- What is constipation and what causes it?
- What are the symptoms of constipation?
- How is it diagnosed?
- What is the prognosis?
- What is the risk for other family members or future babies?
- What treatments/therapies/medications are recommended or available?
- How will my child and our family be impacted?
- When should I seek urgent medical attention for my child?
- Are there medications that can help my child's constipation?
- Are there diet choices that can help my child's constipation?
- Are ther other habits than can help my child's constipation?
- Is there help with diaper costs?
- Vomiting or dehydration related to the constipation or bowel problem
- Swollen, firm abdomen that is painful to the touch or associated with fever (seek immediate medical attention)
- Pain doesn’t go away or is getting worse
- Blood is in or around the stool (can be non-urgent, but check with your primary care clinician if this is new)
- Stool is not able to be passed despite appropriate medications
- An enema has not come back out
- Liquid – Inadequate liquid intake may contribute to constipation. Increasing water may be helpful, but can be difficult to do, particularly with a young child. Avoid using sweetened beverages, especially sodas, to increase fluid intake. 1- 4 oz. per day of prune or apple juice can help with constipation in some children and infants.
- Fiber – Increasing fiber in the diet may reduce constipation. The best sources of fiber include whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Avoid highly processed and carbohydrate-rich foods that lack fiber as these may decrease appetite. If using formula, consider switching to one with fiber.
- Stimulating foods – Some foods may stimulate the intestines to move more quickly. Prunes are the most common of these, but children may vary in which foods work best for them.
- Constipating foods – Many foods seem to contribute to constipation, at least in some children. Bananas and cheese are the most common. Again, this can vary among children.
- Refer to a nutritionist as needed (see all Nutrition/Dietary services providers (3) in our database).
- Meals – Regular meals are helpful in keeping the bowels moving. Sitting on the toilet following meals can enhance the ease of passing bowel movements.
- Fewer snacks – Snacking, particularly “grazing” (eating small amounts of food, usually low in fiber, through the day), can limit the amount of food eaten at meal times and result in a poor gastro-colic reflex, resulting in poor gut motility and constipation.
- Exercise – Kids who get plenty of exercise seem less likely to get constipated. Daily exercise also has benefits in terms of fitness and weight control. Time in a stander or walker may help with evacuation for kids who spend most of their time in a wheelchair or lying down.
- Behavioral issues – For children who are toilet trained, ensure adequate time and privacy for defecation (e.g., it isn't going to happen in a public school bathroom stall). During potty training, positively reinforce all passage of stool, and treat accidents with a neutral approach.
- Toileting routine – It is helpful if your child goes to the toilet and tries to poop after meals. This is particularly important after breakfast on school days, when he or she may not have another opportunity to poop until evening. (See Toilet Training for CYSHCN.)
- Positioning – Ensure the child is adequately supported in an upright position to allow optimal defecation. Placing the feet on stool can help for kids whose feet don’t reach the ground. If indicated, obtain an adapted toilet seat with adequate support. (Example: Squatty Potty).
About Kids and Teens GI Health (IFFGD)
Reliable digestive health knowledge, support, and assistance about functional gastrointestinal and motility disorders; International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders.
Baby's First Days: Bowel Movements & Urination (AAP)
Important points about first bowel movements; American Academy of Pediatrics.
How do I know if my child is constipated? (AAP)
Information about bowel patterns, and signs, treatment, and prevention of constipation; American Academy of Pediatrics.
Dietary Fiber (IFFGD)
Information about different kinds of fiber, how to incorporate fiber into the diet gradually, and serving sizes to help prevent constipation; International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders.
Hungry Kids: High-Fiber Foods (National Fiber Council) ( 66 KB)
Explains how to increase fiber in kids’ diets and provides information about fiber requirements and reading food labels.
Pediatric Constipation (Medscape)
Overview of approaches to managing constipation, with links to dosing guides for each medication.
Pediatric Constipation Medication (Medscape)
Information about various medications used to treat constipation in children from medical experts.
Constipation (NASPGHAN) ( 178 KB)
Fact Sheet about constipation with information about the diagnosis and management from the American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (NASPGHAN).
Constipation (NASPGHAN) Spanish ( 177 KB)
Fact Sheet in Spanish about constipation with information about the diagnosis and management from the American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (NASPGHAN).
You Can Poop Too Program (BeHealth Solutions)
Online program that provides education and ongoing tools to solve the physical, emotional and behavioral issues of encopresis; only available for purchase.
Infant Constipation (Nationwide Children's Hospital)
Information about signs of constipation in infants under 1 year of age and indications for when to call your doctor.
Let's Talk About Constipation (Spanish) (Intermountain Healthcare) ()
One-page handout, in Spanish, explaining childhood constipation.
Let's Talk About Constipation in a Child: Bowel Clean Out (Intermountain Healthcare) ()
One-page guide for caregivers on bowel clean-out and daily care for constipation at home.
Let's Talk About Constipation in a Child: Bowel Clean Out (Spanish) (Intermountain Healthcare) ()
One-page guide, in Spanish, for caregivers on bowel clean-out and daily care for constipation at home.
Let's Talk About Enemas Fleet (Spanish) (Intermountain Healthcare) ( 59 KB)
One-page handout, in Spanish, for caregivers on how to give enemas to children.
Let's Talk About Fleet Enemas (Intermountain Healthcare) ( 59 KB)
Handout for caregivers on how to give enemas to children.
Let's Talk About Rectal Suppository (Intermountain Healthcare) ()
One-page guide for caregivers about rectal suppositories for children.
Let's Talk About Rectal Suppository (Spanish) (Intermountain Healthcare) ()
One-page guide, in Spanish, for caregivers about rectal suppositories for children.
Let’s Talk About Constipation (Intermountain Healthcare)
One-page handout explaining childhood constipation.
The Poo in You - Constipation and Encopresis Video (Children's Hospital Colorado)
Excellent 5-minute video about why soiling accidents occur and what can be done to make them stop happening. Includes simple information about the digestive process, role of colon, and medicines that may help with constipation and resulting encopresis.
Understanding and Treating Constipation in Children Video (PCH)
An 8-minute video that helps parents and other caregivers understand constipation and what can be done to remedy it; Primary Children's Hospital.
Food Record (University of Rochester) ( 151 KB)
A 3-day food record with instructions for parents.
Stool Diary Using Bristol Stool Form Scale (NIH) ( 147 KB)
Printable record of stool habits for 1 week; originally from Lewis SJ, Heaton KW, Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology - reproduced by the National Institutes of Health.
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|Author:||Jennifer Goldman-Luthy, MD, MRP, FAAP - 8/2016|
|Content Last Updated:||12/2016|