The first step to treating constipation in children is to help them empty their bowels. Your doctor may recommend a series of enemas or large doses of stool softeners. Stimulant laxatives can sometimes help as well. All these options are safe for your child.
Once the lower bowel is empty, slowly reduce the amount of laxative or stool softener your child is taking by cutting the dose a little every week. Your child’s doctor will tell you how long this process should take.
It’s important to keep stool moving so the bowel can regain its function. These steps can help:
- Provide fiber-rich foods. Include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables in your child’s meals. Unprocessed bran and whole-grain breads and cereals are also good sources of fiber.
- Increase fluids. Make sure your child drinks plenty of water or other liquids, such as fruit juices, vegetable juices or clear soups.
- Help your child get more exercise. Being physically active helps stimulate the intestine to move stool.
- Encourage good bowel habits. Have your child use the toilet after each meal, and give him or her sufficient time in the bathroom. It can help to put a box or other support under their feet to raise their knees higher than their hips. This is the best position for a bowel movement.
If your doctor feels that emotional problems could be causing your child to withhold stool, they may suggest a counselor. At the Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital Center for Digestive Health and Nutrition, our child psychologists are experts at helping kids change harmful habits and establish healthy ones.