Bowel movement patterns vary in children. Infants who are breastfed may pass about 3 to 4 stools a day. Formula-fed infants pass about 2 stools a day. Two year-olds have about 2 bowel movements per day. After 4 years of age, children usually have 1 bowel movement per day. A normal stool is soft and easy to pass. Sometimes stools become firm or hard. They are difficult to pass. They may pass infrequently. This condition is called constipation. It is common in children.
Constipation may cause abdominal discomfort. The stools may be blood-streaked. In young children, it may be triggered by a formula or cow’s milk. It may also be caused by medications, underlying disorder, or stress. Constipation is most likely to occur when the child starts cow’s milk and solid food, learns toilet training, and begins school.
Simple constipation is easy to overcome once the cause is identified. The doctor may recommend a dietary change, such as using a nondairy milk substitute and giving the child more fiber. Sometimes a stimulant, such as a glycerin suppository or a laxative, is given. Older children may receive an enema. Toddlers who are being toilet trained may benefit from behavior modification to establish an elimination routine. Mild constipation usually resolves once a young child becomes accustomed to solid foods.
Medications: The doctor may prescribe a lubricant or suppository for your child. Follow the doctor’s instructions on how and when to use this product.
For an infant not yet on solid food
Follow your doctor’s advice about the type of formula to feed your baby. Watch to see if this relieves the constipation.
Add additional feedings of water or sorbitol-containing juices (apple, prune, pear) between breast or formula feedings, as advised by your doctor.
For children eating solid food
Increase fiber in the diet by adding fruits, vegetables, cereals, and grains.
Increase water intake.
Behavior Modifications for Toilet Training:
Teach your child to not wait to have a bowel movement.
Encourage your child to sit on the toilet for 10 minutes after breakfast and dinner (at the same time each day). This establishes a routine.
Use a comfortable child’s toilet seat and a footstool.
FOLLOW UP as advised by the doctor or our staff.
SPECIAL NOTES TO PARENTS: Learn to recognize your child’s normal bowel pattern. Note color, consistency, and frequency of stools.
GET PROMPT MEDICAL ATTENTION if any of the following occur:
Fever over 100.4°F (38.0°C)
Refusal to eat