Your Kids and Constipation

Ask any parent at the playground; chances are they have experienced a child with constipation. It’s almost like a right of passage. As a first-time parent it can be scary, stressful and difficult to know what to do to support your little or big one experiencing constipation symptoms. It can also be hard to know if your child is constipated: toddlers’ verbal communication and physical development is constantly evolving, which may make it difficult to communicate. Older children who are independent in the washroom may not want to share their bathroom troubles. Keep in mind everyone’s bowel routine is different, and some children do not poop every day. However, when a child is constipated, they will often experience these symptoms:

  • less then 3 bowl movements per week
  • stomach pain or pain while pooping
  • hard stools that are difficult to pass
  • bloating
  • gas
  • irritability


How can we help as parents?

Help your children find constipation relief by first teaching them that everyone poops and it is nothing to be a shamed of. Create a safe and relaxed atmosphere: for a young child to have a bowel movement (or anyone, for that matter), they need to be relaxed and have confidence in their ability. Make sure that they are able to put their feet on the floor or a stool to make having a bowel movement easier.

  • Offer sit time after meals. When you start eating, your entire digestive tract starts moving; therefore, it is often easier to have a bowel movement after a meal (but before your child gets distracted).
  • Allow your child at least 10–15 minutes to sit on the toilet to try and have a bowel movement. Let them relax with books, a toy, song singing, or whatever they need to help get them that sit time.
  • Offer sit time before you are planning on going out.
  • Create a consistent routine for your child.
  • If your child is school-age, help them find a private bathroom at school they feel comfortable having a bowel movement in. Often schools will have one near the front office of the building.


Getting enough fluid

It is recommended that children ages 1–3 should have 4–5 cups of fluid per day. Children of the ages 4–8 should have around 5–6 cups, while ages 9–13 should aim for 7–8 cups of fluid. A good rule of thumb is ½–1 oz. of fluid per pound.

  • Focus on providing breastmilk, milk, water, juice (no more then ½ cup of juice per day).
  • Provide a water bottle to drink from between meals and snacks.

Without enough fluid, constipation will only get worse.


Getting enough fibre

Fibre is what creates bulk in our stools and helps with transit time (allowing the stool to move through and eventually out of our bodies). Aim for 19 g. of fiber per day for your little one.

  • Offer fruit and vegetables with the skins on.
  • Opt for whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat bread).
  • Add mixed berries into smoothies, lentils into muffins, and oats into cookies.
  • Offer beans and pulses as spreads. Most kids love baked beans: try to make them yourself as a healthier option to regular spreads or add a can of unflavoured, no-salt-added beans to flavoured beans. Try hummus as a dip for crackers or vegetables, or blend chickpeas with peanut butter and a touch of maple syrup for a delicious dip for apples.
  • Aim for 1-2 Tbsp. of freshly ground flaxseed per day. The fiber and the healthy fats really helps to get things moving in our little ones. Add it to a smoothie, mixed in peanut butter on toast, sprinkled on chili or added to homemade baking.


Trying probiotics

Some research has found that the probiotic Lactobacillus Casei rhamnosus can help to reduce the occurrence of chronic constipation and abdominal pain in children. Luckily, this is one of the strains most often found in Kefir. Try plain kefir blended with mango and berries for a delicious snack or addition to breakfast!


Trying natural laxatives

Sorbitol, a natural laxative, makes it easier to pass a bowel movement. It is found in unsweetened applesauce, prunes, and pear/prune juice (½ cup day max).

Please note: If considering an over-the-counter laxative or stool softener, consult with your child’s doctor first as dosage is dependent on your child’s weight.


By Kelsey Hagen – Registered Nutritionist/Dietitian

Revive Wellness is a team of skilled and passionate Registered Nutritionists specialized in nutrition and wellness coaching for the Edmonton area.

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BU, L.-N., CHANG, M.-H., NI, Y.-H., CHEN, H.-L. and CHENG, C.-C. (2007), Lactobacillus casei rhamnosus Lcr35 in children with chronic constipation. Pediatrics International, 49: 485–490. doi:10.1111/j.1442-200X.2007.02397.x

Health Canada (2002). Fluid management: Fluid requirements in children. Retrieved from: