Constipation in Babies and Toddlers

Constipation in Babies and Toddlers

Constipation is a condition in which your bowel movements are disturbed to a point where you are either not being able to pass stool regularly at all or the ones that you do pass are hard and lumpy. Constipation can occur at any age for a number of reasons.

It is a painful condition for both babies and adults, but adults have it just a tad bit easier when it comes to curing it because they can easily make some changes in their diet and relieve themselves from this condition naturally. However, with babies it is a bit more difficult situation to handle because most parents do not even know if their child actually has constipation until after a couple of days have passed.

How can I tell my child is constipated?

Toddlers and babies are difficult to handle as it is; add another variable like constipation to the equation the whole thing becomes even harder. A constipated toddler or a baby can be in a lot of distress and parents often do not know what to do to help them gain some relief.

However, before we move on to what you can do to help your baby’s bowel movements become more regular, first let us shed some light on how you can tell if your baby is constipated or not. To identify this condition in adults is easier; if we notice two to three less bowel movements than what we usually have in a week it is very likely that there is some irregularity in our bowel movements.

Toddlers or babies do not have a fixed number of bowel movements which would help you in identifying that just because they have missed a particular number of bowel movements this could mean something. Luckily there are a few signs that you could look out for which could help you in identifying if your baby is constipated or not.

Even though they do not have a fixed number of bowel movements, parents normally do know the usual pattern of their bowel movements; so if you notice that your baby is passing stool less frequently than usual, or has not passed any in the last four days it could possibly mean that they are constipated.

Babies who are constipated find it extremely uncomfortable to pass a stool; look out for any signs of discomfort that your babies may display while passing stools. Some babies draw their legs up on their abdomen, make grunting noises and get all red in the face; these are just some of their ways to express their discomfort.

When constipated the stool that are passed are either hard or dry or pebble like so if you notice pebble like stools in your baby’s diaper that is another sign of constipation. In some cases, you may also see streaks of blood lining the outsides of a stool; this is another sign indicating that your baby may be constipated.

Constipation in Babies and Toddlers

Why are they constipated?

Once you have figured out that your baby or toddler is constipated, you need to figure out why this condition is occurring so that you can do something about it. Normally when someone is not constipated, whatever food they eat when once it is digested, it travels down the intestines. All the nutrients and the water present in this digested food are absorbed and whatever waste material remains is excreted out of the body in the form of stools.

For a person to pass a normal stool some water should remain in the waste material and the intestinal and rectal muscles must function properly to help the stool move along. Constipation occurs when either there is too little water present in the waste material or the muscles are moving poorly.

Toddlers and babies find it painful to pass the hard stool out of their system so consequently, in an attempt to avoid feeling pain they hold on to the stool. They are too little to understand that the longer they would keep a stool inside their system, the harder it would actually become and the more difficult it would be to pass it out.

Ultimately stools have to pass through the rectum; the harder a stool becomes the more it will stretch the narrow rectum which causes rectal fissure (tearing of the rectal wall). This is why we sometimes may see blood in a stool passed during constipation.

Babies who are introduced to a new food, or have been switched from breast milk to formula or from formula to a cow milk; any of these dietary changes may cause constipation in babies.

Sometimes the causes of constipation may also be emotional; a toddler going through a negative period or if he is emotionally upset over something this may also cause disturbances in his intestinal functions. This way the child either gets diarrhea or becomes constipated.

Constipation in Babies and Toddlers

Dehydration and Diet:

Constipation may also occur if the baby is not consuming enough water so dehydration can also cause constipation. If babies are dehydrated, their systems will absorb water from wherever they can even from the waste which is to be excreted. The lack of water in this waste then causes it to harden making it difficult to be excreted out.

Consuming low-fiber foods like cheese or peanut-butter can also make a baby constipated. A diet which does not include enough fruits and vegetables can be one of the leading causes of constipation in babies and adults alike.


Making sure your toddler is getting enough fluids and is consuming a good amount of fiber are two major ways you can help treat constipation.  Foods that are rich in fiber like graham crackers, apples, broccoli and beans etc. should be included in their diet.

You could even use glycerin suppositories to help the passage of stools become a bit easier, they are easily available at pharmacies and you do not even need prescriptions to get them. Baby lax which is liquid glycerin can also be gently inserted into the baby’s rectum to help stimulate the bowel movement. Natural laxatives like flax oil can also be consumed by toddlers or babies to help them with their constipation.

© Teresa Boardman, Nanny Options.

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