Constipation is the condition in which an individual has reduced frequency of bowel movements, or finds difficulty in having bowel movements or clearing the bowels. It is uncommon in young breastfed children, but relatively common in children during toilet training period and school-going age.
Constipation can affect your child in many ways. They may refuse to eat and miss out on essential nutrients, among other undesirable effects. Worried? Read this article for more information, and learn more about the causes, symptoms, and how to treat constipation in children.
There are many reasons why constipation can happen, including diet, medications, activity, diseases and disorders. It can sometimes occur in young children, making it difficult to distinguish from colic. Children can also suffer from intentional stool retention, which is constipation due to stress when they’re not ready for toilet training.
Constipation occurs when your colon has absorbed too much water from your waste which is your stool. This causes your stool to dry out making its consistency hard as well as difficult to be pushed out of the body10.
When your consumed food passes through the digestive tract, the nutrients from said foods are absorbed. The partially digested food or waste that is left behind will move from your small intestine to the large intestine which is also known as the colon. Water is then absorbed from the waste thus creating a solid matter which is the stool. If you are experiencing constipation, your food may be moving too slowly through the digestive tract. This causes the colon to take up too much time to absorb water from your waste. The stool then becomes way too dry, hard and is incredibly difficult — and possibly painful — to push out10.
Constipation is generally difficult to define, as there are no clear indications of what is ‘normal’ in terms of the frequency of bowel movements, and symptoms may vary from child to child. Here are some signs if you’re concerned that your child could be suffering from constipation.
Not all constipation incidents need medical attention. Before you rush to your medical practitioner, you may want to try these tips at home to ease the situation.
If your child is formula-fed, try a different formula. Perhaps a formula milk for constipation. Research the ingredients found in the formula milk to understand its effects and decide on which milk is good for constipation. Formula milk that is made with minimal processing (mild heat treatment) will be easier to digest, compared to heavily processed ones.
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Interested to know what a ‘good’ faeces looks like? The Bristol stool scale is a 7-point standard used for clinical practice and research, and a good indication of whether your child has constipation. Check your child’s stool content and compare it with the following guide. Normal faeces should be the texture of Types 4 to 6, rather than dry and lumpy as shown in Types 1 to 3.
If your child has experienced this condition for a prolonged period, it would be wise to call your doctor. Your healthcare professional may prescribe probiotics, laxatives, or even surgical treatment for critical cases or organic causes. Do seek medical attention if your child is suffering from any of these following symptoms.
Call your child's doctor if your child is experiencing severe abdominal or rectal pain or if any of the following occurs14:
When you speak to your paediatrician about your child’s bowel movements, it is not a pleasant topic. However, doctors are trained health professionals who have discussed just about every health topic you can think of with their patients15.
Your doctor will first ask you questions about your medical history, bowel movements, and your child’s lifestyle and routines15.
We hope this article has helped answer some of the questions you may have for child constipation as well as helped you decide on which milk is good for constipation. If in doubt, be sure to consult a medical professional for advice.