Toddler Constipation – Causes and 5 Helpful Remedies

Toddler Constipation – Causes and 5 Helpful Remedies

Just when you think you’ve figured out your little one they throw you for a loop.

Toddler constipation can appear out of nowhere for some. Seeing your little one upset and not knowing how to help them can be a dreadful feeling.

For a few toddlers, it is something that carried on from infancy.

While you might be used to the unpleasant troubles of constipation, the dreadful feeling is no less.

With toddler constipation being a common problem we might assume it is a normal stage that we must deal with. Though it is common, chronic toddler constipation isn’t a normal stage that you can’t find relief from. With remedies and diet changes we are often able to keep toddler constipation away.

Why Do So Many Toddlers Suffer From Constipation?

The transition from infant to toddler is a time of many changes. Your little one is becoming more aware of their body, they’re trying new foods and they’re experiencing new social expectations. All of these things can contribute to constipation.

Here are a few things that can cause toddler constipation:

  • Potty/toilet training – some toddlers will begin to hold their bowel movements when toilet training as they are fearful of using the toilet. Holding in a bowel movement can cause it to become hard to pass and lead to constipation
  • Eating too many binding foods – bananas, dairy, processed grains can contribute to constipation
  • Food sensitivities or an intolerance – if your toddler is sensitive or intolerant to a food they might have difficulty digesting it
  • Dehydration – if your toddler is not drinking enough water
  • Painful bowel movements – having one painful bowel movement that can cause a rectal or anal tear can cause toddlers to instinctively hold in future bowel movements to avoid pain. This can create an unfortunate cycle of constipation.

If you suspect your toddler is experiencing constipation you should speak with their doctor or nurse. Leading up to their appointment, keeping a food diary might aid in their doctor’s evaluation. You will also want to keep note of their typical bowel habits and what seems to have changed.

Once you have an idea of what is going on, you may be uncertain what remedies exist. Your doctor will likely provide information and suggestions for treating constipation. You might also find relief for your little one with these 5 remedies:

#1: Take The Pressure Off Toilet/Potty Training

The idea of being diaper/nappy free is quite appealing. Unfortunately, sometimes only the parents find this appealing while the toddler wants little to nothing to do with the toilet.

When a toddler feels pressured to use a potty, they might begin holding in their poo. If they hold it in, it becomes difficult to pass and can be painful. If it is painful one time, they may instinctively hold it in again, creating a bad cycle of constipation.

Toddlers might also feel uncomfortable using a toilet. If their feet aren’t on the ground and there’s a lot of space below, sitting on the toilet can feel insecure. If there’s any splashing below, that can also make them uncomfortable.

If you believe toilet training might be contributing to constipation, there are a few things you can try. First, be sure they are really showing signs of readiness. Toilet training too soon can cause unnecessary stress for both parents and child.

If your toddler is showing signs of readiness, take things slowly. Let them take the lead and keep the pressure down.

Finally, consider using a toddler sized potty rather than a seat on the toilet. When a toddler can reach the toilet with little assistance and feel comfortable when sitting, they might be less likely to hold their bowel movements in.

#2: Avoid Or Limit Binding Foods

Toddlers are often experiencing a variety of new foods. Some of those foods can lead to constipation. Dairy, processed grains, bananas and other foods can be binding.

Many toddlers are weaning or weaned from breast milk – an easily digested food – to difficult to digest dairy products. While dairy products from cows is a source of protein, calcium and healthy fats, cows’ milk is designed to be digested by baby cows. Little tummies aren’t always able to easily digest dairy products.

Providing adequate healthy fats, protein and calcium for your toddler is important. If you choose to use dairy products to provide these, be sure to keep an eye on its impact on constipation. If you believe dairy is contributing to constipation, meet with a dietician to help you come up with a diet that provides adequate nutrition with limited dairy.

Processed grains are often low in nutrition and fiber making them difficult to digest. Try to serve only whole grains to your toddler and limit processed grains like white breads, crackers and cereals.

Other foods, like bananas can be binding. Bananas are a healthy food, but over consumption can lead to constipation in some toddlers.

#3: Make Sure Your Toddler Is Well Hydrated

Toddlers often get so wrapped up in play that they can miss their body’s signals. The signal for thirst might be ignored, or they might take a little sip and go back to playing. It can be difficult at times to keep a toddler hydrated but it is essential to preventing constipation.

If you are breastfeeding your toddler, allowing frequent nursing sessions can help a toddler prone to constipation that is triggered or worsened by dehydration.

Keeping a cup of water easily accessible might help your toddler stay hydrated. If they don’t need to stop playing and communicate the need for a drink they may be more likely to listen to their body’s cues.

Offer foods with a high water content such as grapes, watermelon and cucumbers. These foods can help them stay hydrated even when they aren’t drinking as much as they should.

#4: Offer Foods High In Fiber

Fiber is necessary for good digestion. Offering a healthy whole foods diet can help ensure your toddler gets adequate fiber to help treat and prevent constipation.

Some whole foods have more fiber than others. If your toddler is prone to constipation, here are some high fiber foods to consider:

  • Pears
  • Carrots
  • Broccoli
  • Whole grains
  • Quinoa
  • Apples
  • Legumes
  • Beans
  • Parsnips
  • Spinach

If your little one is a bit of a picky eater, you might have success offering a blended smoothie with some of the above foods. Blended smoothies – not juices – contain all the fiber and nutrients the fruit had while whole. Adding fruit to veggies can help create an appetizing smoothie filled with plenty of fiber.

#5: Check For Food Sensitivities or Intolerences

If your child suffers from chronic constipation your doctor will likely look into food sensitivities or intolerences.

When a child has a sensitivity or intolerance they’re unable to easily digest the offending food. If a food sensitivity or intolerance is found, eliminating that food from their diet will likely help alleviate constipation.

Secondary lactose intolerance can also lead to constipation. This occurs after the gut has been damaged by illness or eating a food one is sensitive to.

If your child has any intolerences, you might want to consider prebiotic and probiotic use to help heal any gut damage that occurred while eating the offending foods. You can discuss this with your child’s doctor or naturopath.

Other Things To Consider

Anytime you have concerns about your child’s wellbeing, reaching out to their doctor or nurse is a good first step. If diet changes and hydration aren’t alleviating constipation your doctor might look into other causes. Chronic constipation, though common, isn’t a normal stage.

  • If your child shows any signs of gluten intolerance they might be checked for celiacs disease
  • If constipation is present with other concerns they might check their thyroid function
  • Many parents find their toddler has less constipation when receiving regular chiropractic care

Generally, constipation is easily remedied with diet and lifestyle changes. If that isn’t the case for your child, be persistent in working with their doctor to find a solution.

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Maria Silver Pyanov is a mama of four energetic boys and one unique little girl. She is also a doula and childbirth educator. She's an advocate for birth options, and adequate prenatal care and support. She believes in the importance of rebuilding the village so no parent feels unsupported.

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