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Toileting

Constipation

Constipation is a common problem for children and babies. It is when they poo less regularly. The poo tends to be quite hard which can make going to the toilet painful. Constipation can be upsetting for your child. You may notice they feel uncomfortable, anxious about pooing or may not have as much energy as usual.

All children are different and you will begin to notice what is usual for your child. On average most 1 years olds will poo twice a day. By the time children are 4 years old they can poo as often as three times a day or as few as three times per week.

Bristol Stool Chart

If you think your child is constipated, keep a diary of when they poo and what it looks like. This will help you to spot changes in their poo routine.

An ideal poo looks like number four on the Bristol Stool Chart. Numbers one and two on the chart indicates constipation.

Dive Deeper

Common Signs of Constipation

You might notice that

  • Your child is pooing less than they usually do.
  • Their poo is hard and large or their poo had blood in. Your child might be in pain or cry when passing hard poo.
  • The poos might look like raisins (number one on the Bristol Stool chart).
  • Runny poo that your child (aged over 1) doesn’t realise they’re doing. It’s usually watery and smelly (number seven on the Bristol Stool chart).
  • Poo leaking into your child’s underwear. This doesn’t mean your child has diarrhoea; it could be runny poo which has leaked out from around the hard poo.
  • If your child is wetting themselves (day or night) if may be that they are constipated. A full bowel can cause pressure on the bladder so it doesn't empty properly when on the toilet. This can cause issues when toilet training if left untreated.

You might also notice that your child appears to have pain in their bottom or tummy, which comes and goes depending on if they have pooed. They may try and avoid going to the toilet.

Babies

Babies poo will be hard and dry if they are constipated. This could happen if you change formula milk or make changes to their diet.

A breastfed baby can go up to a week without having a poo; this doesn’t mean they are constipated.

Things You Can Do To Help

Try and ensure your child has a varied diet, including lots of fruit and vegetables. This can help prevent them from becoming constipated (having too much poo in their tummy).

Drink six to eight water based drinks a day. This will make the poo softer. You could try filling a water bottle to check the amount of water your child drinks. You can download a diary to keep track of what your child is drinking. *Available to download below*

Be active. This can help improve digestion.

Encourage your child not to ignore feeling they need to go for a poo. This is difficult if they think it is going to hurt.

Teach your child to sit on the toilet in a position where their knees are above the hips. They may need a stool for their feet. This can make pooing easier

If your child is worried about sitting on the toilet, use books and toys to encourage them. Try and make it a relaxing and fun experience. Laughing, coughing and blowing bubbles will help push the bowel muscles, and make it easier for the poo to come out.

Lots of children worry or feel uncomfortable about pooing in new or unknown places. This is normal, talk to your child about their worries and help them in new situations.

Downloads

Drinking Chart

Download

ERIC's Guide to Children's Bowel Problems

Download

ERIC Factsheet On Sensory Needs

Download

Bowel Problems In Children With Additional Needs

Download

Who can Help?

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

You can speak to health professionals, such as your GP, who may refer you to the paediatric continence team. They will usually ask about your child’s toilet habits, so it would be useful to keep a diary of wees and poos, day and night, for a week.

You can also contact the ERIC Helpline 0808 169 9949 (charges apply) or email helpline@eric.org.uk for support and advice.

To speak to other Norfolk parents and carers, you can join our online community forum below.

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