Constipation in children

Constipation is when your child has a hard bowel movement, and it is difficult for them to poo. Normal bowel movements should be bulky and soft. For some children, normal means doing a poo once a day or every second day.

Signs of constipation

  • Your child is unable to empty their bowel fully when they go to the toilet.
  • They need to go to the toilet often.
  • The bowel motion is hard and painful to pass.
  • They pass small amounts of hard poo that look like 'rabbit droppings'.
  • They soil their underwear. This is sometimes called 'overflow'. It is when liquid and smelly poo leaks out past the hard poo trapped in your child's intestine. If this happens, your child could leak poo without having any sensation of needing to go.
  • They pass very large infrequent poos that block the toilet.

Causes of constipation

Constipation in young children is very common. Usually, it does not mean that there is anything wrong with your child. Your child could be more prone to becoming constipated if they:

  • do not drink enough water or other fluids
  • are not eating enough foods that contain fibre
  • are not active enough for their age
  • are sick or have a medical condition
  • have been recently potty trained
  • are worried about something. They may not like using some toilets. For example, some children dislike using the toilets at school. This can mean they hold on to poo and become constipated.
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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 8.

Page last reviewed: 18 September 2018
Next review due: 18 September 2021

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