Constipation involves a difficulty with peristalsis and a hard consistency to the bowel movements. Newborns usually have several stools a day that are soft and the consistency of mustard, particularly if breastfed. Formula-fed infants usually have darker, fewer and firmer stools.
Once solid food enters the diet, the stools become more formed and less frequent, and some babies may have a bowel movement without difficulty only once every three days, but daily is ideal.
By the age of two, children should be having a regular soft bowel movement once or twice a day. The stool should slide out without effort and leave behind very little residue.
Symptoms in Babies and Children
- In a newborn, firm stools less than once a day with straining and difficulty passing them
- Hard, dry stools with pain passing them
- Streaks of blood on outside of stool
- Abdominal pain along with hard, infrequent stools
Typically, as digested food travels down the intestines, nutrients and water are absorbed, and the waste material becomes stools. A soft stool is formed when enough water stays in the waste material, and the lower intestinal and rectal muscles form wavelike movements (peristalsis) to move the stool along and out. Poor function in either of these mechanisms – muscle movement or lack of water – can cause constipation.
The colon is your body’s fluid regulator. If you’re not drinking enough, your colon sucks water from the waste material and gives it back to the body, creating hard stools.
Constipation creates a chronic problem. A held stool becomes hard and larger and more painful to pass, so the child continues to hold on. And the longer the large stool stretches the intestines, the weaker their muscle tone becomes. When the stool finally does pass it can tear the rectal wall, causing streaks of blood. The child equates bowel movements with pain and holds on even more.
Constipation in Children:
- Holding on can be emotional. A toddler might be going through a phase that is causing him or her to be reluctant to have a bowel movement. Once they begin holding bowel movements, a cycle is triggered with the creation of hardened stools and it becomes hard to stop. Sometimes it helps to have a visual, such as explaining to the child that Mr. Poo is knocking at the door, and really wants to come out and have a swim. If you make him wait, he gets fatter and fatter and can’t get out. Try to create a rhythm where the child sits on the potty at around the same time each day to go number two. That helps train the body and reminds them to listen to their body’s signals. Stack some favorite books or toys near the potty to encourage them to relax.
Suggested Diet for Constipation
Add some extra fluids. Give your child two to three extra glasses of water (dilute with ¼ cup organic apple or grape juice if needed) per day. Extra fluids can also be provided in the form of broth in soups, coconut water and raw milk for children 5 and up who are not dairy-intolerant. Raw milk (unlike pasteurized milk) is very hydrating and nutrient-rich, and provides valuable probiotics to the gut.
Add more fiber in the form of fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains in your child’s diet. Fiber softens stools and makes them easier to pass. Try carrot sticks and celery with Follow Your Heart ranch dressing or a tahini dip. Other options include brown rice and organic peas, black beans or broccoli with a dash of soy sauce or Wasa Rye Crispbread with ghee or organic coconut butter.
AVOID COLON-CLOGGERS such as fried foods, commercial red meats, pasteurized milk and cheese, soda, commercial breads (try sprouted breads instead), potatoes and white rice.
For infants, delay introduction of solid foods, particularly constipating ones such as rice and bananas. Instead of rice cereal, try barley cereal. Good starter high-fiber foods for constipated infants are pureed prunes and pears.
Formula-fed babies can experience constipation due to certain ingredients in the formula.
A little extra help. For infants who need more assistance, a glycerin suppository is very useful. It does not require a prescription, is available at any pharmacy and contains directions.
- One-two tablespoons of diluted prune juice for six months and up
- For toddlers, up to 8 oz. can be used. Try strained prunes or make a prune puree. Serve by itself, spread on a Wasa cracker or mixed with other foods.
- Apricots, apples, pears, plums, prunes and peaches are all bowel-friendly foods
- Flax seed meal is a fantastic laxative and contains fiber, and is also a valuable source of omega 3 fats. Flax is a nutrient that facilitates absorption of the vitamins.
How to do: buy whole organic flax seeds and grind in a coffee or seed grinder to avoid rancidity associated with pre-ground flax. Mix in soup, smoothie or hot cereal. Keep your flax seeds refrigerated.
Toddlers: one tablespoon a day
Older children and adults: two tablespoons a day
Why not mineral oil? Mineral oil is a petroleum products derivative, and depletes the body of fat-soluble nutrients.
BabyFleet enemas. These are great for a last resort- if it’s been several days and nothing is working. They are available without prescription, just follow directions on the package insert.
SUPPLEMENTATION FOR CHILDREN’S CONSTIPATION
Very effective with aiding with digestion.
Many children that suffer from constipation are lacking good bacteria like bifidus.
Magnesium is a safe remedy for relaxing the muscles and aiding elimination.