Constipation: Brief Version

What is constipation?

When your child is constipated, your child may:

  • Have a hard time having a stool.
  • Have a painful stool.
  • Go 3 or more days without a stool.

This could happen because your child:

  • Does not eat enough fiber.
  • Drinks or eats too many milk products.
  • Does not drink enough liquid.
  • Does not get enough exercise.
  • Remembers painful stools. That can make some children hold back.

How can I take care of my child?

For babies less than 1 year old.

  • If your baby is over 2 months old, give fruit juices (such as apple or pear juice) twice a day.
  • If your baby is over 4 months old, you can add strained, high-fiber baby foods twice a day. Cereals, apricots, prunes, peaches, pears, bananas, apples, beans, or peas are good fiber foods.

For children over 1 year old.

  • Feed your child fruits or vegetables at least 3 times a day.
  • Give more foods rich in bran and fiber. Try bran flakes, bran muffins, shredded wheat, graham crackers, oatmeal, brown rice, or whole wheat bread.
  • Decrease the amount of milk products (such as cow’s milk, ice cream, cheese, and yogurt) to 3 servings per day.

For children who are toilet trained.

  • Have your child sit on the toilet for 10 minutes after meals. This will help your child have a stool every day.

If a change in diet does not solve the problem, you can give a stool softener such as Metamucil or Citrucel. Do not use a suppository or enema unless your doctor tells you to do so.

Call your child’s doctor right away if:

  • Your child starts to have very bad rectal or stomach pain.

Call your child’s doctor during office hours if:

  • Your child has not had a stool after you have fed your child fiber foods and reduced milk products for 3 days.
  • You are using suppositories or enemas for your child.
  • You have other concerns or questions.
Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick,” American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2012-05-15
Last reviewed: 2014-06-10
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 Barton D. Schmitt, MD. All rights reserved.

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