There is one thing that I think all moms share and that’s an obsession with their child’s poop. If you aren’t a mom and you’re reading this statement you clearly think I’ve lost my mind. But you moms out there know what I’m saying. From the moment they are born we become fixated on the timing, amount, consistency, color and texture of our child’s bowel movements. Yeah, it’s a glamorous life we moms lead.
For me, the obsession only got more intense as Aidan approached his second year of life and seemed to be having more and more trouble going number two. Most toddler constipation is caused by a diet that’s heavy in sweets and processed foods, and too low in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fluids. In addition, certain toddler favorites (think bananas) are also constipating and can add to the troubles. Once potty training enters the picture, kids can become constipated for another host of reasons including fears of using the toilet. Since we hadn’t yet started potty training, we could at least rule this out as a potential cause.
In our case, Aidan’s reasons for being constipated were slightly more mysterious. He was already eating a relatively high-fiber diet and had good fluid intake yet despite this, the poor kid was clearly uncomfortable every time he had to go to the bathroom. After weeks of trying many things that did little to help, our pediatrician finally recommended a daily dose of a non-stimulating and non-habit-forming laxative. Our pediatrician explained that some kids just have trouble moving their bowels. He reassured us that the majority eventually grow out of it. High-fiber choices do help, as does regular physical activity and adequate fluids, but these may not be enough. The laxative worked wonders with Aidan and it was a relief to see him feeling better.
If you suspect your child is constipated look at their diet first to see if you have room for improvement. It’s important to know that kids don’t need a ton of fiber. To figure how much your little one needs, take their age and add 5 grams of fiber per day (example: 2 years + 5 grams = 7 grams/day fiber total). Small changes to what your child is currently eating may make a big difference. If you feel like you’ve exhausted the diet avenue, it may be time to investigate other options. Clearly, adding a laxative is not the answer for everyone so you should discuss the options with your pediatrician.
For now, we continue to feed Aidan high-fiber foods and offer constipating foods less often. We continue with the laxative and hope that in time his little GI tract sorts things out. And of course, I still know at ALL TIMES what his poop status is for any particular day. The poor kid will probably go off to college before I can stop obsessing. Sigh.
HMN tips for constipation:
- Add 4 ounces of pear or prune juice one time per day as needed.
- Serve fresh fruits and vegetables more often than juices (other than pear/prune mentioned above). If your child will eat them with the skins on, this provides even more fiber.
- Increase daily water intake and physical activity.
- Add more whole grains to your child’s diet (whole wheat bread, whole grain cereals, brown rice, whole wheat pasta).
- If your child balks at the idea of whole grains, look for white whole grains so he/she doesn’t realize that they are actually getting a higher fiber product. Brands to look for: Arnold’s White Wheat bread, Barilla Plus pasta.
- Remember, kids’ fiber needs equal approximately their age + 5 grams of fiber per day.
- Foods that may add to constipation: cheese, white rice, cooked carrots, bananas, sweet potatoes and applesauce. *You don’t have to eliminate these foods entirely however, if your child is constipated, you may want to offer them less frequently.