Print, Share, or View Spanish version of this article
Constipation (kahn-sti-PAY-shun) is common. Children with constipation have stools (poops) that are hard, dry, and difficult or painful to get out. Constipation can be treated.
You may worry your child is constipated if he or she doesn't have a bowel movement* (BM) every day. But every child is different. Most children have BMs 1 or 2 times a day. Others may go 2 to 3 days or longer between BMs.
Hard or painful stools
Many days between bowel movements
Bleeding from the child's bottom where stool comes out
Stomachaches, cramping, nausea*
Brownish wet spots in the underwear (See “What Is Encopresis?” on the second page of this handout.)
Have BMs that stop up the toilet.
Make faces like he or she is in pain.
Clench his or her bottom. It may look like your child is trying to push the stool out. But he or she is really trying to hold it in, because it hurts to come out.
Your child doesn't have a BM at least every 2 to 3 days.
Passing a stool hurts your child.
Treatment is based on your child's age and how bad the problem is. Usually no special tests are needed.
Constipation can get worse if it isn't treated. The longer stool stays inside the body, the larger and drier it gets. Then it hurts to pass it. This starts a cycle. The child becomes afraid to have a BM, and holds it in even more.
Constipation is rarely a problem in babies. It may become a problem when starting solid foods. Your child's doctor may suggest you give more water or juice. Pear juice and prune juice work well. Talk with the doctor before giving extra water to your baby.
Children and teens who are constipated often aren't getting enough high-fiber foods and water. Your child's doctor may suggest adding more high-fiber foods to your child's diet and drinking more water.
Your child's doctor may prescribe medicine to soften or remove the stool. Never give your child laxatives* or enemas* unless you check with the doctor. These drugs can be dangerous to children if used wrong.
What your child eats and doesn't eat.
Not getting enough fiber or liquid can make your child constipated.
Holding back, or “withholding,” stool.
Your child may not want to have a BM for different reasons:
Your child may try not to go because it hurts to pass a hard stool. (Diaper rashes can make this worse.)
Children aged 2 to 5 years may want to show they can decide things for themselves. Holding back their stools may be their way of taking control. This is why it is best not to push children into toilet-training.
Sometimes children don't want to stop playing to go to the bathroom.
Older children may hold back their stools when away from home (like camp or school). They may be afraid of or not like using public toilets.
Encourage your child to drink lots of water and eat more high-fiber foods.
Hold off on toilet-training until your child shows interest.
Help your child set a toilet routine. Pick a regular time to remind your child to sit on the toilet daily (like after breakfast.) Put something under your child's feet to press on. This makes it easier to push BMs out.
Encourage your child to play and be active.
Sometimes a child with bad constipation has BMs that look like diarrhea*. When a child holds back stools, the stools build up and get bigger. They may get so big that the rectum* stretches. Then the child may not feel the urge to go to the bathroom. The stool gets too big to pass without an enema, laxative, or other treatment.
Sometimes only liquid stool can come out, and leaks onto the underwear.
This is called encopresis (en-koh-PREE-sis). Talk with your child's doctor about treatment. It can get better, but it takes months.
Here is an easy way to figure how much fiber your child needs each day. Start with 5 grams. Then add your child's age. The answer is the number of grams your child needs each day.
The information contained in these topics is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.
Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before starting any new treatment or discontinuing an existing treatment. Talk with your healthcare provider about any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Nothing contained in these topics is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment.
If you think that you are having a medical emergency,
call 911 or the number for the local emergency ambulance service NOW!
And when in doubt, call your doctor NOW
or go to the closest emergency department.
By using this website, you accept the information provided herein "AS IS." Neither RemedyConnect nor the providers of the information contained herein will have any liability to you arising out of your use of the information contained herein or make any express or implied warranty regarding the accuracy, content, completeness, reliability, or efficacy of the information contained within this website.
RemedyConnect, Inc. has created this privacy statement in order to demonstrate our firm commitment to your privacy. The following discloses our information gathering and dissemination practices for this website: http://www.remedyconnect.com.
Acquisition of Information through PMD
We do not acquire any more information about website visitors than is required by law or is otherwise necessary to provide a high level of service efficiently and securely. Our site's registration form requires users to give us contact information (e.g., their name and e-mail address) and demographic information (e.g., children's birth months, but not birth dates). We use customer contact information from the registration form to (1) send the user pertinent medical and parenting information and (2) allow your local health provider lists of who is registering on that provider's site as a parent/guardian, staff member, doctor, or visitor. Users may opt-out of receiving future mailings; see the choice/opt-out section below.
We use your IP address to help diagnose problems with our server and to administer our Website. Your IP address is used to help identify you and to gather broad demographic information.
Demographic and profile data is also collected at our site. We may use this data to tailor the visitor's experience at our site, showing them content that we think they might be interested in, and displaying the content according to their preferences.
Our site may use order forms to allow users to request information, products, and services.
Your Doctor's Right to Privacy
We will respect your doctor's right to privacy. A doctor typically does not give his/her e-mail address to the parents/guardians of patients. We will not provide the e-mail addresses of doctor(s) in the local practice to users of their site without the doctor(s)' permission. Their site is restricted to use by whomever they wish, and they may deny access to their site to one or more prior users. In unusual cases, doctors may change their private site's access code and arrange for us to e-mail the new access code to approved users.
This site contains links to other sites. RemedyConnect.com is not responsible for the privacy practices or the content of such Websites. See Disclaimers.
Disclosure to Third Parties
We will provide individually-identifiable information about website users to third parties only if we are compelled to do so by order of a duly-empowered governmental authority, we have the express permission of the visitor, or it is necessary to process transactions and provide you services from our affiliates: Live Agent Answering Service, Digital Answering Service, Medical Answering Service and Pediatric Answering Service.
Privacy and Our Business Partners
This site may make chat rooms, forums, message boards, and/or news groups available to its users. Please remember that any information that is disclosed in these areas becomes public information and you should exercise caution when deciding to disclose your personal information.
This site has security measures in place to protect the loss, misuse and alteration of the information under our control. For further information regarding our security, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have any concerns regarding the security of information, please do not provide any information to RemedyConnect, Inc. until you are comfortable with our security measures.
You may correct or update your User Registration information at any time, by visiting the User Registration section and providing your personal password that you set at registration. If need be, please email us at email@example.com.
Our site provides users the opportunity to opt-out of receiving e-mail communications from our partners or us, except communications approved by your doctor's practice office. To so opt-out, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. To be removed as a user, please email us at the same address. If need be, you may mail requests to us at RemedyConnect, Inc.
Contacting the Website
If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, or your dealings with this Website, you can contact us by email at email@example.com or by mail at our address above.