Pooping. Everyone does it, and your kids do it a lot. Or at least it’s up to you to deal with it when the poop hits the fan. When it comes to kids having problems with their poop, constipation is a common one.
“It is not ‘normal’ for kids to have problems pooping, but it is common,” Dr. Danelle Fisher, MD, FAAP, pediatrician, tells SheKnows. “Kids often don’t listen to the cues their bodies give them to poop and will sometimes hold the poop in because they are in school or they are busy playing and get distracted. Also, some children eat diets that are not loaded with fiber and this can also cause poop problems.”
Constipation is generally described as having fewer than three bowel movements a week or bowel movements that happen less often than normal. When constipated, bowel movements are tough, dry, or even painful to release.
If you’re encountering poop problems with your kid, it’s important to remember that it’s common and typically, not a huge concern.
“It is very common for children to have trouble pooping. The majority of the time it is due to poor dietary habits which leads to constipation,” Dr. Gina Posner, MD, pediatrician at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center, tells SheKnows. “However, many times the constipation makes for painful stools which can lead to a child holding in the stools which leads to more constipation.”
What is the best way to treat your kid’s poop problems? Below, Drs. Fisher and Posner offer up their best solutions for parents.
Teaching them when to poop
Sounds simple enough but Dr. Fisher says, “The best treatments start with what is natural: learning to poop when you feel the urge.”
This starts with using words to express the act of using the toilet (“peeing,” “pooping,” and “potty” or “toilet”) and talking to them about what it feels like to poop, including identifying behaviors so that your kid can learn to recognize the urge to poop and understands how important it is to use the toilet whenever they experience it.
Ensuring they are eating a fibrous, nutritious diet and drinking enough water
“The most important treatment is dietary changes. Less processed foods and more vegetables and fruits,” says Dr. Posner, adding that, while healthy, bananas, carrots and apples can increase constipation. So you might want to lay off serving them those foods if they’re having trouble pooping.
Water is also key. Both doctors recommend ensuring your kid is drinking enough water on a daily basis. According to the CHOC Children’s Hospital, children should drink the number of 8 ounce cups of water equal to their age, with a maximum of 64 ounces of water for children over the age of 8. For example, a two-year old should drink two 8-oz glasses of water per day, and a four-year-old should drink four 8-oz glasses.
What to do when they’re constipated
Dr. Fisher suggests trying prunes or prune juice, calling it “nature’s best treatment of constipation.”
If that does not solve the problem, she says there are over-the-counter remedies for poop problems in children, including Miralax and other stool softeners and even enemas or suppositories.
When should you go to the doctor?
“Ongoing poop problems should prompt a visit to the doctor to discuss what may be the underlying issue and also how to improve the situation, says Dr. Fisher. “Parents should monitor their children’s stool habits and intervene if things are not soft and regular. Hard stools or blood in the stool is a reason to consult their pediatrician.”
Dr. Posner adds that your child is having severe pain in the abdomen “and not having at least one soft stool daily, I would recommend speaking to your pediatrician to get this issue resolved.”
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