My youngest daughter is fussy but one thing she loves is Weetabix and she eats it for breakfast almost every day. On one of our first holidays abroad as a family we had buffet breakfasts and there was no Weetabix! After we had got over the toddler tantrum which entailed, following this realisation, it soon became clear that this was the least of our problem as she basically refused to eat anything which was not white or beige in colour from the buffet and soon became very constipated!
Our recently successfully potty trained happy daughter soon became irritable and started soiling herself. We knew we had to act quickly as constipation generally takes as long to treat as has been present. We found a supermarket which sold her precious Weetabix, resorted back to baby fruit pouches to get more fruit into her and started a reward chart to encourage her to drink more. Thankfully by the end of the holiday she was back to her normal happy self!
Constipation is a big problem and affects up to 30% of children. It is one of the most common reasons for children to be referred to a Paediatrician. Not only can constipation lead to tummy pains and tiredness but also soiling and fissures (little tears to the skin of the anus).
How can you prevent/treat constipation?
Make sure your child drinks lots of fluid
Increase fibre intake - at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day and changing to brown bread, pasta and rice
Ensure milk consumption is not excessive
Ensure knees are higher than hips when on toilet – use of footstool can help this
Encourage your child to sit on the toilet after meals (when food hits our stomachs our bowel starts contracting so we are more likely to poo after a meal!)
Make the toilet a nice place to spend time – books/magazines/pictures
Star chart/reward chart
When should you see a doctor?
You have tried the changes above at home and constipation is still an issue
Your baby did not poo in the first 2 days of life or had constipation from birth
Their tummy is swollen or they are in significant discomfort
They are vomiting (definitely if the vomit is green in colour)
They are not growing or losing weight
Medication for constipation
Some children will need medication. The best medications are Macrogols (Movicol or Cosmocol are the most common brands). They come as a powder which need to be made up with about half a cup of water. The great thing about this medicine is it hasn’t got much flavour but you can add some squash or juice to make it taste nicer and even make it into ice lollies to persuade your little ones to take! There is also a chocolate flavour available. Your healthcare professional will advise on how many sachets a day your child needs to take. The ERIC website has some great information and resources to support you and your little one: https://www.eric.org.uk
For us constipation is only a problem for our daughter when we go on holiday but we now make sure we pack Weetabix and have an emergency supply of Movicol in our travel first aid kit!