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  Parenting Advice Column
  Subject: Constipation problems for toddler

QUESTION:

Hi Jan,

My 3-year-old son has had a rough go of it when it comes to pooping! We have tried laxatives and suppositories, and that works for a day or two, but then he becomes constipated again and he cries so hard you feel really bad for him!

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Name withheld


JAN'S REPLY:

Thank you for writing and for seeking help for your son.

The first consideration is one of definition. Sometimes a parent believes that a child must have a movement each day, because that is how he/she was raised. It's important to recognize that a healthy child should not be urged to move his bowels on a fixed schedule. Frequency of bowel movement varies from one child to another, and even from week to week for the same child (this is especially true for breastfed babies and toddlers, who may take several days between movements). By the way, avoidance of constipation is one of the many benefits of breastfeeding in infancy, toddlerhood, and beyond.

Assuming that true constipation exists (the child is uncomfortable and wants to have a movement), here are the best preventive steps and remedies:

1. Try to avoid laxative preparations, because they can cause his body to "forget" how to function normally. The following more natural remedies should allow you to forgo these medicines.

2. Encourage him to drink plenty of water. This will be easiest if he starts with a small amount, increasing a bit each day. Aim for an eventual amount of several glasses per day. If there is any doubt about the quality of the water, have it tested.

3. Encourage him to eat plenty of fresh fruits and raw vegetables. Use fruit for dessert, such as a bowl of orange slices with strawberries. Fresh fruits and raw vegetables have high water content and roughage. Pears are known to have a laxative effect, as are dried fruits.

4. Use whole grain breads and bran cereals.

5. Daily exercise is very important, especially brisk walking or jogging.

6. Licorice and dandelion teas, available in health food stores, may be given to constipated babies or children.

Jan

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