Constipation is a common problem among young kids in our society. Out of 100 patients that visit me, more than 25 of them complain about their kids having constipation issues.
Constipation is primarily of 2 types:
- Habitual Constipation : The child doesn’t have any physical problem but is constipated
- Pathological constipation: The child has some underlying problem that results in constipation
95% of kids suffering from constipation fall in the first category of Habitual constipation. Please note habitual constipation is not a disease, and can be prevented by certain changes in lifestyle management. Constipation, if not prevented, or taken care of in early years, may lead to untoward issues in the future like piles, fissures, fistulas etc.
Symptoms of Constipation
- Child doesn’t pass motion regularly (for 0-6 months old babies, passing motions once in 4 days is considered normal, but once the baby starts taking food other than mother’s milk, the frequency of motions is at least one per day)
- The child feels pain and discomfort and cries while passing motion
- Child passes stony hard motions
- One can see blood in the motion – It may be a severe case of constipation and an immediate visit to pediatrician is recommended
As mentioned earlier, habitual constipation doesn’t require any medication and can be treated with certain changes in lifestyle management.
- Bowel training: Bowel training should start by the time the child turns 9 month old, and is able to sit. Make the child sit on a potty (or Indian toilet for an elder child) in a squatting position, and make him/her strain to pass the motion. You may also sit next to the child to motivate him/her. This exercise needs to be done on a daily basis, and while the child may resist in the first few days, s/he will eventually will be able to pass motion on his/her own. You may expect this exercise to be completed in 3 months (by the time the child turns 1)
- Give fibrous food: Feed your child with fibrous food such as green, leafy vegetables, fruits, whole grains as they help in smoothening motions
- Physical activity: Make sure your child gets to do sufficient physical activity every day. Physical activity is a perfect exercise that leads to better digestion and hence bowel movement
- Breastfeeding: Breastfed babies are less prone to constipation than babies who are fed formula food. Hence, breastfeed your child as long as possible (at least 6 months)
- Give sufficient water: Sufficient water-intake also helps in smooth bowel movements.
In case the child is suffering from constipation, please avoid:
- Junk food, commercial energy drinks, highly spicy food, non-vegetarian food, coffee and tea as it may worsen his/her condition
- Continuous medication like laxatives as they are habit-forming and may worsen the problem. If at all they are required to be given, give them to the child only for 1-2 days
The above-mentioned measures should help the child in getting rid of habitual constipation. But in case if these don’t help (even after practicing for 2-3 months), please consult a doctor as the child may have to be treated for pathological constipation