1. Diet helps
If your toddler has recently stopped pooing as frequently as he or she once did, you may suspect constipation. Ideally, children should have one bowel movement each day, though some will have more or less. Symptoms of constipation include bowel movements less than three times each week, leakage stains in underwear between bowel movements, blood appearing outside the stool, and stool that is large, dry, and painful when passed. When these problems last for more than two weeks, it may indicate chronic constipation (which you should talk to your child’s pediatrician about). It’s otherwise normal for your child to feel occasionally “backed up.” Luckily, relief for this discomfort may be as simple as a change in your child’s diet.
2. Fiber, fiber, fiber
Fiber is crucial in relieving constipation because it helps soften stool and encourage bowel movements. Feeding your child high-fiber foods, like fruits, veggies, whole grains, high-fiber cereals, and beans, with each meal can help the digestive track get back in order.
3. More fluids
Be sure that while you offer more high-fiber foods, you also offer more fluids (especially water). Without an adequate fluid intake, your child’s stool may become hard, making it more difficult to pass. Pain when passing stool may cause your child to fear bowel movements or even withhold them. A lack of hydration alone may cause constipation, so be sure to offer milk or 100 percent fruit juice during meals and water in between them. Some juices, like a prune, mango, or pear, also contain a natural laxative called sorbitol and may help alleviate the issue.
4. Less dairy
Milk and other dairy products can cause constipation, especially for children who consume excess amounts of them. While your toddler needs the daily allowance of three servings to take in enough calcium, vitamin D, and other nutrients, you may want to limit his or her intake, otherwise.
5. Avoid the processed stuff
Reducing processed foods and sweets in your child’s diet will not only improve his or her overall health, but it will also keep constipation from worsening. Since many processed foods are low in fiber, they don’t encourage bowel health or regular bowel movements. Instead of these options, choose natural foods (like the fruits and veggies mentioned earlier) or make homemade snacks with substitutions like whole grain flour and oats to increase overall fiber intake.
- American Academy of Pediatrics. How do I know if my child is constipated?
American Academy of Pediatrics. Constipation.
Castle and Jacobsen. Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School.
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