After successfully toilet training my daughter, I thought we have surpassed the biggest hurdle. However, there were times that she was really distressed because she was constipated. Children may react differently to constipation, but younger ones are generally frustrated and unhappy. Constipation is common among children, and it can stem from different causes.

The usual cause of constipation in children is their diet. Inadequate fluid intake and too much cow’s milk can cause constipation. Likewise, too much consumption of processed foods can also lead to constipation. A child who is so engrossed in playing may put off a bowel movement, which can also cause constipation. Lack of physical activity and a sudden change in the child’s environment are also culprits. Rarely, constipation is caused by medical conditions affecting the thyroid gland and the intestines. In order to prevent constipation, here are some simple tips:

1. Make sure that your child gets enough fiber in his diet. Add more fruits, vegetables, bran muffins, oatmeal, whole-grain cereals and breads because they are good sources of fiber. Fiber is bulky and it can soften stools, thereby preventing constipation.

2. Increase your child’s fluid intake. It is important that parents offer liquids from time to time, and not depend solely on a child’s requests for water. It is particularly important to offer more fluids during hot days, or when your child is engaged in a physical activity. You can also offer prune juice because it can effectively promote a bowel movement.

3. Set a routine time for bowel movements everyday, preferably after a meal. A child can easily get caught with the activities during the day that he will put off defecating. When this happens, stool builds up in the lower bowel and may become larger and harder to pass. Condition your child to go to sit in the toilet for at least ten minutes, in order to promote regular bowel habits. Praise your child for the effort in sitting at the toilet, even if he was unable to defecate.

4. Encourage your child to engage in active play because it can increase peristalsis. Lack in activity has been found to cause constipation, and it is important that parents help in modifying sedentary practices at home.

5. Be certain that your child is not consuming too much dairy products. Although dairy products are good for children, too much of it can also cause constipation. Dairy food sources include milk, cheese, yogurt and ice cream. A one year old child typically needs four servings of dairy in a day. This is equivalent to ¾ cup or six ounces of milk, or one ounce of cheese.

Although there are a lot of stool softeners that can readily be bought, it is never wise to use them without your doctor’s consent. If a child is used to having stool softeners often, it may not help in promoting regular bowel habits. Constipation is common among kids, and it takes time to establish regular bowel habits. No matter how frustrating it can be, parents need to be supportive so that a child will not develop negative behavior because of it.