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Dealing with your child's constipation

If you think your child has constipation, get medical help early. Bring your child to the GP or speak to your public health nurse. The longer your child remains constipated, the more difficult it may be to treat.

Your GP may prescribe a laxative to help with your child's constipation. Your child may need to take the laxative over a long period of time. This is normal. Laxatives made for children are safe.

As well as laxatives, there are some things you can do at home to help your child.

Drinks

Give your child plenty to drink, like breast milk, formula milk (if less than 12 months old) or cooled, boiled water.

Depending on their age, your child should drink the following amounts of water:

  • 1 to 3 years of age: 900ml of water
  • 4 to 8 years of age: 1,200ml of water
  • 9 to 13 years of age: 1,800ml for boys and 1600ml for girls

Juice and drinks with added sugar cause tooth decay. If you choose to offer juice, only give it to children aged 1 year or older.

You should dilute juice. Use 1 measure of unsweetened fruit juice for every 8 to 10 measures of cooled boiled water.

Only give your child juice at mealtimes or with snacks.

Foods

Give your child high-fibre food as part of a well-balanced diet, such as:

  • whole grain breakfast cereals, bread, pasta and rice
  • fruit and vegetables
  • baked beans

Physical activity

Encourage your child to be active. This will help to treat the constipation. It is also important for your child's general health, growth and development.

Children under the age of 5 who can walk on their own should be physically active for at least an hour per day.

Other ways to support your child

Stay relaxed

Try to stay relaxed. Constipation can be stressful for you and your child. If you are stressed, your child may sense this. This could aggravate their constipation. Soiled bed linen and clothing can be frustrating. Try to remember that your child has no control over this. Never punish your child for this.

'Bowel training'

You might find it useful to encourage your child into a regular bowel pattern. You can do this by using 'bowel training'. Ask your child to sit on the toilet four times per day for five minutes, even if nothing happens. You could try this after breakfast, after school, after dinner and before bed. Place a footstool under your child's feet so they are not dangling.

Star charts

Some parents find star charts helpful. Make a chart for the days of the week and give your child a star for:

  • sitting on the toilet
  • pooing in the toilet
  • taking their laxatives
  • washing their hands

Agree a goal with your child of stars to get. Consider giving a small reward when they reach their goal.

After treatment

Your child's constipation should improve within a few days.

After it passes, encourage them to drink plenty of fluids. They should also eat healthy and sit on the toilet regularly. This will help to prevent constipation again.

Contact your GP or pharmacist if constipation does not improve

Related topic

Healthy eating for families

Teaching your children to be active

page last reviewed: 17/09/2018
next review due: 17/09/2021