Constipation, a common problem among children, occurs when your child has difficulty passing motion or has fewer than three bowel movements a week (or none at all). It depends entirely on the cause and there is no fixed duration for this condition.
“At times, it can even last up to a week. Therefore, there is no cause for alarm, says Dr Lim Kai Hung a family physician at Lifescan Medical Centre. “However if there are symptoms such as bloody stools, weight loss, persistent vomiting or chronic constipation, please bring your child to the doctor immediately.”
Other symptoms to look out for:
- Having fewer than three bowel movements a week.
- Having trouble passing motion at all.
- Abdominal pains.
- Hard and dry stools, which are difficult for your child to pass out.
- Traces of liquid or clay-like stool on your child’s underwear/diaper.
There are various factors contributing to constipation: Diet, controlling and inactivity.
DIET plays an important role as it can either prevent or cause constipation. If processed or refined food forms the bulk of bubba’s diet, it will most likely leave him constipated.
“Parents should ensure that there is adequate hydration and fibre in your child’s diet,” advises Dr Lim. “To prevent and avoid your child from getting constipated, you may even have to try a combination of different foods or different kinds of milk to optimise their bowel movements.”
SOLUTION: Introduce healthy portions of carbohydrates, protein and high-fibre foods such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables into bubba’s diet. Fluids such as water or fruit juice are just as important, as they help to moisten the faeces, making it easier to pass out of the body. Try a milk that preserves nutrient in its natural form, since Natural nutrient. Easy on tummy.
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CONTROLLING occurs when bubba controls or ignores the urge to pass motion. This could be because of several reasons like, having a fear of being in pain (based on a bad past experience), not wanting his play-time interrupted or it could even be his way of “punishing” you for pressurising him during potty training.
SOLUTION: Teach bubba to make it a habit to visit the toilet regularly. It is also important not to pressure him during potty training. Instead, look out for signs that he is ready to be potty-trained to make it a better experience for both bubba and you.
INACTIVITY contributes to constipation as it slows down bubba’s digestive system. Being physically active is important as it helps blood flow to bubba’s digestive system and nudges the bowels into action.
SOLUTION: Encourage and create opportunities for bubba to be active. It can be as simple as leading him into activities such as going for a short walk, kicking a ball around the park, riding a bike or playing catch.
If everything else fails, medications such as lactulose syrup or suppositories are also available. Medication should only be given if bubba is feeling irritable or has abdominal pains due to constipation.
“Do not be alarmed if your child is constipated,” advises Dr Lim. “However, if this lasts for more than 2 weeks, you should seek immediate medical attention.”
Dr Lim Kai Hung is a family physician at Lifescan Medical Centre, a subsidiary of Singapore Medical Group.