Learning how to help a constipated toddler is just one of the many things parents never thought they needed to know. As a parent it’s heartbreaking when your child goes through some pretty bad constipation and it’s a major relief – bad pun warning – when they finally do poop.
The reality of parenthood is knowing that toddlers and constipation happen. Knowing what to do for toddler constipation is a pretty important part of parenting. The first thing you should know is if there is no fever you do not need to worry too much. If there is a fever call your doctor immediately.
The saddest reality is once your toddler goes through one batch of constipation it is likely that they will go through more. Knowing what to do during this time can mean all the difference in preventing and stopping the pain.
Correcting your their diet, getting them active, and making sure they have plenty of fluids may ward off constipation. Sometimes though your toddler may withhold their poop which could lead to constipation as well.
There are many reasons why your toddler may refuse to pass a bowel movement. Be it fear of pooping on a toilet or a previous issue with constipation, it’s important to calm the fear of pooping. Additionally, you will want to make sure your child’s diet is rich in fruit and fiber to make sure their bowel movements are easy to push out.
How We Could Tell It Was Poop Withholding and Not Constipation
The first time we came across this problem we couldn’t really tell if our son was trying to poop and couldn’t or if he was trying to hold the poop in. It didn’t take us too long to figure out which it was thankfully and we figured out how to address the problem pretty quickly.
When L first experienced constipation it was a bit worrisome. We did almost everything that I recommend in my list and just before we went to try the doctor suggested MiraLax, L finally pooped.
This poop was not a pleasant one as it was pretty firm and would have been difficult to push out. We could tell right away L was not pleased about this poop.
A few days passed and L had been pooping regularly when he suddenly ran off to a corner and moaned really loudly. At first I was pleased because this was the first sign of him being ready to potty train. Then I went to change him and there was only a small smudge.
I was now afraid my son was constipated, again. We hadn’t stopped giving him fiber rich foods, fruit, and plenty of water since the first time so it didn’t really make sense that he would be constipated. Yet, every 10-20 minutes he was running to a corner to try to poop.
Then I saw it. He was squeezing his legs together tightly and he wasn’t making the same pushing look on his face like before. My son was trying to hold his poop in.
When I asked my doctor about it, she told me to try the MiraLax to soften the poop. This didn’t go over well, and just left my son with a diaper rash and still trying to hold in his poop. So we stopped the MiraLax and went a more gentle approach of setting the example.
We pooped with the bathroom door open, loudly and proudly exclaimed that we pooped, and started celebrating our own bowel movements. Because when it comes to parenting sometimes you just have to teach your child through examples that there is no reason to fear their bodies natural functions.
How To Help A Constipated Toddler
Your child could be poop withholding or constipated, either way there are a few things you can do to pooping easier on your child.
Check with your Doctor
Always check with your doctor. There are things they may know that the internet can’t tell you. Your doctor may also want to make sure that there is no impacted poop or other physical issues causing constipation.
It is extremely important that you talk with your child’s pediatrician before trying any home remedy solutions you find on the internet. Just because it’s on the internet does not make it automatically true.
Additionally, make sure you do your research on MiraLAX if this is what your doctor recommends. We tried it and all it did was cause my up until then diaper rash free child to suddenly start getting diaper rash. It may have been a coincidence, but when we stopped using it my son stopped getting the rashes.
While I’m personally not a fan of using MiraLAX you may find it works wonders for your toddler, there are plenty of parents who swear by it. If your doctor recommends it feel free to voice concerns and find out exactly how and when to start/stop use.
Check out my post The Art of Distraction for tips on using distraction to calm a tantrum.
Most grown adults hate the idea of prunes, they are sour and disgusting right? Well the eating of the weird foods with a smile on your face and convincing “MMMM” sounds does not end once they are on solid foods. Give your child some prunes.
You can give them the dried prunes, prune juice, or prune step 2 baby food. Whatever way you can get them to eat or drink prunes do it.
A splash of prune juice mixed with apple juice and water seemed to do the trick for our son.
If you absolutely cannot get them to eat or drink prunes, give them pear juice. While not as effective as prune juice, it will still get the job done.
You can also try mixing pear juice with prune juice. The mixture we used was a splash of prune juice, fill the sippy cup half way with pear juice and then fill the rest of the way with water. This mixture is easy on the taste buds while providing the right ingredients to keep bowel movements regular.
Even the instant flavored oatmeal will work. My child won’t touch old fashioned oats but gobbles down the maple and brown sugar oatmeal like it’s cake. Oatmeal is high in fiber which helps to move poop through the system and out. I highly recommend getting the low sugar instant oatmeal.
You can also try making Oatmeal Energy Bites and giving them as snacks and treats. Lucas loves the little oatmeal balls and they seem to keep him pooping on a regular schedule.
Check out my post Pacifier Weaning A Toddler Without Frustration.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Never let your kids sippy cup be empty. More water in the system means softer poop! Softer poop means less pain when pooping which will help your toddler avoid a fear of pooping.
Water is key to making sure that bowel movements and urine output stays regular and your toddler stays healthy. I tend to mix my toddlers juice with water just to make sure he is getting enough hydration.
Sometimes extra time in a warm bath will help your kid to relax his poop muscles and let the poop out. Be prepared with a plastic bag or a “special” cup to scoop the poop out if he accidentally poops in the tub. I swear you aren’t actually a parent until you scoop poop out of bath water.
A warm bath can help to ease cramping and pain making it easier for your toddler to poop as well. A long warm bubble bath usually does the trick on easing constipation for my toddler.
Check out my post Diary of a Mom: Feeling Like a Bad Mom.
What To Do If Your Toddler Is Scared To Poop
Do not try to make your child poop. Rub their back, speak softly, and calm them during their struggle. Pooping is now traumatic to them. While it’s becoming traumatic for you too the best thing to do is try to stay calm and keep them comfortable.
You could do like we did and start celebrating your own poops. Seeing you not be afraid of pooping can help make them feel like they shouldn’t be afraid of it either.
Watch closely and the moment they start trying to hold in their poop hand them something that gets their attention quickly like a tablet or phone. It’s something they don’t often play with but it’s a treat. They may forget to hold their poop and with any luck the poop will be coming out before they even notice to stop.
How to react when they do Poop
Most parents are going to think you should praise the child when they are done pooping. Don’t do this.
Your child just got done with a traumatic experience and here you are cheering, smiling, happy and trying to give them high fives. Your child is thinking, “wow they must really like me being in pain,” not, “Pooping is good and I should do this more often.”
The best thing to do is simply change their diaper as normal. Stay calm through the entire poop process. When they are done pooping offer them a treat, like an oatmeal bite. Your child will read this as “ok so pooping is normal and I get a treat when I poop.”
Treat it like they tripped and fell on their hands and knees. You don’t pick them up, you may not say anything at all. It’s normal, it happens, this is how they learn to practice balance. Your child doesn’t cry they just get up and keep running faster than their feet can carry them. It’s the same concept.
The best way to help a constipated toddler is to make sure their diet is good, they are hydrated, and they are relaxed. The correct juices and foods can go a long way to relieving constipation and keeping constipation at bay.
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