Dealing with baby and toddler constipation

Constipation is common in babies and toddlers. How to prevent and treat it?


Babies and young children can become constipated for a variety of reasons including dehydration and illness.


Changes in their routine, like going on holiday, moving house, potty training or starting nursery can also trigger changes in bowel movements.

Why does it happen?

‘Constipation in exclusively breastfed babies is rare because breastmilk is easy to digest,’ says Prima Baby‘s GP Dr Rob Hicks.

‘Formul-fed infants are more likely to suffer as they may not have a ready supply of special bacteria in their gut to deal with the hard-to-digest milk proteins.’

Your baby can get constipated during weaning because her digestive system needs to work hard to break down new solid foods.

What can you do?

Don’t use over-the-counter constipation remedies unless recommended by a doctor.

Stave off dehydration, which can cause constipation, by supplementing milk feeds with drinks of cooled, boiled water. Also check you are adding enough water to the formula if your baby is bottlefed.

If your baby is over 6 months, try lying her on her back and moving her legs in a cycling motion to put gentle pressure on the intestine and to stimulate bowel movement.

Massaging her tummy gently in a clockwise motion can help, as can a warm, relaxing bath.

What foods help?

Help prevent constipation by including fibre in your child’s diet: apples, ripe bananas, apricots, vegetables, wholemeal bread, baked beans and cereals like porridge are all good.

Fluids are vital so offer plenty of water and diluted fruit juice to drink.

If your child seems to suffer from chronic constipation, consult your doctor.

Encourage your toddler to go the toilet regularly and don’t rush her. Sometimes a reward chart for doing a poo can be really useful if your little one tends to ‘hold on’.


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