As always, call your doctor’s office with concerns and trust your gut! This post is not meant to be used as a substitute for medical advice.
Natural Remedies for Constipation
One of the biggest challenges with toddler constipation is that it can be hard to get a toddler to actually do, eat, and drink the things that they need to help them feel better. So often with anything toddler-related, the more you want them to do something, the less they want to do it! And there’s the issue of communication—they aren’t always able to articulate what they are feeling. Which is why having a variety of home remedies for constipation can cover your bases.
I’d also like to say that having gone through this with my own kiddo, I’ve found that a key is staying relaxed as the parent. Know that this can take some time to improve, that bouts of constipation in kids is normal, and that it will likely resolve.
How do I know if my toddler is pooping enough?
I figured that I’d just cut right to the chase! It’s helpful to remember that every kiddo (and adult) is different and unique, so one child may go once a day or once every three days and another might go a few times a day. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the important factors to know if you have a constipated toddler are whether stools are hard, dry, and difficult to pass. Not the frequency.
How do I know if my toddler’s constipation is serious?
If your toddler is pooping less than three times a week, is clearly in pain when they do go, has abdominal pain, fever, vomiting, blood in the stool, or any of these other symptoms, call your doctor. (And if you are just worried, always call your doctor!) It can also be helpful to think through whether what your child is experiencing is normal for them—or if it’s a totally new issue. And how bothered by the issue they seem, or if it’s more that you are preoccupied by how little they seem to be going.
What causes toddler constipation?
Toddler constipation can pop up unexpectedly or it can slowly creep into focus over the course of a few days. Here are some things that can cause it.
- Changes in routine like travel, a new school, new living arrangement…anything new and emotional or exhausting!
- Illness or colds.
- Changes in diet.
- Holding it in.
- Not drinking enough water, eating fiber, or eating enough fats and produce.
- It could also be a random bout without a specific cause!
Is there any instant relief for constipated toddlers?
There may not always be instant relief available as toddler constipation can take time to sort itself out, but there are a handful of things you can try. Instead of immediately reaching for more fiber-rich foods, start with water. Good hydration is key to regularity, both in babies and in toddlers. (And adults!)
If your toddler doesn’t like to drink water, try making flavored waters, offering things like blended watermelon (just put cubes of seedless water into the blender, blitz, and strain out the yummy juice!). Or, try offering water with a fun straw or taking them outside if it’s warm with a bottle and an open cup. Let them play with the water and they will likely start drinking some!
10 Tips to Get Rid of Constipation at Home
Keep these things in mind when aiming to reduce your toddler’s constipation. And remember, it can take a few days for things to improve!
- Your toddler should drink water throughout the day. Include it at meals and snacks whenever possible and offer it between meals.
- Include healthy fats in your toddler’s diet to help keep moisture in stools. This is key! Think coconut oil, full fat coconut milk (from a can), avocado, flax oil, nut butters, fatty fish. A tablespoon or so of these can be added to smoothies without much detection.
- Offer lots of water-rich produce like melon, berries, bell peppers, pears, mangoes, citrus, cucumbers, grapes and more. This will help, especially if your toddler doesn’t love to drink water.
- Include fiber-rich foods like whole grains (oatmeal, Peanut Butter Oatmeal Balls) in your toddler’s diet—but use them with a lot of water, healthy fats, and water-rich foods. Otherwise you may make the situation worse!
- Help your toddler to move their body a lot during the day as this can help move things along. Run, jump, do yoga! Do bicycles with them on their backs, squat down and stay in a crouched position for a while.
- Encourage your toddler to poop when they need to poop, instead of holding it in, whether they’re in diapers or are potty trained. This can occur if they have to go at school and don’t want to or as a reaction to potty training or another change in their normal routine.
- Create a relaxing bathroom situation. Books are a good tool to help your toddler relax on the potty! Sometimes, a toddler will need to sit and do something while they’re on the potty to help them relax enough to actually go.
- Try a squatty potty stool or put a stool you already own in front of a big potty so that your toddler is in better position to avoid straining. Their legs should not dangle off the potty.
- Use a toddler potty that lets them have good positioning with very bent knees. (We like this Baby Bjorn potty.)
- Make a potty routine so give them regular chances to go during the day. Often after breakfast or before dinner can be good times to build this into your schedule.
What foods will help a toddler poop?
Many parents have good luck with the time-tested prune juice trick (you can water it down slightly if your toddler isn’t used to having full strength juice), so that is an option. Other natural remedies for constipation to try include:
- Avocado: Offer cubes or slices, mash and spread on toast, put into smoothies. The oil helps to coat the digestive tract and keep things moving.
- Coconut Oil: Try adding a teaspoon to smoothies or freezer pops, use it to cook vegetables. Some kids like it by the spoonful!
- Coconut butter: Spread it on toast or stir into oatmeal.
- Chia seeds: Try it a coconut chia pudding for fiber and healthy fats in each bite.
- Produce like melon, berries, citrus, cucumbers, celery, bell peppers, grapes…anything that seems like it has a lot of water in it. Cut and serve as needed to avoid choking hazards.
- All-fruit popsicles usually contain a lot of water and are fun! (You can also try this Mango-Kefir popsicle recipe.)
- Fiber-rich foods like oatmeal, whole grain breads, whole grain pastas, and other whole grains. Start slowly if these foods are new to your toddler and pair them with healthy fats, water, AND water-rich produce to avoid making the problem worse.
- Foods with probiotics like yogurt, drinkable yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, and more. (You can also try a probiotic supplement.)
- Slightly watered down prune juice, pear juice, or apple juice.
What foods should a constipated toddler avoid?
Many find that dairy can make constipation worse, as well as classic “binding” foods like rice, bread, and bananas…you know, the foods that you’d give if your toddler was going too much! Aim for more produce and healthy fats than refined carbohydrates if possible. In the case of a dairy allergy or sensitivity, dairy can make constipation worse—though the probiotics in yogurt and kefir may actually help. You can try taking a break from cow’s milk and cheese, but trying a few different yogurt options.
How much fiber does my toddler need?
According to the AAP: “…people between the ages of 2 and 19 years [should] eat a daily amount of fiber that equals their age plus 5 grams of fiber.” For example, 7 grams of fiber are recommended if your child is 2 years of age (2 plus 5 grams). This recommendation is because fiber helps to bind food waste and move it through the intestines and eventually out of the body. If there’s not enough, it’s harder to get the food waste out.
Remember: Offer water and produce with fiber-rich foods to better help the situation. Fiber on its own can make things worse!
Here are some examples of foods that could get you to an example of 7 grams of fiber:
1 medium apple and 1 peach; 1/2 cup kidney beans; 1/2 cup oatmeal and 1 cup blueberries
What about toddler stool softeners and laxatives (and Miralax)?
If natural remedies for constipation don’t work or don’t work in the longterm or there’s a blockage that needs to be cleared, see your doctor. (And see your doctor at any point that you have a concern—that’s their job!) They may prescribe a laxative like Miralax which can help some kids. From personal experience, I have a strong dislike of Miralax (I tried it once many years ago and it made my stomach hurt and hurt and hurt!), but it or a stool softener might be worth a try depending on the circumstances.