“Mommy, I have a tummy ache” or “Mommy, my belly hurts.” ‘We’ve all heard it before. Our immediate response as parents is to feel their forehead, kiss their cheek, and check the child’s temperature.
We assume complaints of a stomach ache will lead to either vomiting and/or diarrhea along with a fever. That’s not always the case, and we sometimes forget about another possible culprit, constipation.
Our children writhe in pain as they struggle to push, and their faces turn beet red. We don’t always think about constipation when we think of medical issues or complications. However, we can try to feed our kids foods that will reduce the likelihood that we will have to see them struggle to attempt to go to the bathroom.
What’s Causing the Constipation?
According to Stanford Children’s Health, children are eating more of a high-fat low fiber diet than they should be. This includes the mac and cheese and chicken nuggets, which are the majority of toddlers (and the older kids too) favorite foods. Additionally, kids aren’t getting enough exercise or drinking enough water.
We don’t always want to be the mom who runs to the pediatrician every time our child has an off day. However, there are some foods that children can eat to help them have regular bowel movements naturally. Consider adding the following foods as a regular part of your child’s diet and routine.
Is This Normal?
“Normal” is different for each child. Bowel movements can happen for children multiple times in a day or as little as three times a week. Just as every child’s outside appearance differs from one to the next, the same concept applies to their bowel movements.
No two children have the same activity going on in there. If you are concerned that your child’s “normal” isn’t normal anymore, consider making an appointment with your pediatrician.
Yes, It’s Constipation
Great! Now that we have that figured out, what can you do to help them eliminate naturally and without medications or medical intervention? (The reason you’re here)!
Children should be drinking approximately 45 to 57 ounces of water depending on their age and weight according to the National Academy of Medicine (for children between the ages of one and eight). Many parents will find that their children will not get constipated quite as easily by increasing their water intake.
The National Institute of Health states, “Depending on your child’s age and sex, he or she should get 14 to 30.8 grams of fiber a day.” For the majority of parents, convenience is vital to having a smooth moving day (no pun intended!).
Especially when you’re constantly on the go, trying to avoid the drive-thru, or avoiding the 6 pm meltdown we know is coming as soon as we put the plate of food in front of our kids.
Here are a few fiber-filled, grab and go options to consider the next time ‘you’re shopping for a constipated child.
Strawberries, apples (leave the skin on), pears, and oranges. These fruits are SO easy, and for those of us who like to say “grab something out of the fridge” when our child asks us for the 315th time for a snack. It’s also something that they can get on their own.
Fruit skins, as with apples and pears, contain insoluble fiber, which speeds up the journey from top to bottom. Berries contain soluble fiber and slow the actual digestion of foods. It’s a win-win with this one!
When the kids are hungry, you only have a couple of minutes to whip up a quick lunch. What’s easier than a sandwich? Try to avoid the enriched white bread as it has the majority of the fiber that helps keep your little one regular!
Grab a loaf of whole wheat bread and slap some —- on it. Ta-Da! The kids are all set and feeling full (the soluble fiber in those whole wheat foods will help keep them feeling full).
Chia seeds, hemp seeds, and flax seeds are all good options here. The best part about these is that you can grind them up and add them to the foods they are already eating.
Throw some chia seeds into yogurt or a smoothie (bonus: add strawberries and chia seeds to yogurt and BOOM, you have a delicious high fiber smoothie that will taste great and no complaining!).
*Note* Recommended starting with one tablespoon of the seeds as they are very high in fiber and may cause boating if added too quickly.
That’s right- like Grandma used to drink. Some younger kids may not be a fan of the flavor of prune juice, but you can put a little bit in the fluids they’re already drinking to help mask the taste.
Older kids might be willing to drink it but remember, not all juices are created equal. Some juices contain more sugar than others, so try to avoid juice with a lot of added sugar. Go for those made from 100% fruit juice with no sugar added.
Your child will likely, at some point in their little lives, get constipated. The best ways to prevent and help this situation is to:
- Have them drink more water to reduce dehydration and to keep bowels moving properly
- Add more foods high in fiber to their diets to include certain fruits, seeds, whole grains (not whole wheat), and prune juice.
- If your child’s constipation is worrying you, take them to see their primary care physician to ensure they don’t have an underlying illness or issue that could be causing the stoppage.
If your child suffers from chronic constipation, please contact your pediatrician to verify that there are no underlying issues.