child with constipation

What is constipation?

Not all children will have a bowel movement every day. Some kids may have 2-3 bowel movements a day; other kids may have one bowel movement every 2-3 days. Both can be normal. We worry about constipation when stools are hard, infrequent, require a lot of straining to pass or are painful.

Causes of constipation

  • The most common reason for children to be constipated is a lack of fiber and water in the diet. They need more fruits and vegetables!
  • Constipation can also occur with some medical conditions, after an illness, or after a change in routine.
  • Also some kids will hold their stool in because they don’t want to use the toilet or are embarrassed about using a school restroom. By holding in stool, it can become harder to pass.

Symptoms of constipation

  • Not having a bowel movement for many days
  • Hard stools
  • Straining
  • Pain when having a bowel movement
  • Blood when wiping
  • Abdominal pain
  • Decreased appetite
  • Leakage


  • The first step to treating constipation is improving the diet. Increase fruits and vegetables and other high fiber foods. Also, encourage your child to drink more water!
  • Encourage your child to use the bathroom regularly. The best time to try is 10-15 minutes after a meal
  • Get active – exercise helps keep things moving!
  • Medication – there are several medications that can be used to treat constipation. If adjusting your child’s diet doesn’t improve the constipation, then it is time to call for an appointment.
  • *A special note on infants–bowel movements in infants can vary widely depending on if they are breast fed or formula fed, if they have started cereal, etc. Some infants will have 10 bowel movements a day and some may go a week between bowel movements. Newborn infants especially may grunt and strain as they try to learn how to have a bowel movement. If your infant is eating well and having soft stools, then there is generally no cause for concern. If your infant goes more than 4-5 days without a bowel movement or is excessively fussy, then call the office for more guidance.