Avoid using enemas or laxatives — including herbal or homeopathic products — without first talking to your child's doctor.
Once your child has been treated for encopresis, it's important that you encourage regular bowel movements. These tips can help:
- Focus on fiber. Feed your child a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other foods high in fiber, which can help form soft stools.
- Encourage your child to drink water. Drinking enough water helps keep stool from hardening. Other fluids may help, but watch the calories.
- Limit cow's milk if that’s what the doctor recommends. In some cases, cow's milk may contribute to constipation, but dairy products also contain important nutrients, so ask the doctor how much dairy your child needs each day.
- Arrange toilet time. Have your child sit on the toilet for five to 10 minutes at regular times every day. This is best done after meals because the bowel becomes more active after eating. Praise your child for sitting on the toilet as requested and trying.
- Put a footstool near the toilet. This may make your child more comfortable, and changing the position of his or her legs can put more pressure on the abdomen, making a bowel movement easier.
- Stick with the program. It may take months to resume normal bowel sensation and function and develop new habits. Sticking with the program can also reduce relapses.
- Be encouraging and positive. As you help your child overcome encopresis, be patient and use positive reinforcement. Don't blame, criticize or punish your child if he or she has an accident. Instead, offer your unconditional love and support.
Below are some strategies that can help prevent encopresis and its complications.
Help your child avoid constipation by providing a balanced diet that's high in fiber and encouraging your child to drink enough water.
Learn about effective toilet training techniques
Educate yourself on effective toilet training techniques. Avoid starting too early or being too forceful in your methods. Wait until your child is ready, and then use positive reinforcement and encouragement to help make progress. Ask your doctor about resources on toilet training.
Get early treatment for encopresis
Early treatment, including guidance from your child's doctor or mental health professional, can help prevent the social and emotional impact of encopresis. Regular follow-up visits with your doctor can help identify ongoing or recurring problems so that adjustments in treatment can be made as needed.
Oct. 13, 2016
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- Tabbers MM, et al. Evaluation and treatment of functional constipation in infants and children: Evidence-based recommendations for ESPGHAN and NASPGHAN. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition. 2014;58:258.
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- Manini ML (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Aug. 12, 2016.