Potty Training and Toddler Constipation
If you have ever had a child suffer from constipation you’ll know how hard it is to deal with, watching your child in discomfort without really knowing what to do to help. It’s also not the easiest topic to talk about, like bed-wetting, it’s one of those subjects that everyone has opinion on but what works for your child is unique to them – individual just as they are. Expert help is on hand because this week ERIC is launching its ‘Lets Talk About Poo’ campaign to raise awareness of childhood constipation. Meanwhile here are our top tips for helping and preventing toddler constipation.
My son suffered with constipation when, whilst we were toilet training, we went on a family holiday to France which involved a long journey. Tip – When travelling on long journeys take plenty of snacks that will help keep things moving down below, such as dates, figs, grapes and raisins. Make sure you keep fluid levels up, particularly water and have breaks at play areas where they can run around safely.
Of course as I didn’t know this at the time my son became constipated, then because it hurt when he pooed he started ‘withholding’. Toddler’s that hold in their poo do so because they believe it will hurt them to go, of course the longer they hold on the worse it gets. If you have a toddler that is withholding I recommend a visit to the doctor or pharmacist, who will be able to advise on what is best for your child.
Having spoken to our Doctor, the pharmacist, friends and family all of the following were recommended at some stage:
- Senna – A natural aid to help them pass a stool, but it won’t soften an already hardened poo. Tip: Try to disguise the taste in a drink.
- Lactulose – This helps to soften an already hard poo, so used as prescribed it should take the fear factor away.
- Brown Sugar in warm water – This is an old remedy and works in the same way as lactulose, but ‘good luck’ with trying to get a fussy toddler to drink it.
- Suppositories – If their constipation becomes severe and the child is in a lot of distress them the doctor may recommend a suppository to get things moving to start with. Tip:- buy a box of disposable gloves and a small pot of Vaseline when you pick up the prescription.
- Vaseline – An older remedy, applied around the anus will help to stimulate the passing of a stool and by providing lubrication to ease pain.
When they are ready to poo here are a few things that can help:
- Make sure that they are sat with knees higher than hip level
- Let them have a warm bath to relax the muscles
- Give them a gentle stomach massage. Use gentle small circular motions whilst slowly moving around the abdomen in a clockwise direction. Never press hard.
Once the initial problem has been dealt with how do you keep the constipation at bay or avoid toddler constipation to start with? In short plenty of fibre, lots of water and exercise.
We all know toddlers are fussy eaters but most children enjoy fruit and if they do then simple things like leaving the skin on slices of apple, will increase the fibre content and keeps thing moving. I took Eggs out of my son’s diet, despite his love of quiche, as they are well known for increasing our chances of getting constipation. Jacket potatoes or potato wedges (skin on) with baked beans is high in fibre. Adding butter beans to soups and sauces will also increase the fibre content. Its possible to buy ‘high fibre’ white pasta now if your little won’t eat brown pasta. Keeping to high fibre low sugar breakfast cereal will all help too. Plenty of exercise so ditch the buggy and get them to walk to the park!
Toddler constipation can take a while to settle down completely so keeping a chart of bowel movements will help you and help your doctor. The Lets Talk about Poo campaign on the ERIC website has lots of charts and pictures of types of poo to help you keep track.