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Top 4 Causes of Constipation in Toddlers

Do you know the top 4 causes of constipation in toddlers - MEIDE

Hello worried parent, we know you want to know the reason and causes for constipation in your kid. Hence, you may be frantically browsing through research and asking friends and families for advice. However, fret not as our team at MEIDE Babysitting has done what you wanted to do.

We have gone through the latest top articles*, compiled scientific evidence, and consulted the medical professionals and babysitters for their wisdom. Here, we present to you a nice and concise summary of the causes of constipation. Yes, just 4 of them, so you worry less and focus more on the important stuff.

1. Food and Diet Issues

Indeed, this it one of the top causes of constipation, if not the number one cause. Why? Let us elaborate:

1.1 Transitions In Diet

First, when your baby is in transition and learning and exploring foods, constipation is a common occurrence. This can be a phase from milk to foods, or certain foods to other types of foods. for example, it has been proven that babies may develop constipation when they are transitioning from formula or breast milk to solid foods. This is actually part of most children’s normal progression in diet, so fret not.

To help the issue, complement this transition with their original diet such as milk to reduce the constipation! Also, reduce processed foods and snacks as these are a huge cause of constipation. Stop those fast-food consumption too. Instead, ensure there are more fruits and vegetables for adequate fiber intake in your toddler.

1.2 Lack of Hydration

Often, toddlers are not drinking enough fluids. This is one of the top causes of constipation. Ensure your kid is hydrating not just from milk, but also from regular water and juice and soupy foods! Get your kid multiple water bottles to keep hydrating throughout the day and various venues. A trick to monitor hydration is to ensure your kid keeps urinating and the diapers are frequently wet and heavy. Many kids need patient reminders, before they become attuned to the need for regular hydration. Every now and then, they will again forget – so keep persevering with the hydration reminders!

Hydration is important to prevent constipation in babies
Hydration is important to prevent constipation in babies

1.3 ‘Milk’ May Be One Of The Causes of Constipation Too

One of the commonly overlooked causes of constipation is allergy or heightened sensitivity to cow’s milk or diary proteins. This cause is quite frequently encountered in toddlers below 3 years old. Hence, you can try to substitute a portion of cow’s milk (or cheese) with soya milk, or even almond or coconut products. Fortunately, many toddlers will outgrow this sensitivity when they get older. If in doubt still, consult a pediatrician for individualized assessments.

2. Environmental and External Factors

These causes of constipation are rather intertwined. In fact, often, they may exist simultaneously, and contribute together to constipation issues. Thus, it is important to identify all possible causes. Thereafter, we also recommend finding out which are the primary causes, and which are secondary. Then you can decide on the best next course of action. Remember, there may not be just one single cause of constipation at one time!

2.1 Changes in Routine

Long story short, the two main factors in your baby’s pooping routine are: Place and Time. Where there are changes in the place or time, chances are your kid may start to experience withholding of stools.

As a quick example, a new school or childcare, a vacation break, migration or even a new persons around the child, may trigger constipation issues. Moreover, when faced with an unfamiliar bathroom (eg. public toilet) or potty, your child may hesitate to pass motion and thus choose voluntarily to withhold the stools

Nevertheless, changes in routine are frequently inevitable in your child’s growing up journey. Hence, take it in your stride and help yourself and your child by introducing changes gradually and keep encouraging your child. Plan to have at least 1 familiar factor, such as a familiar face, potty or similar timing, to be present even amidst routine changes.

2.2 Gadgets and Toys (read: the iPad or Tablet)

Ah ha! As the saying (from MEIDE Babysitting) goes, “all play and no rest makes baby constipated”. Even though play time is an essential part of babies’ life, parents and babysitters should be conscientious and monitor the duration spent each time. This is because children often become overly engrossed in their play, that they forget to do the other essential activities such as eating and pooping!

Furthermore, with the advent of the iPad, smartphones and other fun gadgets and applications, on top of the already-addictive television, your child will always get too caught up in their fun and forget to pass stools. Or, they may even deliberately withhold their stools, so as not to miss out on any second of the highly-stimulating fun activities!

Easier said than done – but limiting the screen time is vital in tackling this cause of constipation. Moreover, reducing screen time and substituting it with more exercise and physical activity will get your kids’ bowels moving. This way, your toddlers’ guts will become healthier and you can worry less too about the causes of constipation!

The iPad is a major cause of constipation in toddlers and kids
The iPad is a major cause of constipation in toddlers and kids

2.3 Emotions and Stress

In addition to numerous environmental and external factors listed above, the emotional and psychological components are crucial causative factors too. Hence, even when the causative agents above have been eliminated, your child may be afraid to poop. For example, a previous painful episode of passing stools will lead your child into thinking that future episodes would be painful too.

