What Causes Constipation in Kids - Symptoms and Remedies
Constipation in children is more common than you’d think. It is characterized by hard stools and infrequent bowel movements. Having got the dry part over, in mom parlance, it is a state when your baby is cranky, does not take kindly to sitting on the toilet and complains of a tummy ache.
In most cases the constipation is temporary and while it causes discomfort, it can be managed quite easily with home remedies.
Symptoms of Constipation
Common causes that may cause constipation in young children is a change in diet or the early toilet training days. A child who is being weaned often does not like the taste or texture of solid foods and the foods that we give them at this stage may be lacking fiber. Remember, that face your baby made when she spat out the Wheat Daliya you gave her!
Toilet training can be traumatizing for a child as she does not like disruption from routine. She may refuse to use the potty and this may lead to stools turning dry and hard. Once the process is started, the situation becomes worse day by day. Slowly the motion of passing stool becomes painful and you may find your little one holding on and refusing to go to the toilet. You may notice these symptoms that characterize constipation:
- Does your baby have less than 3 bowel movements in a week, and that too looks painful? It may be a sign of constipation.
- The stools may become hard, dry or even too large in diameter to pass without applying force. This may make going to the toilet painful. You might find your munchkin crying or resisting potty time.
- Your little one may also complain of abdominal pain.
- Another sign that you need to check on your infant’s bathroom habits is if you find smears of clayey or liquid stool on your child’s diaper or underwear. This is a sure sign that stool is backed up in the rectum and needs action from your side to help the baby pass stool.
- You might want to get medical attention if you see blood on the surface of the stool.
There might be a serious underlying medical condition if constipation is accompanied by fever or vomiting. If your baby has lost a lot of weight or has abdominal swelling it might be a matter of concern and you should seek a doctor’s opinion immediately. Be careful when you dress your toddler and check for tears around the anus or any mass protruding out, it could be a sign of anal fissures or rectal prolapse. There are very few chances of these happening, so please do not get hyper!
(Also read - 11 Tips to Increase Baby Weight)
Causes of constipation
There are many minor and major causes of constipation in young children and mothers should be aware of these to help avoid this painful condition!
- The child may try and withhold the urge to use the potty as she simply does not want to take a break from play. It seems trivial but it is a big deal for kids who are enjoying themselves. The kid may also not want to use a public toilet if you are out as they are creatures of habit. Another reason for withholding stool is habitual constipation. Some kids may develop a fear towards passing stool if they have encountered pain on an earlier occasion.
- Toilet training can become a real pain for some parents. Children may resist the process and refuse to poop, starting a battle of wills. This may quickly escalate into a habit and may lead to chronic constipation. Try and ease your baby into potty training schedules gently. Check if she has issues and takes steps to make it a fun process.
- Changes in dietary habits can also be a major cause of constipation. Lack of fiber in the form of fruit and vegetables, whole grains and fluids may be causing the trouble. Toddlers tend to get constipated while weaning from all liquid to solid foods.
- Certain medications like vitamin supplements and cold remedies may also lead to constipation. Check with your doctor to eliminate those irritants.
- You may be a direct reason for your baby’s constipation woes! It has been seen that children with a family history of painful bowel movements often face constipation issues themselves. This may be due to genetic factors or even a faulty share lifestyle issue.
- Rarely, a baby may face a medical condition like digestive issues or metabolic syndromes that cause the problem.
- Children who do not indulge in regular physical activity and are mostly sedentary may also face this problem. So, get out of that house, walk to the park and play!
Prevention is better than cure!
Create an atmosphere where your child makes healthy life choices and gets into the habit of leading an active life.
- Try cooking high fiber meals including fruits, vegetables, beans, pulses, whole grain cereals and multi-grain bread. In a newly weaned child go slow on the fiber and keep adding a little more each week. Do remember that your child emulates you, so eat healthy yourself!
- Water, juices, soups are very important to keep the baby’s gut healthy. Fluids are important to keep bowel movement optimal. Try making water tasty by adding lemons, mint and other herbs at times.
- Some children ignore the call of nature as they get very engrossed in play. Do remember to remind the child and gently nudge her to use the toilet. This could translate into a lifelong habit. There are many adults who too are prey to this problem!
- It is very important to have a routine for everything, be it pooping, eating or sleeping. A healthy lifestyle can be the solution to most issues including constipation.
(Follow this Food Chart for Your Baby to avoid such problems!)
Home remedies to beat constipation
Grandmothers always know best. Many of the age-old recipes for relieving constipation are still very effective.
- Reduce the intake of milk and milk products while increasing the amount of water and fruit juices like prunes, pomegranates, grapes etc. This is recommended for babies who are already weaned. Or stick to water.
- Palm sugar or molasses in warm water might do the trick as they soften the mucous and allow stool to soften and pass out of the body.
- Dates boiled in milk and made into a smoothie and given at bedtime is a sure fire way to beat constipation. It can safely be given twice a week. Do use in cooler months only.
- Kids love raisins and eating raisins is very helpful in regulating bowel movement. Raisins are rich in calcium, magnesium, and potassium and are good for bowel regulation.
- A teaspoon of honey in warm water before bedtime can be the cure you are looking for. Repeat for a few days to get optimal benefit. This is full of minerals and the child gets relief instantly.
- Virgin coconut oil in the baby’s diet, about a quarter teaspoon can help loosen stool. It can also be applied in and around the anus to lubricate the passage and allow poop to soften and evacuate smoothly.
- Stomach massage is another option that you can apply to relieve constipation in kids. You can gently use a little coconut oil to massage the abdomen in a clockwise direction to help speed up bowel movement. This has to be with your fingertips and small circular movements that are firm but not overly so around the navel can reduce discomfort, release gas and make pooping easier.
- Warm baths can also help your baby to poop. You can fill a tub with warm water and gently place the baby in the bath. The warm water will release tight anal muscles and produce a bowel movement. It will give your baby relief from abdominal pain or itching around the anus.
- It may sound odd, but grandmothers used to gently heat betel leaves and place on the baby’s tummy. The baby gets immediate relief from constipation.
- Try changing the formula you feed your child, it may be so that it is not suiting your little one. Sometimes even cow’s milk can cause severe constipation. Keep trying till you get the right one that is good for your toddler’s tummy.
Last but not the least, do visit the doctor if you feel that the constipation is too severe, or your baby is not eating or if you are just worried! Sometimes it is good to hear a reassuring, ‘Nothing is wrong” from a trusted Doctor.
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