DEAR MAYO CLINIC: My 10-year-old daughter spends hours in the bathroom daily. Every time I inquire, she tells me she is constipated. We do not eat out a lot, and we incorporate fruits or vegetables at each meal. She also drinks water most of the day. Is constipation normal at this age, and what can I do to help her?
ANSWER: Constipation can cause issues with bowel movements in as many as 30% of children. It's a common concern for many parents.
Most often, constipation affects children of preschool-age, but it also can occur in older children. No common cause or medical condition consistently contributes to symptoms that lead to less frequent, hard, large or uncomfortable bowel movements. However, understanding what's normal depending on your child's age can help you decide if it's time to seek help.
Normal bowel habits by age are:
•Newborns: Expect four soft bowel movements daily.
•First 3 months: Expect three soft bowel movements daily for children who are breastfed and two to three soft bowel movements daily for children who are formula-fed.
•6 months-1 year: Expect two bowel movements daily.
•1-3 years: Expect one to two bowel movements daily.
•4 years and older: Expect one bowel movement daily.
It can be common for a breastfed infant to have as many as one bowel movement after each feeding to as little as one bowel movement every five to seven days.