So, parents should take note if their child’s poop and bowel movements don’t follow their normal routine.
“Parents should look out for a change in the quality, quantity and frequency of stools,” notes Dr Tan Kuan Yang, a paediatrician at Thomson Paediatric Centre. “The quality of the stools should be fairly soft (not watery or hard), and your child shouldn't have to strain to get them out. Stools that are too soft may signal diarrhoea, and overly hard stools may mean constipation.”
This said, the frequency of bowel movements varies from child to child as it depends on their physiology.
“All of us are different ― the frequency of bowel movements may be once every two days for some or multiple times a day for others,” Dr Tan explains. “Babies may even have bowel movements eight times a day.”
“Children have a bad habit of ignoring the need to pass motion, as they prefer to spend more time playing... An adult may use the toilet once he feels the urge to go, but kids continue playing and the stool hardens as a result.”
He adds that as long as children are growing well and don’t exhibit signs like poor weight gain or an intestinal obstruction (vomiting or abdominal distention), difficulty passing stools, it’s perfectly normal your little one has variations in their bowel movements.
Here are ways to ensure your little one has healthy poop and bowel habits.
1. Make sure junior is well-hydrated
Liquids are essential to preventing constipation, Dr Tan notes. And water is the best option if your child is over 6 months of age.
While it may be tempting to give your mini-me “healthy” fruit juices, these are overly sweet, rot teeth and spoil your child’s appetite, Dr Tan says. These are also more difficult for kids to absorb into their digestive system.
As to how much water is enough, the recommended intake depends on your child’s weight. “A 10-year-old drinks a very different amount of water compared to a 3-year-old, so parents should consult their paediatrician on how much water is sufficient,” Dr Tan advises.
2. Enforce a regular bathroom routine
Dr Tan states, “Children have a bad habit of ignoring the need to pass motion, as they prefer to spend more time playing or engaged in other activities. An adult may use the toilet once he feels the urge to go, but kids continue playing and the stool hardens as a result.”
So, enforce a particular bathroom routine for your child, especially if they suffer from constipation. Remind them to go to the toilet at the same time each day, so that it becomes a fixed routine they can follow.
3. Make mealtimes regular
Fixed mealtimes support healthy and regular bowel movements, especially in picky eaters. Dr Tan points out that if you let your child decide when and what to eat, they won’t stick to regular mealtimes as they will prefer to consume snacks and low-nutrition foods, which won’t help with constipation.
And if your little one is particularly stubborn when it comes to sitting down and finishing their food, be firm with them.
Let them know that if they don’t finish their meals at certain times, for example, at their 8am breakfast, they’ll go hungry until the next meal. Once they realise this, they’ll be inclined to better observe mealtimes that have been set out for them.
4. Feed them a balanced diet with sufficient fibre
A fibre-filled diet is also important for ensuring healthy bowel movements. Good sources of fibre include brown rice, apples, bananas, wholegrain cereals and beans.
“Children aged 2 to 3 tend to avoid vegetables and fruits ― they only eat what they want (mostly high-sugar, low nutrition foods) and become constipated as a result,” says Dr Tan. “Therefore, parents should encourage a balanced diet consisting of one-third fibre, one-third carbohydrates and one-third fruits and vegetables.”
Acknowledging that a perfectly balanced diet is difficult to achieve in practice, Dr Tan notes, “Parents have to deal with their child’s preferences, and it’s hard to prescribe a particular food if one’s child doesn't like its taste.”
As such, he advises parents to pick foods from a particular food group that their child will enjoy. So if your little one doesn’t fancy bananas, don’t force him to make it part of his diet. Choose a fruit he prefers instead and you’ll have more success getting him to eat a balanced meal.
“Children…only eat what they want (mostly high-sugar, low nutrition foods) and become constipated as a result. Therefore, parents should encourage a balanced diet consisting of one-third fibre, one-third carbohydrates and one-third fruits and vegetables.”
5. Beware of certain medications
When administering medication if your child is sick, steer clear of those that can aggravate bowel conditions.
“Paediatricians generally avoid prescribing kids medicine in the opiate-containing group,” Dr Tan elaborates. “Those can be bad enough to cause intestinal obstruction. For example, Vascopan (which is used to treat abdominal discomfort in adults) can stop the intestines from moving, when consumed by kids.”
To treat conditions like diarrhoea, gentle anti-diarrhoea meds are usually given. Adult diarrhoea meds are generally not good for kids less than 12 years old, Dr Tan states.
When to see a doctor
If you child exhibits the following signs of unhealthy poop or bowel movements, you may need to check with your paediatrician:
* Stools are too hard, especially if junior strains regularly while pooping. Even if your child passes motion daily and the stools are hard and they have to strain, this indicates constipation, Dr Tan says.
* The quantity of stools changes For example, your toddler usually fills half a diaper and suddenly the diaper is overflowing.
* White-coloured stools in a young infant, which can signal liver problems.
* Bloody stools You’ll need to visit the paediatrician to determine what is causing the bleeding.
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