I originally wrote this post back in 2012. Posts that old tend to get lost in the archives or forgotten about by long time readers, or new readers have never seen them. So I plan on bring back a few old posts that I think are worth looking at again. AND… I’ve grown over the last 6 years in medical knowledge and homeopathic and natural options. Some of these medical advice posts are still great, but I certainly have more to add, so read on!
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. 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 liquid 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.
Are you familiar with the BRAT diet? 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 introduced 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!
Since I originally wrote this post we have had two more children. Both of them have been paleo infants and didn’t have any grains at all. The youngest is only 10 months, but has only been introduced to veggies and fruits although he rejects almost all foods…. He will figure it out eventually! Up until now, we have been constipation free and hope to continue the trend!
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.
- Dairy intolerance can also manifest itself with loose stool or constipation. Try removing it and see if you notice an improvement. You may find that it is an issue for your child. This isn’t always true, but it may be worth a try if this is something your child struggles with on a regular basis.
- 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 and encourage regular stools.
- Lemon essential oil rubbed on the abdomen can help produce a bowel movement.
- Peppermint essential oil, massaged on bottom of feet or abdomen. It is a bit spicy, so dilution is recommended.
- Coconut oil – take 1-3 tsp orally for children to help loosen stools. Start with a small amount and increase as needed. Don’t increase it too fast or start with a large dose as it can cause diarrhea-like symptoms.
- Smooth Move tea by Traditional Medicinals is amazing at increasing motility.
- Ginger tea
- Chiropractic adjustment -I do have this listed last, but it should be one of the first things to try. My 10 month old had VERY irregular stools as a newborn and his adjustments ALWAYS produced quite a large blow-out almost every time!
When to see a physician:
- Severe abdominal pain
- No stool for 1 week in any age
- Blood in stool
- Prolonged issues with constipation
I hope this is helpful. Please feel free to comment with questions and I will be happy to answer to the best of my abilities. Or if you have another remedy that you’d like to share, I’m all ears!
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.
One thought on “Constipation in Kids Revisited”
I wish i had read this 6 months ago. Our doctors keep recommending juice and Mirlax for Hosea. It gives him such loose stools that it pretty much slides out and he has no control. I am at a loss as to what to do with him. Its been six months and he maybe poops three to four times a weeks on the pot and then 4-5x a day goes tiny bits in his underwear. Dairy has been removed since it gives him diaherra. Someone said kiwi works wonders so I am trying that and probiotics. I am so tired of changing pooping diapers for a child who was completely potty trained.