Constipation in Children

Signs, Symptoms & Causes

Constipation is when you can’t pass solid waste, or stool. (Passing stool is also called “having a bowel movement.”) Constipation is not usually serious. Here are some reasons for constipation:

•  Your child has the flu or some other sickness.

•  Your child isn’t getting enough water.

•  Your child is holding in the bowel movement because he or she:

– Has a bad diaper rash.

– Has a tear in the rectum (the opening where stool comes out).

– Is being toilet trained.

Sometimes a child won’t have a bowel movement for many days. They may start getting stains in their underpants. This is called “soiling.” It is a sign of a bigger problem.


You can do things to help your child’s stool be softer. This makes it easier to pass. (See the Self-Care Tips in this section.) Don’t give your child a laxative or an enema unless the doctor tells you to. (Laxatives and enemas are medicines for constipation.) Your child doesn’t have to pass stool every day.

Questions to Ask


•  Give your child lots of water and other things to drink. (This is very important when the weather is hot.)

•  Give your child prune juice.

•  To help your baby pass stool, lie the baby on his or her back. Move the baby’s legs like he or she is riding a bicycle. Or bend your baby’s legs at the knees and hold them up to your baby’s chest.

•  Don’t give honey to an infant.

•  Feed your child foods with fiber:

– Babies 6 months old and older can have whole wheat baby cereal.

– Older children can eat fruit, and whole-wheat breads and cereals, and vegetables.

•  Try giving your baby light Karo® syrup. (You can get it at the grocery store.) Here’s how to give it to your baby:

– Put 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of syrup in 4 ounces of water.


– Put 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of syrup in 4 ounces of formula.

Note: You may have to give your child an over-the-counter medicine. Be sure to check with the doctor first. Some medicines are:

•  Mineral oil. (Don’t give mineral oil to a child under 3 years old.)

•  Glycerin suppositories.

•  Laxatives like Colace® or Metamucil®.

This website is not meant to substitute for expert medical advice or treatment. Follow your doctor’s or health care provider’s advice if it differs from what is given in this guide.


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