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Treating Constipation in Children

Call 911 if your child is constipated and: 

  • Has severe abdominal pain
  • Has fever
  • Is vomiting
  • Has a swollen abdomen
  • Is listless

  • Has severe abdominal pain
  • Has fever
  • Is vomiting
  • Has a swollen abdomen
  • Is listless

Constipation, or passing hard, painful stools, is a common problem in young children. Mild cases can be treated at home.

Call Doctor If:

  • Your child has ongoing signs of constipation.

1. Increase Fluids

  • For infants 4 months or older: add small amounts of fruit juice, such as prune, pear, or apple juices.
  • For children 1 year or older: offer fruit juices and more water.

2. Increase Fiber

  • For infants 4 months or older: add baby foods such as peas, beans, prunes, peaches, plums, and apricots.
  • For children 1 year or older: add fruits, vegetables such as peas, beans, and broccoli, and whole-grain foods such as brown rice, whole wheat bread, graham crackers. Four to five prunes a day is also a very good source of fiber.
  • Cut down on candies and sweets. Limit milk and cheese to 16-20 ounces.

3. Encourage Good Habits

  • Get your toddler to sit on the potty or toilet after meals.
  • Have your toddler stay on the potty or toilet for 10 minutes each time.
  • Have your toddler keep her feet on the floor when she's on the potty. Use a foot stool if she is on the toilet.
  • Reward your child for having a bowel movement.
  • If anxiety about toilet training is playing a role in constipation, switch back to diapers temporarily.

4. See Your Pediatrician

  • If symptoms continue, there is blood in the stool, or continued abdominal pain even after a bowel movement, call your pediatrician.
  • Never give a laxative to an infant or child without talking to a pediatrician first.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Roy Benaroch, MD on September 14, 2013

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