What Causes Toddler Constipation?
A variety of things can cause constipation in toddlers, from diet to medication. Here are a few of the most common causes:
Diet. The culprit in many cases of toddler constipation is a diet that's too heavy in processed foods and sweets, and too light in fiber (like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables). Not getting enough fluid can also lead to constipation, because it makes the stools harder. Any change in diet -- such as when your toddler transitions from breast milk or formula to cow's milk or starts eating new foods -- can also affect the stools.
Holding it in. The average 2-year-old is far more interested in playing with toys than going to the bathroom. Some children are embarrassed or afraid to use the toilet, especially when it's a public restroom. Toddlers who rebel against the toilet training process sometimes express their power struggle in a refusal to go.
Fear of discomfort. Constipated toddlers who've had painful bowel movements in the past sometimes avoid using the bathroom out of fear that it will hurt again. Not using the bathroom can turn into an uncomfortable cycle. Stool begins to build up in the lower part of the bowel, getting bigger and harder until it's even more difficult and painful to pass.
Change in routine. Going on vacation and being away from their normal toilet can make some toddlers unwilling to go to the bathroom.
Lack of physical activity. Exercise helps with the movement of food through the digestive process.
Illness. Changes in appetite due to a stomach bug or other illness can affect your child's diet, leading to constipation.
Medication. Some medications or supplements can lead to a constipated toddler, including high-dose iron supplements or narcotic pain medication. The low-dose iron in baby formula does not cause constipation.
Physical conditions. In rare cases, an anatomical problem with the intestines, anus, or rectum can cause constipation. Cerebral palsy and other nervous system disorders can also affect a child's ability to go to the bathroom.
Treatments for Toddler Constipation
When toddler constipation is a problem, you can try one of these remedies: