Baby Hints & Tips

Chronic constipation in kids: How to help your child

Bowel movements are unique to each person. Most people will have one daily, others multiple times a day. We have all experienced the discomfort of constipation at some point in our lives. However what happens if your child’s bowel movements are irregular, painful and don’t happen for weeks at a time? We breakdown what chronic constipation is and what causes it.

Does your child have chronic constipation

It’s important to see a medical practitioner about this. Make sure you document how frequent your child defecates and what the consistency of it is. It is only a doctor who can truly diagnose chronic constipation.

What is chronic constipation?

Constipation in children is actually super common. According to the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, about a third of children will experience constipation. However, chronic constipation is when the constipation is not a singular event, or a once every few months or so event. It means your child has problems pooping regularly (less than once a week or fortnight), for a lengthy period of time. 

Babies who are breastfed should poo anywhere from daily to every three days, while formula fed babies should be pooping at least once every three to four days. 

Older children should be having bowel movements daily and the consistency should not be hard or painful to pass. 

chronic constipatio in kids

Causes of constipation in kids?

  • If your child’s diet is includes too many processed foods, dairy, sweets with little fibre. Keeping hydrated is key to avoiding constipation. Keep in mind that changes to diet including going from breast milk/formula to cows milk can affect the stool.
  • Illness including taking certain medication can cause constipation and hardening of stools, which can make them painful and if not treated can lead to chronic constipation.
  • Fear of bowel movements can cause children to withhold their poo and cause a cycle of the constipation. The stool builds up in the bowel and the bigger it gets the more painful it is for the child to pass which causes the fear each time they need to poop.

Treatments for constipation

It’s important to seek medical advice when treating chronic constipation because it may be occurring due to underlying medical issues.  Seek medical advice before trying or testing any home remedies. 

You may be referred to a gastroenterologist to look into what is going on internally. However it isn’t uncommon for your child to be referred to an occupational therapist, physiotherapist or even a psychologist to get to the bottom of why and what can be done to help your child suffering from chronic constipation. 

When to see the doctor?

Constipation usually isn’t serious. However, chronic constipation can lead to complications or even be a sign of an underlying condition. If you’re unsure of the cause of your child’s constipation or you think your child may have chronic constipation, see a medical professional. Constipation lasts longer than two weeks or is accompanied by some or all of these symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Not eating
  • Blood in the stool
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Weight loss
  • Pain during bowel movements
  • Part of the intestine coming out of the anus (rectal prolapse)

Remember, in case of emergencies go straight to your local Emergency department.

Has your baby experienced constipation? Check out what our resident GP’s advice on baby constipation.Perhaps you’re just curious to know what is normal and what’s a little odd when it comes to poop, check out this article.

* This article should not be considered as medical advice and should not be used to self-diagnose. Always see a medical professional for advice and treatments.

Alexandra Navarra

About the Author:

Alex is your average caffeine addicted mum on a quest to share her experiences and learn from yours. Her world revolves around her baby girl, four-year-old son and hubby Rob. She lives with her family in Sydney's South West and when she's not writing, you can find her engrossed in the latest true crime docu-series or trying to get kids to at least try the broccoli.

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