It’s important to know that bowel habits vary from child to child and will also vary by age. Children who deal with constipation may have stools that are firm or hard, or take several days to pass. Sometimes, stools can look like small, firm pebbles or balls. Illness or a change in routine (such as starting school or daycare) can also exacerbate constipation. Symptoms may be mild to very uncomfortable for children, but they can be managed well with diet and lifestyle modifications.
Parents should ensure their children are drinking enough water throughout the day. Inadequate fluid intake is a very common reason for constipation. It is also important to incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables into children’s diets, as well as high-fiber foods (whole grain bread, cereals and beans). For toilet-trained children, if there has been a change in routine, make certain that your child takes time to use the restroom. I usually recommend having constipation-prone children sit on the toilet for at least a few minutes, twice a day. Sometimes, that gentle reminder to take a break from playing is all kids need to keep their bowel movements regular.
If the above tips do not solve the problem, or you have any concerns about your child’s bowel habits, it is a good idea to schedule an appointment with your child’s pediatrician. As I tell my young patients in the office, normal stools are an important part of being healthy, and the pediatrician’s office is a permissive place to talk about poop!
— Amanda Gogol-Tagliaferro, DO, FAAP, Pediatrician, Akron Children’s Hospital, Locust Pediatric Care Group