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Chronic Constipation in Toddlers

Chronic Constipation in Toddlers

Is your toddler finding it difficult to pass feces for the past few weeks? If yes, there are chances that he is suffering from the problem of constipation. This article will give you complete information on the causes, symptoms, and treatment of chronic constipation in toddlers.
Deepa Kartha
Constipation is said to be a common problem that all toddlers face some time or the other. Usually it is a temporary problem and goes away in a few days time. However, when the baby is unable to pass stools for a long period of time, it is said to be a matter of chronic constipation.

Children suffering from this condition may have bowel movements for less than three times in a week and most often the stools that they pass are large, dry, and hard. Inability of passing stools will also be accompanied by a swollen belly and abdominal pain, which can cause discomfort to the child. Other than this, parents may observe soft stool smears on the child's underpants. Moreover, he/she may also lose his appetite which will be a cause of concern to the parents. Nevertheless, there are various ways to treat this problem. However, before we go into it in detail, let us try to know more about the reasons that causes chronic constipation in toddlers.

  • One of the most common causes is dehydration. Toddlers who do not consume enough water or other liquids throughout the day are observed to suffer from the problem of constipation.
  • This condition may also occur in toddlers when the baby is changed from breast milk to cow's milk. Babies who are introduced to solid foods after being fed baby food can also experience constipation. Other than this, those kids who are given some kind of medicine like antidepressants, antacids, etc. due to some illness may also have this problem.
  • Another reason for this problem could be inadequate intake of fibrous foods. Children who do not have adequate amount of foods like fruits, cereals, vegetables, grains, etc., in their daily diet are prone to develop chronic constipation.
  • Withholding the urge to defecate can also be said to be one of the major causes for this ailment. Kids who have experienced a painful bowel movement earlier may try to avoid passing feces fearing the pain they have to endure. When this is done frequently, feces turn hard leading to constipation. There are also children who control their urge to go to the toilet, if they are indulging in play and do not want to break away from it.
  • Early toilet training is also said to one of the causes. Some parents, wanting to break away from the responsibility of changing diapers may start potty training at a very early age. However, the children may not be comfortable with this idea and rebel against their parents by withholding their stools which may then lead to constipation.
  • Apart from these, there are also some physical reasons that can cause this ailment in children. They include the presence of a certain abnormality in the rectum, anus, or intestinal tract of the child. Children suffering from diseases like hypothyroidism or cerebral palsy may also experience this as a symptom of these diseases.

When you observe these symptoms in your child, it is important that you take him to the doctor immediately. Though usually the physician will start the treatment just by knowing the symptoms, he may suggest tests like digital rectal examination, anorectal manometry, barium enema, and rectal biopsy to check whether constipation is cause due to any physical problems.

One of the most important cures is a change in the toddler's diet. Sometimes this is sufficient to bring back the child's bowel movements to normal. Fruits and vegetables like apricots, plums, pears, spinach, peas, etc., should be included in the daily diet. Along with these, you should also feed the baby with oatmeal or barley cereals. An important thing that parents have to remember is that they have to either stop or limit feeding the baby with dairy products like butter, cheese, etc. Also, foods like applesauce, pasta, bananas, and potatoes should be avoided from the diet as these factors can increase the problem.

Another way of treating constipation is by inculcating regular bowel habits. For this, you should encourage your kid to sit on the toilet everyday for at least ten minutes. The time should be the same everyday and if possible, after he has had his meal. It is important to make this time pleasant and happy for the child by talking to him or reading to him, even if he does not have any bowel movement. This will help in developing a bowel habit where he will feel the urge to use the washroom at the same time everyday. If the change in diet or any other method does not help the child in relieving himself, the doctor may recommend laxatives or some other medications for him/her. Though these are quite effective, parents should never administer them on their own, without consulting the doctor.

Apart from these treatment measures, it is also said that giving the baby a tummy massage or a warm bath may lessen the problem of chronic constipation in toddlers. Though this is not a very serious problem, parents should never ignore it and should take immediate treatment as this condition may have been caused due to an underlying health problem.

Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.