What Causes Toddler Constipation? continued...
Holding it in. The average 2-year-old is far more interested in playing with toys than in 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:
Diet. To soften the stools and make them easier to pass, increase the amount of fluid and fiber your child gets each day. High-fiber foods include fruits and fruit juices (prune, apple, pear, grape), vegetables (broccoli, peas), beans, and whole-grain breads and cereals. Limit foods that can increase constipation, such as fatty foods that are low in fiber.
Exercise. Make sure your toddler gets out to play for at least 30 to 60 minutes a day. Moving the body keeps the bowels moving, too.
Improve bowel habits. Encourage your child to use the bathroom at regular times during the day, especially after meals and whenever he or she feels the urge to go. Let your toddler sit for at least 10 minutes at a time. Put a small stool under your child's feet -- the leverage will help him push. Reward your toddler for using the toilet with a special story or a sticker so it becomes a positive experience.
Medicine. Your health care provider may recommend medication to treat your toddler's constipation. You may also need to discuss stopping or changing a medication your child is taking, if that is causing the constipation.