Constipation

What is constipation?

Constipation is when a baby or child has very hard stools, and has fewer bowel movements than he normally does. All babies are different – and baby bowel patterns are no exception. Because of this, it’s sometimes hard to tell if your baby is constipated. Infants, especially breast fed infants, may go a couple of days without a bowel movement and still not be constipated. Another might have relatively frequent bowel movements, but have difficulty passing stool. If stools are hard, dry and painful to pass, that’s constipation. In toddlers and older children, look for episodes of crampy abdominal pain, which go away after a large bowel movement.

 

Signs that a child has constipation

  • Having fewer bowel movements than normal. The number of bowel movements may be different for each child. But a change in what is normal for your child may mean there is a problem
  • Passing a stool that is hard and sometimes large
  • Having bowel movements that are difficult or painful to push out
  • An infant who is constipated usually strains more than other babies to have a bowel movement
  • The stool may be formed and hard like small pebbles
  • Sometimes solid stool stays inside and liquid stool like diarrhoea may pass out around it
  • Your child’s abdomen can become swollen with gas, and painful cramps can result from constipation.

What causes constipation?

Stool gets hard and dry when the large intestine or colon absorbs too much water. Normally, as food moves through the colon, the colon absorbs water while it makes stool. Muscle movements push the stool toward the rectum. When the stool gets to the rectum, most of the water has been soaked up. The stool is now solid. If your child has constipation, the colon’s muscle movements are too slow. This makes the stool move through the colon too slowly. The colon absorbs too much water. The stool gets very hard and dry. Once a child becomes constipated, the problem can quickly get worse. Hard, dry stools can be painful to push out. So, the child may stop going to the bathroom because it hurts. Over time, the colon will not be able to sense that stool is there.

 

Some common diet and lifestyle causes include

Diet

  • Eating too many foods that are high in fat and low in fibre. These include fast foods, junk foods, and soft drinks
  • Not drinking enough water and other fluids
  • Having a change in diet. This includes when babies change from breast milk to formula, or when they start eating solid foods.

Lack of exercise

  • Children who watch a lot of TV and play video games don’t get enough exercise
  • Exercise helps move digested food through the intestines

Emotional issues

  • Not wanting to use public bathrooms. Children may then hold in their bowel movements, causing constipation
  • Going through toilet training. This can be a difficult time for many toddlers
  • Having power struggles with parents. Toddlers may hold in their bowel movements on purpose
  • Feeling stressed because of school, friends, or family.

 

Treatment

  • If your baby is old enough to eat strained foods you may give him fruits and vegetables
  • You may give fruit juices – prune, pear, cherry, or apple
  • Give a probiotic designed for constipation
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