Tips for constipation! Here are some tips for managing constipation and foods to help kids poop. Plus, when to worry about constipation in kids.
Constipation is when your child has difficulty passing stools. Often, this is because of dehydration causing stools to be too hard. Constipation can of course be an issue throughout life, even into adulthood, but it can particularly be a problem in babies and toddlers.
A constipated kid isn’t fun. We’ve been there before with our little ones, and thankfully there are a few ways to get past this hurdle.
Here’s what you need to know about constipation in babies and toddlers, including tips for managing it with food first.
When is it considered constipation?
Bowel patterns can be different for all kids. Some kids have bowel movements 1-3 times every day, whereas others may have one every couple of days.
As long as your child can pass stools without straining or pain, any variation of these patterns is considered to be normal.
Note that this is different for infants. It’s often considered normal for babies over 8 weeks old to go 4-5 days without a bowel movement. Breastfed babies who are 2-3 months old may go longer, up to 1-2 weeks at a time. Formula-fed babies poop more. It just depends.
Every kid is different and once solid foods are added, bowel movements tend to become more regular.
Regardless, some of the most common symptoms of constipation in kids include:
- Dry, hard stools that are difficult or painful to pass
- Abdominal cramps, pain, or bloating
- More gassiness than usual
- Poor appetite and eating less than normal
- Changes in effort to have a bowel movement (some kids may be trying not to have one)
- Irritable behavior
- Wetting the bed
- Putting off using the bathroom
- Encopresis, or having bouts of diarrhea resulting from holding stools in the intestinal tract for a long time
If you’re at all concerned about your child’s bowel pattern, it’s always best to speak with their pediatrician. They get this question all the time!
Still, there are a few things you can implement at home to promote regular potty breaks.
Tips for constipation
Constipation can be frustrating for both parents and kids, and it’s normal to want a quick fix.
But it’s important to remember that every child has different bathroom habits, so it is key to pay attention to the habits of your own child, which may look different from someone else’s.
A predominantly whole foods plant-based diet is a good place to start! Adding certain plant foods that are higher in sugar and/or fiber can help alleviate bouts of constipation.
Fiber is what helps to keep you regular and gives your stool the bulk it needs to pass through your system. Fiber-rich foods are great for moments when things seem to be “stuck” in the pipeline.
Additionally, helping your child drink more water can help move things through their intestinal tract. A general recommendation for kids is to drink the same amount of 8 ounce water glasses per day as their age in years (for instance, a 6 year old drinks 6 x 8 oz glasses of water per day).
Sometimes kids fight the urge to go. Putting a routine in place will also help them to understand it’s a normal part of their daily habits. How cool are YOU with poop? Do your babes know it’s normal, or do they hear messages that it’s gross or embarrassing?
Lastly, many parents wonder if they should try fiber supplements. These may be helpful in some instances, but they can also be dehydrating and make constipation worse. It’s best to ask your pediatrician about whether using one is a good idea.
Foods to help kids poop
Including a variety of whole fruits and veggies in your child’s everyday diet is a great habit regardless.
Certain plant foods are especially good at helping your kids stay regular:
- Beans, peas, and lentils
- Fruits and veggies served with their skins left on
- Whole grain breads and pastas in place of white refined versions
- Fruits high in natural sugar, like cherries, and berries
- Pear nectar, which is like juice but with a higher osmotic load that can draw water into the intestines
- Molasses, which can be added to toast, hot cereal, or smoothies
- Stone fruits like apricots and nectarines, which are high in insoluble fiber and sorbitol, a natural laxative
- Prunes (dried plums), which are also high in insoluble fiber and sorbitol
- Ripe bananas, which are high in soluble fiber, great for moving things along
- Kiwi, which according to a recent study has a beneficial effect similar to prunes but with greater taste satisfaction and less side effects like abdominal pain or bloating
- Asparagus and apples, which contain prebiotics that help increase gut microbes, add bulk, and soften stool
Keep in mind that while increasing fiber intake may help treat constipation, too much fiber can also be problematic and backfire. For more on that topic, read this blog post.
If your babe is struggling with irregular bowel movements, try these tips for constipation! Foods to help kids poop can be offered regularly, with special attention to the list above when extra fluid, fiber, or natural sugars may be helpful.
Chime in: Have you used any of these approaches to help your babe’s bowels? What else have you found to be successful?
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Thanks for the guidance. Any tips for getting a 3 year old to drink 3 8 oz glasses of water? Mine maxes out at three sips when I remind her to have a drink of water.
Also, that is so interesting that you included ripe bananas in your list of foods that helps kids go! This is contrary to everything I’ve been told before – bananas have specifically been called out as making constipation worse. Have you heard this at all?