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Constipation in Children: Care Instructions


Constipation is difficulty passing hard stools and passing fewer stools. How often your child has a bowel movement is not as important as whether the child can pass stools easily. Constipation has many causes in children. These include medicines, changes in diet, not drinking enough fluids, and changes in routine.

You can prevent constipation—or treat it when it happens—with home care. But some children may have ongoing constipation. It can occur when a child does not eat enough fibre. Or toilet training may make a child want to hold in stools. Children at play may not want to take time to go to the toilet.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

For babies younger than 12 months

  • Breastfeed your baby if you can. Hard stools are rare in breastfed babies.
  • If your baby is only on formula and is older than 6 months, try giving your baby a little apple or pear juice. Babies can't digest the sugar in these fruit juices very well, so more fluid will be in the intestines to help loosen stool. Don't give extra water. You can give 30 mL (1 oz) of these fruit juices a day, up to 120 mL (4 oz) a day.
  • When your baby can eat solid food, serve cereals, fruits, and vegetables.

For children 1 year or older

  • Give your child plenty of water and other fluids.
  • Include high-fibre foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, or whole grains in your child's diet each day.
  • Have your child take medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse advice line if you think your child is having a problem with a medicine.
  • Make sure your child gets daily exercise. It helps the body have regular bowel movements.
  • Tell your child to go to the toilet when they have the urge.
  • Do not give laxatives or enemas to your child unless your child's doctor recommends it.
  • Make a routine of putting your child on the toilet or potty chair after the same meal each day.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • There is blood in your child's stool.
  • Your child has severe belly pain.
  • Your child is vomiting.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • Your child's constipation gets worse.
  • Your child has mild to moderate belly pain.
  • Your baby younger than 3 months has constipation that lasts more than 1 day after you start home care.
  • Your child age 3 months to 11 years has constipation that goes on for a week after home care.
  • Your child has a fever.

Where can you learn more?

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