pain may make them feel more brave, despite the past discomforts.
In addition to dietary changes and increasing water intake, constipation symptoms can also be relieved through physical cures: exercise and massage.
Exercise! Get your child’s body moving, and it will get their bowels moving too! To help relieve your child’s constipation symptoms and abdominal pain, go on a short walk outdoors with them.
Additionally, massage can help relieve abdominal pain as well as stimulate the bowel muscles to encourage stool passage. Gentle rubbing of the child’s abdominal area—their lower tummy especially—can help relieve constipation systems.
For infants, the same massaging, as well as bicycles, can help relieve constipation. Gentle massaging of the child’s anus as well as inserting a cotton swab gently inside the anus to mimic stool passage can also provide relief. When done delicately, it is a completely safe measure.
A Preventive Diet
If constipation is a recurring problem with your child, consider adding a daily probiotic regiment. Probiotics have been shown to help promote good gut bacteria that regulate healthy stool production and bowel movements. Foods to add to your child’s diet would be yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi. If your child is resistant to some of these foods—some of us parents might be just as hesitant to chow down on a portion of smelly sauerkraut!—consider adding a probiotic supplement.
Other preventive measures would be ensuring proper hydration, a diet rich in soluble and insoluble fiber, as well as regular exercise. Just be sure to gradually add fiber into their diet: a sudden increase in fiber consumption can cause hard stools that will be difficult to pass.
If your child is experiencing regular constipation symptoms, consider cutting out dairy products for a time. Dairy, such as milk and cheese, can exacerbate existing constipation symptoms, or cause symptoms in children with lactose intolerance. Try cutting out all dairy for a few weeks and if symptoms are relieved, consider cutting out dairy for good!
If dietary changes alone do not provide relief for your child, consult with your doctor about the following herbal remedies:
Senna is an herbal laxative that is safe for children. Senna tea and other herbal forms are not FDA regulated; however, senna tablets or syrup are proven safe, such as the brand name Senekot. Such medications can be obtained over-the-counter or online. Please consult a doctor before adding to your child’s treatment plan.
Magnesium Citrate has been proven to relieve constipation symptoms. Supplements are available online or over-the-counter, but magnesium can also be supplemented in the diet through molasses (which can be added to oatmeal or smoothies!)