Tips to Combat Childhood Constipation

Although it seems like old-fashioned advice, milk of magnesia helps to effectively combat childhood constipation. Learn more.
Tips to Combat Childhood Constipation

Last update: 27 December, 2022

Although it may seem like advice a grandmother would give, milk of magnesia helps to effectively combat childhood constipation. Yes, milk of magnesia is an effective agent, explains the document entitled Diagnosis and treatment of constipation in children, released by the Spanish National Health System.

This study also recommends glycerin suppositories as a treatment against constipation for children under 1 year of age and, if necessary, also recommends applying a saline enema.

But before you medicate your child, keep in mind that the normal frequency of defecation varies by age, from four stools a day in the first week of life to 1 or 2 stools a day by 4-year-olds.

The frequency of bowel movements will decrease progressively according to the age of your child.

“Constipation is characterized by difficult and often painful defecation of hard and large stools emitted at long intervals of time”, explain pediatricians Camarero Salces C. and Rizo Pascual JM.

How to detect if your child suffers from childhood constipation

It’s vital that parents know the signs of this disease. The presence of different symptoms in your child’s bowel habits can serve as a signal to identify a constipation problem.

A toddler sitting on a toilet.

These problems must have been present for one or two months to really be considered symptomatic.

There are also periods when a child is more susceptible to constipation.

In fact, there are three critical moments in which this condition can worsen:

  • Weaning of the infant
  • Diaper training
  • The start of school

Symptoms in babies under four years of age

In children under four years of age, it could be a case of constipation if two or more of the following problems are detected for at least one month:

  • The bowel movements are very hard and/or painful.

Painful bowel movements are usually the symptom that triggers the rest of the problems, as they produce a feeling of fear of pain that affects little ones both physically and mentally.

  • The child only defecates once or twice a week.
  • Bowel movements occur involuntarily at least once a week.
  • The child retains excessive stool.
  • A large fecal mass is found in the rectum.
  • The expelled feces are very large.

Symptoms suffered by older children

In children over four years of age, the period for detecting problems would be extended to a minimum of two months, that is, you’re facing a case of constipation if two or more of the following symptoms are detected for at least two months:

  • The child defecates three or fewer times a week.
  • Involuntary bowel movements occur at least once a week.
  • The child avoids voluntary defecation.
  • Pain when defecating.
  • Large stools that can even be palpated at the abdominal level.
  • Blood in the stool.

Now that you know the symptoms and if your child is indeed constipated, pay attention to their diet. In general, A child with constipation drinks little liquid, and has an unbalanced diet that’s rich in protein and lacking in fiber.

Therefore, after emptying their stomach, it’s essential that they change their eating habits.

A toddler wearing a chef's hat, holding a block of cheese, and standing on a chair by a able full of vegetables.

A diet against constipation

Like adults, your child requires a proper diet with fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains; this is part of the first-line treatment of constipation.

The introduction of a diet of these characteristics sometimes requires the use of fiber supplements.

The intake of whole grains is a good option to improve constipation, as well as eating apples and pears with their skin.

There are foods rich in fiber such as green beans, carrots, lentils, and almonds that you can gradually include, and without impositions, in your child’s diet.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Arnaud M. J. Mild dehydration: a risk factor for constipation? European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Diciembre 2003. 57 Suppl 2: S88-95.
  • Clinica Mayo. Estreñimiento en niños. Septiembre 2021.
  • Hwan Bae S. Diets for constipation. Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition. Diciembre 2014. 17 (4): 203-208.
  • Mohhamadi Bourkheili A, Mehrabani S, et al. Effect of cow’s-milk-free diet on chronic constipation in children; a randomized clinical trial. Caspian Journal of Internal Medicine. 2021. 12 (1): 91-96.
  • Roma E, Adamidis D, et al. Diet and chronic constipation in children: the role of fiber. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition. Febrero 1999. 28 (2): 169-74.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.