Constipation, at any age, can lead to many uncomfortable symptoms such as stomach aches, nausea, loss of appetite and irritability.
It can feel incredibly upsetting when your child is experiencing constipation.
Seeing them wriggle in pain and discomfort is unbearable and as a parent, you might be feeling pretty helpless.
Constipation, at any age, can lead to many uncomfortable symptoms such as stomach aches, nausea
, loss of appetite and irritability. For older children, it can also result in many psychological issues connected to using the toilet
because children associate that experience with pain and discomfort.
For some children, constipaation may be a rare occurrence or something that happens for a very short amount of time. For example, your baby may be moving from formula milk to cow’s milk and their digestive system temporarily rejects that change.
It may settle down after a couple of days and never happen again. The same can happen for a baby who is being introduced to solid foods. Throughout the weaning journey, different food groups are introduced and some of these may have an adverse effect on your baby’s system.
You might come to recognise that a certain food leads to constipation for your baby whereas another baby of similar age tolerates it just fine. Every baby is different and this is why it is a good idea to keep track of the foods you introduce and when you introduce them.
A variety of things can cause constipation for a small child. In the cases of babies, it may be connected to something the mother has eaten (if she is breastfeeding) or some kind of intolerance towards their formula milk.
For toddlers and older children, the diet may be too rich in processed foods or sugar for example. They may be taking the place of whole grains, fruits and vegetables which are extremely important for a healthy digestive system. In these cases, dietary changes can really make a difference.
It is not always easy to persuade your child to eat more fruit and vegetables but it should really help. Soups and smoothies are a great way of getting their five-a-day in without them even noticing.
Many parents will turn to recipes that involve hidden vegetables as they work out quite well for fussy eaters. Staying on top of your child’s fluid intake is also very important.
A diet that lacks enough fluid can result in harder stools which can cause constipation.
Physical activity is an important element to consider also. Exercise helps the movement of food throughout the digestive system. You may have heard of parents gently massaging their babies tummy or moving their legs in a “cycling” motion to help the issue. The same can be said for children of all ages – activity can really make a difference.
Some children experience constipation because they actively reject using the toilet in this way. They may be immersed in a world of play and do not want to be interrupted. For this reason, they hold it in. This can create a bigger issue and often results in a power struggle which can result in a huge amount of frustration and upset for both parent and child. It is important to regularly check-in with your child to ask them if they need to use the toilet.
Some children do not like using a toilet that is not in their own home and on days out, at school or during holidays they may become constipated as a result. In these cases, it is important to respond sensitively to the issue which is very much emotional as it is steeped in anxiety. You might also notice this behaviour during times of great change for your child.
In some cases, medicine may be required to help your constipated child. You should speak to your GP if the issue persists.
Tracey is a happy mammy to four-year-old Billy. She is a breastfeeder, gentle parent and has recently lost five stone so healthy family eating is her passion! You can find her at www.loveofliving.ie.