Constipation is not uncommon in young children and we normally suggest that this is sorted out before we get the child to poo on the potty.
Signs that a child is constipated
When children are constipated it often hurts when they try and do a poo and that is why they try to hold on and stop themselves pooing – because they know it will hurt. Look out for any distress or crying when your child is pooing and similarly check that they are not trying to stop themselves going. You may notice them become fidgety, distracted, angry or irritable.
Keep a record of how often they are going for a poo, if it is less than four times a week there may be an issue.
Sometimes constipation can cause children to leak poo, therefore another sign could be soiled pants or pooing multiple times a day. This happens when a large poo becomes compacted but softer poo leaks around it.
An increase in wee accidents can also signify constipation and faecal impaction
as the compacted bowel can put pressure on the bladder. This could mean more frequent daytime and night time accidents and can make the child susceptible to urinary Tract Infections (UTI’s) as it’s harder to get rid of all the wee and so bacteria can build up.
Look out for a swollen tummy, or the child complaining about pain in their tummy or a lack of appetite. General changes in mood and behaviour can also be seen in some children suffering with constipation, especially irritability and lack of energy.
If you see any of these symptoms, consult your GP as soon as possible as treatment is available and can prevent long term damage.
We asked June Rogers from UK Bladder and Bowel to give us her advice on dealing with constipation:
‘Treatment of constipation is simple – you need to speak to your GP and request a prescription for Movicol paediatric plain – this is a powder that you mix with his drink that softens the poo and makes it easy to pass. Movicol is a special laxative that has been recommended for children – most children take between 1-2 sachets per day (although may need more initially to help clear out all the poo– your Doctor will advice the best dose).
In the meantime if children will only poo in a nappy it’s best to allow ‘poo nappies’ rather than the potty as what we want them to do is happily poo and not ‘hold on’ as that will just make the constipation worse. Once the constipation is resolved and he is no longer worried about doing a poo then you can start to introduce the potty again–continue to encourage them to use it for wees.’
How to prevent constipation