Constipation in babies and toddlers is no fun for anyone. Get help when number two is your main concern with our handy guide
It was a routine middle-of-the-night diaper change. Until my friend saw that her son’s poop was a vile shade of green. Good thing grandma’s a paediatrician — and didn’t mind being called at four in the morning. She quickly assured the new parents that it was completely normal.
Sometimes it’s the colour that gets us disconcerted; sometimes it’s the form or frequency. To put your mind at ease, we’ve assembled this doo-doo dictionary. Read on for everything you (n)ever wanted to know about your kid’s caca.
Frequent flyers and rare releasers
Although most children have one or two movements a day, some kids go more often. Newborns can squirt mustard seven or more times a day. It turns out there’s a wide range of normal when it comes to frequency. “As long as it’s a soft, well-formed bowel movement (BM), no problem,” says Shirley Blaichman, a paediatrician in Montreal.
At the other end of the spectrum, some perfectly regular kids are, well, irregular. Breastfeeding babies can go a week without unloading, and that’s normal, as long as the baby is feeding well and is her usual self.
It’s also not a problem for an older child to poop only every second or third day, as long as it’s soft, and easy and painless to pass. If your little one is straining, if the stool is hard, or if the result looks like dry rabbit pellets, she could be constipated.
Constipation in kids is common, and it’s sometimes caused by diet. Check that she’s taking in enough fibre, fruits, vegetables and water. If she’s over a year old, limit milk (which can make the problem worse) to 24 ounces a day. And prune juice is a wonderfully effective natural laxative. If these changes don’t help, or if your child is younger than a year, talk to a doctor.
If your toddler has watery stools but is otherwise healthy, it could be because he’s loading up on too much high-sugar, high-carb fruit juice. But diarrhea is also a common symptom of viral infection. While you wait it out, keep your child well hydrated by breastfeeding or offering an oral rehydration solution, such as Pedialyte.
What if your child has a sudden change in bathroom habits, and you’ve ruled out diet? Check for other changes in routine, like a new daycare or new baby at home. Your moppet’s diarrhea or constipation may be an anxiety reaction, says Pauline Fitzgerald, a child therapist in Abbotsford, BC.