Furthermore, your child may still be feeling stressed and upset. Hence, always remain supportive and avoid over-stressing your child when dealing with constipation issues. Enlist the help of a babysitter, or consult your doctor if you find yourself being at your wits’ end when trying to identify and cure constipation in your kid.

3. Potty or Toilet Training

Here is yet another cause of constipation that is just a normal part of your toddler’s growing up journey – toilet training. Achieving this milestone of independence from diapers is essential for both parents and children themselves! Be prepared for episodes of hard stools during this process, and identify and overcome pitfalls early during potty training:

3.1 Starting Toilet Training Too Early

There isn’t a specific age where children can start to potty train. However, generally, based on data evidence, the common age range is between 18 to 24 months old. That said, MEIDE Babysitting recommends looking out for the signs that your baby is ready to start potty training. That would be more useful than purely basing the training on age.

The 5 basic signs that your child is ready to begin potty train are:

  • Able to follow simple instructions
  • Has had occasions of dry diapers even after 2 hours or more
  • Able to signal or communicate their need(s) or want(s) to pee or poo at times
  • Expresses interest in using the potty
  • Physically able to walk to the potty, sit on it for an adequate duration, and stand up independently

Therefore, only start toilet training based on these recommendations. If you have started potty training too early, your plan would highly likely backfire instead. This is because your child may face anxiety, stress or fear during the process. Such emotions and stress will inevitably lead to withholding and constipation problems.

3.2 Inappropriate Toilet Training

Now, even if your child is of age and has shown all the ready signs to undergo toilet training, be sure to maintain an encouraging and stress-free training process for your kid! Toilet training can be smooth for some families, but filled with ups and downs for others. Recognise that your toddler is unique and will take his or her own time to get familiar with this new routine and gadget (called the toilet bowl or potty).

Basically, inappropriate toilet training means pushing your child too hard and fast, scolding your child when accidents happen, or inducing negativity and stress during the toilet training process. Unfortunately, many parents may unconsciously reflect such mindsets and behavior. But fret not, because it is human to err. Always remind yourself about what you have read here, do your best and trust that things will turn out fine eventually. What’s more, a professional babysitter or doctor’s help is usually just a click or call away!

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4. Medical Causes of Constipation

Now, we specifically listed this as the final item. The reason is because many parents, in their anxiety, always assume there could be something terribly wrong when faced with a constipated child. Nonetheless, it is prudent to stay calm and look through the “non-medical” causes as your front-line approach. The 3 other causes of constipation listed above, may actually be more common causes for constipation in your toddler. If you have truly ruled those out, then quickly bring your child to a doctor. Here are some medical causes of constipation in your kid that you may wish to be aware of:

Disclaimer: our guide is, and should not be, a substitute for professional medical advice.

4.1 Drugs

There are numerous medications and drugs that can cause constipation. Examples include: anti-diarrhea medications, cough and cold medications (such as anti-histamines), and even supplements such as iron tablets. Also, anti-depressant drugs can contribute to constipation.

4.2 Digestive (or Gastro-intestinal) Causes

Medically speaking, GI (gastro-intestinal) causes of constipation can be categorized into anatomical versus functional causes. Anatomical causes include issues concerning the organ itself such as the stomach, intestines, rectum or anus. On the other hand, functional causes include non-anatomical ones, such as irritable bowel syndrome. These conditions would require a medical professional to assess and diagnose before further intervention can be advised.

4.3 Neurological Causes of Constipation

Next, neurological causes of constipation should be evaluated by a specialist too. There are multiple possible causes such as cerebral palsy, neurogenic bowel, spinal cord lesions, traumatic causes and others. These conditions are not straightforward and require early attention by a doctor.

4.4 Endocrinological Causes of Constipation

Fourthly, hormonal and chemical changes in your child’s body can cause constipation too. For example, hypothyroidism (inadequate thyroid hormone production), is one of the endocrine causes of constipation. Again, this is a complicated topic beyond the scope of this article. Consult your specialist if you are worried of this.

Reminder On Medical Causes of Constipation

To remind you, this is only an introduction and overview of the medical causes. Remember, any suspected medical causes of constipation in your kids should be promptly and properly evaluated by your family doctor or a pediatrician!

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* We’d like to credit and provide acknowledgements to these useful articles for their lists of causes of constipation in kids (and you may find them insightful for further learning too!):

  • https://www.healthhub.sg/a-z/diseases-and-conditions/697/common-childhood-conditions-constipation
  • https://www.childrens.com/health-wellness/8-common-causes-of-constipation-in-kids
  • https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/constipation-in-children/symptoms-causes/syc-20354242
  • https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/constipation-in-children