Constipation in Kids

This series has been prolonged and I got off topic and side tracked many times!  However, I think this is the last kids and health topic that I definitely wanted to cover. However, if there is a topic that you are interested in or would like information on, please let me know and I’ll write a post about it!

Thankfully we have never had a problem with constipation, although I know that isn’t true for many.  Also, my kids love foods, love to try new things and will eat just about anything.  Also since we drink green smoothies pretty regularly and eat lots of fresh fruits and veggies I think it has greatly curbed this problem as well.

We haven’t done many carbs in the past, but since changing to mostly paleo we definitely don’t eat many anymore… and these can be the main culprits!  Almost always constipation in kids can be taken care of at home.  Also, I think most healthy families commonly see constipation in the very young.  Concern about it during the newborn stage or obvious constipation around the time foods are introduced is relatively normal.

Different ages look different and have different things to try.  I’ve tried to break it up by age and then with general instructions to follow.

Most newborns don’t have constipation.  BUT their bowel habits can vary drastically.  My first born would have a bowel movement at almost every diaper change, my second born it was every 3 days and my third was every 36 hours.  It helps when there is a pattern or when you can try and figure out what their particular schedule is.

Newborns who are on formula do tend to have a harder time with stools.  They often grunt and strain and seem to be uncomfortable in order to move their bowels.  Often the stools are thick and close to the consistency of peanut butter.  Sometimes a cause of constipation could be some sort of sensitivity to the formula chosen.  It would be something to consider if it continues to be an issue.

Breastfeeding is the best idea for many reasons, but sometimes it isn’t possible. Breastmilk has natural laxatives in it and the stool is usually a light mustard color and quite thin.  The mothers diet can affect the stools so if constipation is noted, try changing what you eat to see if that would help.  Also increasing liquid intake will also increase the liquids content of the breastmilk which also aids in loosening up the stool.

At this age it is hard to try any of the usual remedies since they are so young and aren’t eating any solids.  They can be given small amounts of water or 50/50 water and juice after feedings.  Just remember that whatever they drink doesn’t count as part of their daily formula or breastmilk intake.  It is always best to give it after feedings so that they don’t fill up on it instead of milk.

Between the ages of 6 months to a year the risk of constipation increases!  Yay! No.. not really!  When foods are first introduced it tends to be high carb cereals and maybe some banana and applesauce.

Do you remember the BRAT diet from the post on diarrhea?  The foods that help most to firm up stools when diarrhea is present?  BRAT = Bananas, Rice, Applesauce and Toast…. the exact foods that tend to be the first to introduce to infants!  No wonder the pediatrician says it is normal for them to have constipation as they “get used to eating solid foods”.

With my children I’ve started them with a little rice cereal for a few weeks to stay away from most grains, and then start adding veggies.  I usually save fruits for last for this reason and so that they don’t get used to the sweetness of fruit.  Avocado is always one of the first because it’s easy to prepare, mild flavor, high in fat to fill them up and just all around great food!

The next time around (no… I’m not expecting) I plan to have a paleo infant and stay away from grains altogether.

Toddlers and school aged children:
Usually at this age if they are having an issue, it is due to the foods they are eating.  Kids tend to be a little more picky and would rather not drink a lot of water and want to eat high carb diets especially if they are around mainstream school children who tend to consume a lot of snack foods and sweets containing mostly carbohydrates.

There are health problems that can cause constipation and would need to be evaluated by a physician, but usually it is just related to diet.  In the section below are some ideas of things to try before consulting a physician.

There are also over the counter(OTC) medications that are stimulants, stool softeners and laxatives.  I don’t discuss those here because I think they will only add to the problem.  If there is constipation there is a reason for it.  And if the reason isn’t treated then just taking OTCs will put a bandaid on the issue and not fix what is really going on.  Also these medications can get habit forming in that it becomes next to impossible to have a normal stool without them and also can be damaging to the colon.  That should never happen, especially in children.

First things to try:

  • Remove refined foods – overly processed, white starches/grains and sugar. – is typically a good idea anyway.
  • Increase fresh fruits and vegetables.  Raw preferably.  Green smoothies are a great way to get the greens in.
  • Increase fluid intake – no caffeine: it actually depletes the fluid levels in the body
  • Dried fruit will often help – prunes especially.  Can also cook them in a little bit of water to soften them.  Can also add them to brownies, smoothies or other foods if they don’t like the flavor.
  • Exercise or getting up and getting moving.  Moving the body helps the stools move as well.
  • Have child soak in a warm bath – the warm water often relaxes the abdominal muscles and helps them have a stool.
  • As a mild laxative can give a tablespoon of honey three times a day.  This should only be when having issues and not a daily routine.
  • Yogurt and probiotics help the good bacteria to thrive in the gut.
  • There are a lot of natural remedies to help with constipation, but these too can be habit forming.  It may help in the moment, but don’t take them on a daily basis.  I also haven’t provided dosing or amounts to take.  You will need to research that and see what would be best for you.  Some of these may interact with other prescription medications, so always talk with your pharmacist or physician.  The herbal options include barberry, basil, burdock root, cayenne, dandelion, fenugreek, goldenseal, milk thistle and red raspberry among others.

When to see a physician:

  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • No stool for 1 week in any age
  • Blood in stool
  • Prolonged issues with constipation

Medical Disclaimer: This information is meant to inform and not diagnose or treat illness or disease.  Before trying any of the ideas posted please research for yourself in order to make an educated decision.  Also, consult your doctor if trying to treat medical conditions.


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