Fact sheet: Constipation and encopresis

From the Centre for Community Child Health

Constipation is pretty common for children; around a third will experience it. For younger children and babies, bottle-feeding is more commonly associated with constipation than breastfeeding.

If your formula-fed baby is constipated, it's a good idea to double-check that formula has been correctly made up because concentrated formula can lead to constipation. Constipation is also more likely when your child is weaning on to solids and when your child is toilet training.

Childs feet.

Managing constipation

To manage constipation, your child needs a diet that provides food that offers healthy fibre, adequate clear fluids but not excessive amounts, and encouragement to poo when they feel the 'need to go' sensation. It's really important to take a supportive approach, not a punitive one, as this is more likely to be effective.

Good foods include wholegrain breads and cereals, wholemeal pasta, brown rice, fruit and vegetables, dried fruit and peanut butter. High-fibre diets or fibre supplements are not a great idea as they can actually bulk up your child's poos, making them more difficult and uncomfortable to pass. It's also important for your child to get regular exercise.

Correct toilet position

Having the feet flat on the floor on the toilet can help. If a child is too little to reach the floor with flat feet, you might like to pop a small stool in the bathroom that your child can rest their feet on.

Encouraging healthy bowels

Helping your child and family to maintain healthy bowels has lots of benefits. A healthy, varied diet; regular exercise and adequate clear fluids are essential. If you're ever worried about your baby or child's poos or bowels, don't hesitate to speak with your child and family health nurse or GP just to check things are okay.

You can find out more information about constipation by visiting the Raising Children Network website.

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