Constipation is a common problem among children. This condition, which refers to the hardened and painful passage of stools or several days without any bowel movement, is not only frustrating but also painful and annoying. This is commonly caused by low-fiber diet, excessive consumption of milk, bowel movement repression, or insufficient intake of water and fluids. When a child starts to develop constipation that produces hard and painful stools, he is likely to hold back his bowel movement to avoid the pain. But this only creates a cycle that worsens the condition.
The best way to relieve constipation in children is to implement changes in the diet. Since constipation is very uncommon in breastfed infants, it is advised to feed your baby with breast milk since he can digest it a lot more easily. Breastfed babies have regular bowel movements.
Those who are fed with iron-fortified infant formula may experience constipation but take note that the iron in the formula isn't the culprit. Switching to a low iron formula will only deprive your child of the iron he needs and not relieve the constipation symptoms.
What you should do instead is to increase fluids. Give 2 to 4 oz of water diluted fruit juice 1 to 2 times a day. You may try switching to an infant formula made of soy. For babies over four months old, increasing fiber intake through cereals, spinach and apricots can help.
For older children, increase intake of water and fruit juices to 3 to 4 glasses a day. Make sure that your kid takes in plenty of fruits and vegetables. Raw and unpeeled items like beans, peas, corns, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and turnips are the richest sources of fiber. If your child loves popcorn, then good, as it also contains much fiber. Other fiber-rich foods include bran muffins, graham crackers, whole wheat bread, and shredded wheat.
It's also essential to limit intake of foods that can cause constipation. Some of these include milk, yogurt, cheese, carrots, and bananas. Switching to soy milk can also help soften the stools and alleviate constipation.
Apart from changes in the diet, you can also ask your doctor to prescribe medications for constipation. Most of these are available over the counter anyway but it would be better to know what your doctor's recommendation is. Some of the OTC drugs for constipation include Metamucil, Milk of magnesia, and Citrucel. Senokot is commonly prescribed for children as a stimulant laxative but you shouldn't use it for long periods.
Bowel Movement Habits
To prevent constipation, encourage your kid to have regular bowel movement routine. Have him sit on the toilet everyday for about ten minutes after his first or second meal. It would be a great idea to give your kid some rewards to reinforce proper behavior in terms of taking his stool softener medication or carrying on with the bowel movement routine. Call up your child's doctor if the condition has not improved within 2 to 3 weeks.