Constipation is surprisingly common among toddlers. My guess is that your little one is experiencing constipation and that’s why you’ve searched for the best foods for toddler constipation! However, your child’s bowel movements (or lack thereof) may not be as alarming as you think.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), constipation in children means having fewer than two bowel movements per week.
In contrast, constipation in adults is having three or fewer bowel movements per week.
So, while it may be considered constipation for us, it could be normal for your kiddo. Nevertheless, nothing is better than a mommas’ intuition. If you feel that your little one is struggling, there are some natural interventions to promote bowel regularity.
In this article, I want to discuss what causes potty problems in toddlers and the best foods for toddler constipation to get things back on track!
What Is Constipation In Toddlers?
As I mentioned earlier, constipation in toddlers is defined as less than two bowel movements per week. Moreover, if you notice your little one having hard, lumpy stools that are difficult to pass, it could be a sign of constipation.
It’s important to note that toddlers are experiencing a lot of physical and emotional changes (hello, terrible twos!). This also goes for their digestive tract. As kids get older, their bowel habits change.
With that being said, an estimated 1 in 20 children visits the doctor each year because of constipation. It’s more common than we think, but this doesn’t make it any less scary for us as parents.
Common Symptoms of Constipation in Toddlers
- Loss of appetite
- Clenching buttocks (or face turning red when on the potty)
- Crying during bowel movements
What Causes Constipation In Toddlers?
Constipation in toddlers is often caused by dietary changes, issues with potty training, and medications.
If your child’s diet does not include enough fiber-rich foods or fluids, they could experience constipation. Another common cause of constipation is early toilet training. Some kids (like my oldest!) refused to poop in the toilet. This is where I learned there’s an actual name for this! It’s called bowel training resistance. Basically, it’s where your kiddo deliberately tries to hold in stools to avoid using the potty.
This results in stool impaction. If the situation doesn’t get under control sooner than later, you may have to give your child stool softeners or enemas. However, it’s important to never do this without speaking to your child’s pediatrician first.
Another culprit of constipation in toddlers is medications. Iron supplements and narcotics are some of the most common narcotics taken by toddlers that cause constipation.
If your toddler’s constipation persists for over two weeks, it’s considered chronic constipation and should be addressed with your healthcare provider.
So, how do you treat constipation in toddlers? Let’s take a look!
Treatment for A Constipated Toddler
Thankfully, there are natural treatment options you can try to relieve constipation or prevent constipation in toddlers.
Get Enough Exercise
You’ll want to make sure your toddler is getting between 30-60 minutes of physical activity in a day. This includes playing, jumping….destroying the house, you name it!
When their body moves more, it increases blood flow throughout the body and helps muscles in the digestive system contract to enable move food through faster.
Bowel Regimen Modification
Try to encourage your little one to go to the potty after meals. Let them sit there for at least 10-15 minutes. You can also encourage them with rewards like a sticker or prize if they go.
Diet For Toddler Constipation
You’ll want to ensure your kids eat a fiber-rich diet that softens poop and makes it easier to pass. High-fiber foods consist of whole-grain foods, fruits, and vegetables. It’s also important to drink more fluids to resolve your toddler’s constipation issues.
Children ages 1-3 generally need at least 35 ounces of fluid daily. For infants under the age of 1, there are no fiber guidelines published. However, you can speak with your child’s pediatrician to discuss the right amount of fiber and whether you should make changes to their breast milk or formula.
As we know, diet plays a large role in constipation. I want to tell you some of the best foods I’ve found to help toddlers go to the bathroom!
12 Best Foods For Toddler Constipation
The best foods for toddler constipation are generally whole foods included in a balanced diet. We all know prune juice works great, but is your toddler going to actually drink it?
I tried it with my child because I was excited to use my knowledge as a dietitian on my own kids. You wanna know how that went? It ended up spit out all over my clothes, making me late for work.
So, although prune juice works excellent, I want to give you some other great alternatives that work just as well to get your little one’s bowels moving.
- Whole grains
- Kidney Beans
- Chia seeds and flaxseed
- Sweet potato
- Canned pears
- Pomegranate seeds
Toddlers aged 1-3 should get around 19 grams of fiber daily.
As long as your kiddo gets the recommended five daily servings of fruits and veggies, don’t worry about getting too caught up in those numbers.
If you suspect your child isn’t getting enough fiber a day, it’s important to gradually increase it by no more than a couple of grams each day. This is because too much fiber at once can cause tummy troubles, including gas, bloating, and abdominal discomfort.
If you have questions, a pediatric nutritionist or dietitian can help you develop an individualized plan.
But What If I have a Picky Eater?
It can definitely be difficult with picky eaters (especially with veggies!). For tips and tricks to get your toddler to eat more vegetables, you can check out my favorite vegetables for picky eaters!
In the meantime, here’s one of my favorite high-fiber smoothie recipes that are filled with foods to help things keep moving along. I like to call it……wait for it….. an “evacuation smoothie”!
So, what is an evacuation smoothie? Sounds yummy, right? Just as the name implies (I’m so original, I know), it helps your child poop. It’s very simple to make and tastes great.
Evacuation Smoothie Filled With The Foods For Toddler Constipation
Blend the items listed below together. You may need a little less or a little more water or honey depending on your child’s preference.
- 1 handful of frozen berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, etc.)
- ½ of a pear
- 1 teaspoon ground flax
- 1 cup of spinach
- ½ teaspoon of honey, optional
- 1 ½ cups of water
This recipe serves 1 and has approximately 5.2 grams of fiber.
Additionally, you could try foods with sugar alcohols like xylitol or sorbitol. These are commonly found in yogurts, pudding, cherries, peaches, and other stone fruit.
The Worst Foods For Toddler Constipation
Some foods tend to cause constipation, which you’ll want to avoid or limit. Here’s a look at some foods you’ll want to limit until your constipated toddlers’ bowel habits normalize.
- Bananas ( especially if they’re un ripe bananas )
- Too much milk (or milk alternatives)
- Fried foods
- Cereal without fiber
- Fatty foods
- Excess processed foods
Again, you don’t have to worry too much about completely restricting these, but you will want to limit them and try to incorporate higher–fiber foods.
To see your little one struggling to go to the bathroom is heartbreaking. As a momma, we always want to resolve their problems instantly. With adequate water, physical activity, and a few diet swaps, you should notice relief in symptoms.
Ultimately, the best foods for toddler constipation are high-fiber foods that your toddler will actually eat. It’s important never to force foods that your little one doesn’t like on them regardless of whether they are beneficial.
If constipation lasts longer than a couple of weeks, you see blood in the stool, painful bowel movements occur, or severe abdominal pain occurs, you should always contact your child’s pediatrician as soon as possible.
Have any questions? Ideas? What foods for toddler constipation works best for your child? I’d love to hear your comments!
Does milk cause constipation in toddlers?
Some dairy foods such as yogurt, milk, and cheese can cause constipation in toddlers. If your child is lactose intolerant, they may also have trouble going to the bathroom because they are allergic to cow’s milk.
How do I know if my toddler is impacted?
Hard stools that result in straining and are difficult to pass will show signs. Your child may experience abdominal pain or bloating. They may also tiptoe around or walk funny. You may also notice uncontrollable watery diarrhea in their underwear if is not completely blocked with stool.
How long is too long for a toddler to poop?
Generally speaking, if your child is having less than two bowel movements per week and is straining or experiencing painful bowel movements, it is a sign that your child may be constipated.