Strategies to Help Your Constipated Toddler
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5 dietitian tips for toddler constipation

mom feeding constipated toddler

Toddlers are precious little ones: temperamental, challenging, yet tremendously affectionate. Parenting a toddler is tough, as they navigate the ebbs and flow of autonomy vs. dependency. Add challenges to these little ones, and the task can easily become overwhelming. This is why routine and structure is so essential for toddlers.

Toddler constipation is a common struggle. What constitutes toddler constipation? WEBMD, defines it as a toddler having a bowel movement less than 3 times per week. Of course, this can vary depending on your child, so any noticeable decrease in bowel movement results in hard, dry, uncomfortable, painful stools, at times with bloody show. 

While toddlers can have random bouts of constipation due to changes in routine and diet, if lasting under two weeks, it should not be a concern. Common symptoms of constipation in toddlers include low appetite, bloating, crankiness, clenching buttocks, turning red, sweating, crying, and soiling diapers or underwear. Other less obvious symptoms are nausea, stomachaches, and worry about going to the toilet. 

How to help a constipated toddler? Two main things to focus on here: 

1. Ignoring the urge to go 

To tackle point one, ignoring the urge to go, we have to consider the toddler’s routine for “potty time”. At times, constipation is a simple sign the toddler isn’t quite ready to be toilet trained. The best approach is not to worry, put on a diaper and let him get back to feeling comfortable having a bowel movement. Time is precious and can be all that is needed for the child to hit this new milestone without constipation. You can retry potty training after a few weeks or months once you feel there is less of a power struggle. When you tackle it with patience and excitement you may find the fear around it has dissipated. Patience is truly a charming virtue for effective parenting! There are many great potty books out there to support a stress-free connection to the toilet. Here are a few recommendations

2. Diet 

Toddler Constipation

Now, onto point two: Diet

Here are five diet recommendations to help remedy toddler constipation:  

1. Decrease the milk

Toddlers who are attached to drinking more than 20 oz of cow’s milk, may run into constipation for a couple of reasons. One is the overconsumption of milk is displacing other vital nutrients like fruits and vegetables and other high-fiber foods. Also, water intake could be lacking since they are getting fluid mostly from milk. To tackle this, simply consider having milk at a set time, say for breakfast, and before bedtime snack or give only 2-3 oz per meal or snack, and offer other food options.

Particularly important for toddlers as well, is consuming iron-rich foods like meat, poultry, fish, game meats, eggs, nuts, nut butter, and seeds as calcium absorption (high in milk) competes with iron absorption.

2. Increase the water 

Water intake can be tricky with some toddlers. Make sure their water bottle is filled and they have access to drinking when thirsty. While an open cup is ideal for exercising jaw muscles needed for developing speech, it is also wise to have different types of cups that encourage your toddler to drink often and independently. Sippy cups that are easy to clean are a good alternative for when you cannot be available to supervise an open cup. You can always use a variety of cups to ensure adequate hydration and appropriate speech development.

3. Increase the fruit and veggies  

Fruits generally are not a problem for toddlers. So offer them with regularity, while also balancing adding lots of veggie options for them to explore. Variety is the spice of life! So the more variety you offer the more your toddler will develop into a confident, competent eater. Eating fruits and vegetables at every meal will ramp up the fiber; and coupled with water, this will keep constipation at bay.

4. Increase the whole grains 

Offering whole grains is one easy way to increase fiber intake. So instead of white rice, offer brown or wild rice, choose a lentil or whole wheat pasta, provide quinoa, buckwheat, and bulgur in dishes, and use whole grains in baking. Oats are one easy way to add fiber to kids’ diets. Try fruit-packed oat muffins, oatmeal, or overnight oats. 

5. Increase the movement 

Getting more active is another way to keep the bowels moving. Increase active play for your toddler by: 

  • Taking them out for a walk. Pack a flashlight if it’s getting dark, that will keep them motivated. 
  • Plan play dates in playgrounds and parks. 
  • Have them ride their bicycle or scooter in a safe parking lot. 
  • Gear them up for outside play in the snow! Buy a sled! 
  • Book activities like swimming, sports ball, or “play gym” at the local community center.  
  • Put some tunes on and dance with your toddler.  
  • Get an indoor play car.  
  • Simply! Lower screentime and get them exploring, toddlers are so busy they will find some great activity to do! 
Toddler Constipation

Try these delicious toddler foods high in fiber! Great list of suggestions on how to add fiber to simple foods kids enjoy!

If you’re struggling to implement strategies for constipated children, our dietitians are here to help! 

If you are confused about which foods can trigger constipation or what nutrition recommendations can ease symptoms and improve your loved one’s gut health, reach out to our Registered Dietitians for help. Let us help guide the way.

To learn more about digestive issues click here.

If you found this blog post helpful, check out our other blogs for more toddler-related nutrition information:

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