Chronic Constipation in Toddlers
Answers & Solutions

Chronic constipation in toddlers between 2 to 5 years old occurs all too often. This is the age when toilet training and numerous developmental changes are taking place.

Let's start by looking at why constipation is a problem for toddlers.


Withholding bowel movements

It is quite common for toddlers to withhold their bowel movements. Here are some reasons why they may do this:

  • They are too interested in other activities to take time to sit on the potty

  • They have already experienced a difficult to pass stool, and want to avoid the pain

  • They are away from home in an unfamiliar surrounding

  • They find it embarrassing to have someone else watch as they “go”

  • They are rebelling against the command to sit on the potty

Rebellion against control

Dr Isadore Rosenfeld, M.D. states that "youngsters may suffer from constipation because of what they do or do not eat, as well as parental over-concern with bowel habits."

Ellyn, another constipation expert, says:

"Let me remind you that your child's toileting habits require a
division of responsibility: you provide the toilet and he makes use of it.

Children are capable of withholding their bowel movements if they get 
the message that you are making it too much your business.

As with eating, if you get in a struggle about your child's bowel habits, 
your child will be more interested in the struggle with you 
than he will be in taking care of the job himself."

Click here
 for some ways you can help your child to avoid potty training constipation.

Avoiding BM's because of pain

When a child decides to withhold bowel movements, stool stays in the large intestine. This is where they become more dry, firm and difficult to pass. Chronic constipation in toddlers can result.

If a child decides to withhold one bowel movement, it can cause the next one to be painful. This might encourage the child to keep withholding a bowel movement, so that he won't experience any more pain.

Other Causes of Childhood Constipation

Poor food choices

Fast foods, processed foods and sweets are perhaps the number one cause of chronic constipation in toddlers.

Since these foods often don’t have a lot of nutrients, they are naturally bland. So a lot of sugar and salt are added to make them taste better – in fact, to make them addictive.

When it comes to constipation, fast foods and processed foods have 3 strikes against them.

  1. Sugar, which promotes constipation

  2. Salt, which promotes constipation

  3. Fiber has been processed out, but is needed for the forming a proper stool

Poor drink choices

  • Fruit drinks and even fruit juices are high in sugar, and should be avoided.

  • Soft drinks and other similar drinks are also high in sugar.

  • Proteins in pasteurized milk are hard for children and adults to digest, which in turn slows down the bowel. Raw milk from a trusted source is full of probiotics and enzymes needed to break down milk proteins.

Getting Rid of Childhood Constipation

Fortunately, chronic constipation in toddlers can be short-term and easily remedied. 

Water, best for hydration

As most people know, the above drink choices are not good choices for hydrating the body or for helping to cleanse the body. The best drink for hydration is water.

If parents and other authority figures will set an example of drinking water instead of other drinks, it won’t be long till children are willing to follow along.

Foods and drinks high in fiber

For mild constipation, add fiber to your child's diet.

According to Ellyn Satter in her book Child of Mine, a moderate amount of fiber in the diet promotes good bowel function in children and in adults as well.

If a diet has a reasonable amount of fiber, a stool will be formed in a way that is soft and bulky and will make it easy to pass without a lot of straining.  

  • Give daily servings of raw bran (which can be mashed with a banana for younger children)

  • Give them lots of fruits and vegetables

This will usually take care of the problem of chronic constipation in toddlers

The helpfulness of magnesium

Of all the things I have discovered about treating constipation, I haven’t found anything that compares with  taking a good valuable trace minerals

  • For most children, magnesium can help to restore their bowels to normal function

  • Use of laxatives

    Doctors may suggest giving a rectal suppository or stool softener, such as mineral oil, to ease the passage of the bowel movements, and take away any fear your child may have about a painful experience.

    Never give your child either of these remedies unless you have consulted with your doctor.

    Overall, I agree with Dr. Rosenfeld's prescription for chronic constipation in toddlers:  Fiber, water, exercise and going to the bathroom when your body tells you to.

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