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Mayo Clinic Q and A: Constipation in children

Cynthia Weiss, Mayo Clinic News Network on

Published in Health & Fitness

•Leakage of stool in the underwear.

•Urinary leakage or incontinence, especially if not common before.

•Weight loss or poor weight gain.

Constipation in children commonly occurs during the transition to a solid diet, such as moving from breast milk or formula to solid foods. It also can occur during toilet training, where withholding can occur when a child isn't ready or painful bowel movements are an issue. In older children, bowel issues often begin when school starts, when they are suddenly in an unfamiliar setting, or if there are privacy issues or concerns of time.

Talk with your daughter to see if she is experiencing any concerns voiding during the day, such as when she is at school. Is she unable to use the restroom in a timely fashion, or is she being rushed? Is she anxious or having concerns that may be triggering this change in her routine?

You may want to revisit your diet to ensure that your daughter is taking in enough fiber. High-fiber foods include apricots, sweet potatoes, pears, prunes, peaches, plums, beans, peas, broccoli, berries or spinach. You mentioned she drinks mostly water so encourage her to keep that habit. Typically, three to five cups daily is ideal for children.

Regardless of age, other tips to help with constipation and encourage better bathroom habits include:

 

•Providing positive reinforcement and encouragement.

•Incorporating a foot support, such as a stool, for proper positioning and comfort.

•Encouraging a routine, especially after a meal, as eating stimulates the bowels.

•Allowing enough time — at least five to 10 minutes — for a bowel movement before rushing to the next activity.

While constipation is common in children, many options are available to help. Talk with your pediatrician or health care provider if you are not seeing improvement, or to discuss other strategies that could help.

— Dr. Sara Herrmann , Family Medicine, Mayo Clinic Health System, Menomonie, Wisconsin

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