Richmond Practice - Constipation in children

Constipation in children
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What can I do if my child is constipated?

After birth, most infants pass four to five soft liquid bowel movements a day. Breast-fed infants usually tend to have more bowel movements compared to formula-fed infants. Some breast-fed infants have a bowel movement after each feed, whereas others have only one bowel movement every two to three days. Infants who are breast-fed rarely develop constipation. By the age of two years, a child will usually have one or two bowel movements a day. By four years of age, a child will have one bowel movement a day.

Constipation in children can occur at any time, but in particular:
  • after starting formula or solid foods (while an infant)
  • during toilet training of toddlers
  • soon after starting school or during other stressful experiences
What are the causes and what can you do?

Common causes of constipation are inactivity, a low fibre diet and limited fluid intake. Some medications such as antacids, like Gaviscon, and antihistamines can also cause constipation. The problem should resolve quickly after addressing these issues.

Voluntary withholding of the stool after experienced pain or other discomfort is a common cause of constipation in toddlers. A doctor needs to assess these children as early management can prevent this from becoming a chronic problem.

There are some other, rare, conditions that can cause constipation such as metabolic, neuromuscular and anatomical disorders. These conditions usually begin in early infancy and need further medical assessment.

Consult your doctor if:
  • your child refuses to pass a stool after experiencing pain or other discomfort
  • constipation persists after attention has been given to diet and if the child is otherwise active
  • your child refuses food
  • your child is in pain
At Elsbeth's Doctors our doctors and/or paediatrician (children's doctor) will be happy to assess your child to exclude any underlying medical cause. We can also review the child's diet or draw in help from other specialists as required.