All parents want to keep their children healthy, but constipation can creep up on anyone… even toddlers. However, dealing with constipation in toddlers is different than when it happens to older children and adults, because toddlers don’t always understand what’s going on when they’re uncomfortable or if they’re in pain – and the stress of trying to go the bathroom can make difficulties even worse. This is particularly true if toilet training is still an ongoing challenge, and going “big potty” is aligned with satisfaction and a sense of achievement. The good news is, that there are home remedies for constipation which will are not only effective, but wallet-friendly as well.
Home Remedies for Constipation
1. Eliminate Foods that Bind
Although like bananas, rice, and dairy-based foods are good for you, they are also binding foods that can cause constipation. If your toddler hasn’t gone to the bathroom for a few days, eliminating high fat, low fiber items like cheese, milk, bananas, white rice, mashed potatoes, white bread, biscuits, or anything fried (chicken nuggets, anyone?) should help restore their bowel movements back to normal. Of course most many these foods have great nutritional value, so adding them back into the diet in moderation is a good idea.
2. Ensure They’re Getting Enough Fluids
Many times constipation in toddlers can be attributed to a simple lack of fluids. If this is the case, it’s easy to tell because their urine should be a very light yellow. If it’s not, and the urine is instead darker with a strong smell, they aren’t drinking enough. Increasing their fluid intake in these cases should help, but remember, plain water or fresh-squeezed fruit juice (with pulp) is best, because milk can make the problem worse.
Sometime toddlers end up a little more sedentary than they need to be, especially during the winter months, but exercise is a big part of what keeps people regular. Try to get them moving with indoor games (“Simon Says,” hide and seek, etc.), jumping jacks, or an interactive video game that gets them up and moving. You can even workout with your kids, you may be surprised how much they love it.
4. Warm Baths
Difficulties with bowel movements can be caused by stress and anxiety, but once a child is already suffering from constipation, the muscles in the colon and rectum tend to contract and make things even worse. Warm baths can help on two fronts: one, a warm bath promotes bowel movement by creating a relaxed atmosphere for the child, relieving stress; and two, the warm water stimulates blood flow and allows the rectal muscles to relax and let the stools pass with less difficulty. Sometimes a single bath time will do it, but feel free to get them into the tub 2 or 3 times a day (10-15 minutes each time) until it clears. If the constipation is severe, you may also add a little Epsom salt to the bath to aid in relieving any pain or swelling; however, you must be sure the toddler does not drink any of the water if this method is used. Epsom salt is frequently used as a laxative, but it is not recommended for ingestion in children below the age of six.
5. Prunes, and Other High-Fiber Foods
Many children don’t like to eat prunes or drink prune juice, but it is probably one of the fastest, all-natural home remedies for constipation in toddlers. You may also try increasing the fiber in their diet (apples, pears, whole grain breads and cereals, beans, baked potatoes with the skin, etc.), but this often doesn’t have quite the immediate effect that prunes do. The solution? Make your own “special juice” with about a 1/4 -1/3 cup of prune juice, 1/3 cup orange juice, and 1/3 cup pineapple juice. The sweet, strong flavor of the pineapple masks the prune juice flavor, and the citrus edge of the orange juice provides a familiar flavor most kids enjoy. It tastes great, and while it is high in natural sugars, it gets the job done.
Many times gas buildup causes pain and tension in the abdominal area. Sometimes a simple, light massage on the child’s abdomen can help to relax them enough to get their digestive system back on track for elimination. This, paired with a warm bath, can work wonders.
7. Glycerin Suppositories
It’s difficult to find additional home remedies for this age group without running the risk of causing health problems, as stimulant laxatives are not recommended for toddlers without a doctor’s supervision (not even a small amount of Castor oil), however, there is one inexpensive solution you can pick up at the store when immediate relief is necessary: glycerin suppositories. As a natural way to stimulate bowel movements, this usually provides fast results and is something you can keep on hand for limited use. Simply insert a single suppository into the rectum and wait. It may feel odd for them at first, but it can clear them out quickly and help relieve their any pain or uncomfortableness stemming from their constipation.
Toddlers won’t always tell you if they are having trouble with constipation, because many of them find it more enjoyable to hold back using the restroom rather than stop some of their favorite activities. So maintaining a high-fiber diet, establishing routine bathroom breaks (whether they go or not), getting plenty of exercise and drinking plenty of fluids can help avert future constipation problems. As with any condition, however, if constipation is an ongoing issue, you should consult with your pediatrician or family doctor.