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Coping with Constipation

by Kids on Track (follow)
Ariella Lew; BSC Paediatric Nurse
Food (16)      Diet (3)      Anxiety (3)      Medication (3)      Toilet (1)      Constipation (1)     

For many of our clients, the side effect of toilet training has been to have their children especially little boys, hold on to their poo and in some cases become very constipated! If this sounds like a battle you are fighting then here is some information that may help you weather the storm!

WHAT IS CONSTIPATION? Constipation is generally defined in one of two ways. The first is when the regularity of bowel movements decreases. In children however, this can be confusing as this naturally occurs with age and “normal “toilet habits vary from child to child. However, 90% of children will go every other day at least. The second definition is when the poo produced is hard and possibly causing pain or straining when your child goes.

WHAT CAUSES CONSTIPATION? Every case is different but there are some things which can be linked to causing constipation.

1) Toilet training - some children rebel against the process and the battle of wills that ensues can result in what was once a voluntary holding due to control or not wanting to poo on strange toilets can become involuntary as the muscles become more stretched and used to it.

2) Diet Changes - Even the smallest change can affect bowel habits.

3) Anxiety - If your child is feeling anxious whether about toilet training or anything else, the muscles can tense up and make regular toilet habits more challenging.

4) Medications - If your child has taken any medicines including antibiotics or even Panadol, this can impact on digestive health and therefore cause constipation.

5) Underlying medical condition - Whilst this is not applicable in most cases, occasionally there is a metabolic or digestive condition which is causing the process not to function as it should!


• Complaints of sore Tummy
• Decreased appetite
• Irritability
• Hard poo when they do go
• Complaining that their bottom hurts
• Crossing legs or dancing from one leg to the other because they are holding on
• Very loose bowel movements which they don't feel and leads to them soiling themselves. (Generally only seen with long term constipation).

WHAT CAN I DO? This depends on how severe the problem is and how aggressive you want to be. Of course, no parent wants to see their child in pain but what seems like a quick fix isn't always. This can be the case with laxatives which should only be used with advice from the doctor. Remember that if you go this route, you need to wean your child off them slowly. Many parents prefer to try easy changes first. Some of these are: Increasing fibre in your child's diet. This involves increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables they eat such as stoned fruit, peas, and broccoli. Whole-wheat carbohydrates will also help more than white rice, pasta or bread. Bananas as well as milk and cheese can contribute to constipation in some children so these are foods to avoid!. Increasing the amount of water your child is getting each day also helps to soften the stool and therefore helps with the discomfort when they do go. The more exercise your child gets the better as this helps to regulate metabolism as well as getting everything in the body moving. It is worth making your child get used to sitting on the toilet a few times a day especially after meals and to make that normal for them whether they go or not - don't ask if they need to go, just say " toilet time!" This helps them to build the toilet in as part of their routine. If they are resistant, you can let them use a timer and they can get up when time is up. Playing games or reading books when they sit there can also help distract them from becoming anxious about the task at hand. Positive reinforcement such as sticker charts or presents for cooperating can also help with some children.

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