Toddler not pooping? Here's what to do

2 toddler smiling

Toddlers are a sensitive bunch, but as parents, we want them going to the bathroom regularly and normally. That said, as with the best of us, toddlers can suffer constipation and struggle to pass bowel movements.

Signs of constipation include avoiding the bathroom, screaming or crying on the toilet, bloating, nausea, general crankiness, or a stomachache.

While short periods of constipation are normal, you should seek a pediatrician if it spans more than two weeks

If you notice your child suffering from some constipation, take notes to present to your pediatrician. How often does your child go, what does it look like, and is there any blood present?

What Causes Toddler Constipation

Here are some of the top causes of toddler constipation.

Diet

Diets that are too heavy in sweets, dairy, and processed food and lacking sufficient amounts of fiber are likely to lead to constipation. Similarly, insufficient amounts of fluid can also lead to constipation by making the stools harder.

Changes in diet, such as eating new foods or switching from breastmilk to formula, may also spark constipation.

Change in Routine

Toddlers are a finicky bunch. Simple changes in routine can make them unwilling to go to the bathroom. This can include vacation, being away from their regular toilet, or moving.

Where possible, try and keep a potty routine and have your toddler going to the bathroom on the same toilet.

Illness

If an illness, such as the stomach bug, impacts your child’s appetite, this affects their diet and can lead to constipation. As much as you can, maintain a normal eating routine, even if your child is sick. Try and keep their fiber and fluid intake up.

The good news about illness is that eventually, it passes, and your child's stool should return to normal.

Medication

High-dose iron supplements or narcotic pain medication, among others, can lead to constipation. Note that low-dose iron present in baby formula doesn’t create constipation.

Lack of activity

One of the many benefits of physical activity is helping with constipation. Exercise lowers the amount of time it takes for food to pass through, and it also limits how much water your body absorbs from said stool. Dry, hard stools increase the likelihood of constipation.

Physical activity right after a meal can also lead to constipation, as it moves blood flow away from the intestines to the heart and muscles.

Regular movement helps combat constipation.

Related: How to Get a Baby to Sleep Through the Night

 toddlers playing

What to Do If Your Toddler is Constipated?

Fluid

Encouraging your child to drink water, or water with a small splash of fruit juice, helps them combat constipation. Note that milk can be constipating in some cases.

Offer water at every meal and between meals, tracking how much your child is drinking.

Movement

Remember that exercise stimulates digestion. Encourage your toddler to romp around throughout the day and regularly give them opportunities to play and climb around.

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Fiber

Eating a diet rich in fiber and whole grains helps move food through at a constant pace, preventing constipation. Some great options for children include vegetables (especially raw), fruits (apples and pears work well), and whole grains (barley and oats).

Petroleum jelly

Applying a bit of petroleum jelly around the anus will lubricate it for smoother passage of bowel movements. This extra stimulation may also encourage bowel movements. 

Should constipation, and straining, lead to small tears in the skin around the anus, known as fissures, apply some diaper cream to help fissures heal. These can be painful and prolong constipation.

What Not To Do If Your Toddler is Constipated?

Get Angry

Expressing anger will confuse the child and discourage them from properly doing their business. Children aren’t avoiding the potty to upset you, so it’s best to be understanding. Kids are simply trying to figure out the potty process.

Should an accident occur, bring your child to the toilet and explain that’s where the poop should have gone.

Related: Why Does My Baby Cry So Much?

Force them to Poop

A child, like all of us, passes bowel movements when the body says it’s time. Forcing your child to sit on the toilet until they poop won’t work. Instead, notice what warning signs your child gives when he or she needs to poop.

By noticing these signals, such as a red face, stopping activity, or moving to another part of the room, you can bring the toddler to the bathroom to prevent accidents.

Unhealthy Food

Sugar and refined carbohydrates, such as rice, pasta, and white bread, are large sources of constipation in children. Don’t overdo these foods, especially if your child is presenting signs of constipation.

Bottom Line

Constipation is a natural human phenomenon, and toddlers aren’t immune to it. Using these tricks and knowing what to avoid can help the process move along faster and avoid any major upsets.

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