Constipation in children


Constipation is common in children of all ages, particularly at two or three years old when they’re first being potty trained.

What are the signs of constipation in your child?

Though it’s common, constipation is rarely dangerous and often lasts only a short time. Signs your child may be constipated include the following:

• They have fewer than three bowel movements a week

• They have stools that are hard or dry

• They have stools that resemble 'rabbit droppings' or pellets

• They have stools that are lumpy or difficult to pass

• They are experiencing abdominal pain

In some cases children may soil themselves due to 'overflow soiling' (when diarrhoea leaks out around hard constipated stool). Be sure to consult your Doctor if you are concerned about your child’s constipation.

What causes constipation?

There are a variety of reasons why your child may be constipated:

• They may not be drinking enough fluids

• They may not be consuming enough fibre (found in foods like fruits, vegetables or legumes)

• They may be anxious about something, like potty training or starting nursery

What complications can arise from constipation?

If your child has delayed or avoided bowel movements for a long time, complications may arise and you should consult a Doctor. Some of these complications may include haemorrhoids (piles) or faecal impaction, where dry, hard stools accumulate in the rectum.

Take your child to see a Doctor if you think they're constipated. The longer they're constipated, the longer it will take to get them back to normal, regular bowel movements, so it's important to seek treatment early.

How can you prevent your child from being constipated?

In order to help prevent your child from becoming constipated, you can:

• Feed them a wide variety of food, including plenty of high-fibre options such as fruit and vegetables

• Ensure they have plenty to drink. If your child is breastfed, offer them the opportunity to feed often. If they’re being formula fed, you can give them extra drinks of water between their feeds

• Encourage them to exercise regularly and be active

• Get them used to sitting on the toilet or potty on a regular basis – try to establish a routine where they sit there after meals or before bed

• Ensure that they can rest their feet flat on the floor – if not, get them a step for when they’re using the potty or toilet

• Above all, reassure them and make sure they don't feel worried about using the toilet – some children may be nervous about transitioning from using a potty to the toilet, or moving their bowels in new places

Next steps

• Take measures to help prevent your child from becoming constipated, such as feeding them high-fibre foods and encouraging exercise

• Take your child to a Doctor if you think they might be constipated