Often, simple changes in diet and routine help relieve constipation in children:
Aug. 23, 2013
A high-fiber diet. A diet rich in fiber can help your child's body form soft, bulky stool. The recommended intake for dietary fiber is 14 grams for every 1,000 calories in your child's diet. For younger children, this translates to an intake of about 20 grams of dietary fiber a day. For adolescent girls and young women, it's 29 grams a day, and for adolescent boys and young men, it's 38 grams a day.
Offer your child high-fiber foods, such as beans, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. But start slowly, adding just several grams of fiber a day over several weeks to reduce the amount of gas and bloating that can occur in someone who's not used to consuming high-fiber foods.
- Adequate fluids. Water and other fluids will help soften your child's stool. Be wary of offering your child too much milk, however. For some children, excess milk contributes to constipation.
- Adequate time for bowel movements. Encourage your child to sit on the toilet for five to 10 minutes within 30 minutes of each meal. Follow the routine every day, even during holidays and vacations.
- Be supportive. Reward your child's efforts, not results. Give children small rewards for trying to move their bowels. Possible rewards include stickers or a special book or game that's only available after (or possibly during) toilet time. And don't punish a child who has soiled his or her underwear.
- Tabbers MM, et al. Nonpharmacologic treatments for childhood constipation: Systematic review. Pediatrics. 2011;128:753.
- Constipation in children. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/constipationchild/. Accessed June 12, 2013.
- Ferry GD. Constipation in children: Etiology and diagnosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 12, 2013.
- Hay WW, et al. Current Diagnosis & Treatment: Pediatrics. 21st ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=14. Accessed June 12, 2013.
- Constipation in children. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/pediatrics/approach_to_the_care_of_normal_infants_and_children/constipation_in_children.html. Accessed June 12, 2013.
- Ferry GD. Prevention and treatment of acute constipation in infants and children. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 12, 2013.
- Ferry GD. Treatment of chronic functional constipation and fecal incontinence in infants and children. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 13, 2013.
- Constipation. National Digestive Diseases Clearinghouse. http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/constipation/. Accessed June 10, 2013.
- Young L, et al. Integrative care for pediatric patients with pain. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. In press. Accessed June 13, 2013.
- Hoecker JL (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. June 27, 2013.
You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.