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What to do if your child gets constipation

Tip

Teach your child not to wait to have a bowel movement. To create a regular bowel habit, ask her to sit on the toilet for at least 10 minutes at the same time each day.

Your child may have more than one bowel movement each day or a bowel movement every other day.

Either is normal, as long as the stool is soft or formed.

If your child has hard, dry stools or goes more than three days without a bowel movement, she may be constipated.

If this happens:

  • Give her more water or 100 percent fruit juices to drink. Good juice choices are apple, pear, cherry, grape or prune.
  • Give her more fiber. Fiber is the part of the plant that is not totally digested. It adds bulk to the stool, which makes the stool move through the digestive system faster than normal. Good sources of fiber include:
    • cereals: bran, whole wheat flakes, shredded wheat, oatmeal or granola
    • brans and crackers: whole wheat bread, dark rye bread, corn bread, graham crackers, bran muffins, Ry-Krisp® or Triscuits®
    • fruits and vegetables: all fruits (except bananas and apples) and all vegetables (except carrots). Leave skins on fruits and vegetables because they are a great source of fiber.
    • beans and nuts: baked beans, peas, corn, peanuts, peanut butter and potatoes
  • Limit apples, bananas, rice, cooked carrots, cheese, gelatin products, milk and dairy products until the constipation is gone.

 

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Guide for the Care of Children: Ages Birth to 5 Years Old, fifth edition

To avoid awkward sentences, instead of referring to your child as "he/she" or "him/her," this guide will alternate between "he" or she" and "him" or "her."

First published: 02/01/2010
Last updated: 01/01/2014

Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts, including the Pediatric Department of Allina Health Coon Rapids Clinic