Constipation is a change in a child’s bowel habits. Constipation occurs when the stools are too hard, too infrequent, too painful, too large, or there is an inability to have a bowel movement at all.

Symptoms

  • Cramping with abdominal (belly) pain.
  • Hard stool or painful bowel movements.
  • Less than one stool in three days, even if soft.
  • Soiling of undergarments .

Home Care Instructions

  • Check your child’s bowel movements so you know what is normal for your child.
  • If your child is toilet trained, have them sit on the toilet for ten minutes following breakfast or until the bowel is empty. Rest the child’s feet on a stool for comfort.
  • Do not show concern or frustration if your child is unsuccessful. Let the child leave the bathroom and try again later in the day.
  • Include fruits, vegetables, bran, and whole grain cereals in the diet.
  • A child must have fiber-rich foods with each meal (see Fiber Content of Foods Table).
  • Encourage the intake of extra fluids between meals.
  • Prunes or prune juice once daily may be helpful.
  • Encourage your child to come in from play to use the bathroom if they have an urge to have a bowel movement. Use rewards to reinforce this.
  • If your caregiver has given medication for your child’s constipation, give this medication every day. You may have to adjust the amount given to allow your child to have one to two soft stools every day.
  • To give added encouragement, reward your child for good results. This means doing a small favor for your  child when they sit on the toilet for an adequate length (ten minutes) of time even if they have not had a bowel movement.
  • The reward may be any simple thing such as getting to watch a favorite TV show. giving a sticker or keeping a chart so the child may see their progress.
  • Using these methods, the child will develop their own schedule for good bowel habits.
  • Do not give enemas, suppositories, or laxatives unless so instructed by your child’s caregiver.
  • Never punish your child for soiling their pants or not having a bowel movement. This will only worsen the problem.

Seek Immediate Medical Care If:

  • There is bright red blood in the stool.
  • The constipation continues for more than four days.
  • There is abdominal or rectal pain along with the constipation.
  • There is continued soiling of undergarments.
  • You have any questions or concerns.

Fiber Content of Foods

Drinking plenty of fluids and consuming foods high in fiber can help with constipation. See the list below for the fiber content of some common foods.

Food Group

Food Item

Amount

Grams of Fibre

Starches and GrainsCheerios1 Cup3
 Kellogg’s Corn Flakes 1 Cup0.7
 Rice Krispies 1 1/4 Cup 0.3
 Quaker Oat Life Cereal 3/4 Cup 2.1
 Oatmeal, instant (cooked) 1/2 Cup 2
 Kellogg’s Frosted Mini Wheats 1 Cup 5.1
 Rice, brown, long-grain (cooked) 1 Cup 3.5
 Rice, white, long-grain (cooked) 1 Cup 0.6
 Macaroni, cooked, enriched 1 Cup 2.5
Legumes Beans, baked, canned,
plain or vegetarian
 1/2 Cup 5.2
 Beans, kidney, canned 1/2 Cup6.8
Beans, pinto,
dried or cooked
1/2 Cup7.7
Beans, pinto canned1/2 Cup5.5
 Breads and Crackers Graham crackers,
plain or honey
 2 squares 0.7
 Saltine crackers 30.3
Pretzels, plain salted10 pieces1.8
Bread, whole wheat1 Slice1.9
Bread, white sliced1 Slice0.7
 Bread, raisin 1 Slice 1.2
Bagel, plain3 oz2
Tortilla, flour1 oz0.9
 Tortilla, corn 1 Small 1.5
 Bun, hamburger or hotdog 1 small 0.9
 Fruit Apple, raw with skin 1 medium 4.4
 Applesauce, sweetened1/2 Cup 1.5
 Banana 1/2 Medium 0.4
 Grapes 10 Grapes 0.4
 Orange 1 Small 2.3
 Raisin 1.5 oz 1.6
 Melon 1 Cup 1.4
 Vegetables Green beans, canned 1/2 Cup1.3
 Carrots (cooked) 1/2 Cup 2.3
 Broccoli (cooked) 1/2 Cup 2.8
 Peas, frozen (cooked) 1/2 Cup 4.4
 Potatoes, mashed 1/2 Cup 1.6
 Lettuce 1 Cup 0.5
 Corn, canned 1/2 Cup 1.6
 Tomato 1/2 Cup 1.1

Information taken from the USDA National Nutrient Database, 2008.