Childhood and Infant Constipation
Constipation is a common problem
Constipation is a common problem in children of all ages and a frequent reason for visits to the pediatrician. There is no “magic number” when it comes to the frequency of bowel movements, and the number typically varies by age.
Some providers deal with constipation conservatively, while others prefer to be a more aggressive approach. Overall, it is important to monitor your child and even keep a record of their usual habits.
Breastfed vs formula
Infants who breastfeed generally have more bowel movements than those who are on formula. Typically, soy and cow’s milk-based formulas cause harder bowel movements. Formulas that contain partially or completely hydrolyzed milk proteins, which may be recommended for infants with an allergy or sensitivity to cow’s milk, can cause loose bowel movements. Infants who are transitioning from breast milk or formula to solid foods may also experience constipation.
What are the signs
Signs of constipation to look out for are bowel movements that appear difficult to pass and cause your baby to strain and make their face turn red. Your child may arch their back, tighten their buttocks, or cry while attempting to have a bowel movement.
Toddlers may rock back and forth while stiffening their buttocks and legs, arch their back, cross their legs, stand on their tiptoes, and wiggle or fidget. They may squat or get into other unusual positions.
Young children may prefer to go hide in a corner or another “special” place while doing this “dance.” These movements may look like the child is trying to have a bowel movement, but they are actually trying not to have a bowel movement. This might be because they are scared of the toilet, or worried that having the bowel movement will be painful.
Fluids, fiber and other remedies
For babies, sometimes doing more “tummy time” and “bicycle maneuvers” periodically throughout the day can help with constipation. Taking the temperature rectally has also been shown to stimulate the bowels. Do not attempt this if you are unsure of the proper technique. Also, for children of all ages, taking a warm bath may be effective. Options are limited in this age group, so it is best to discuss this with your healthcare provider.
For children (toddlers and up), increasing fluid intake and dietary fiber is useful in helping relieve constipation. However, treatments for constipation vary by the age of the child and the provider’s discretion, so your best option is to schedule a visit with your child’s healthcare provider. This way, you ensure a safe and appropriate treatment plan for your little one.