Warning: detailed and graphic explanations in this post about fecal matter.
Over the past month or so, Gavin has been having a bit of trouble with constipation. I first realised that there was a problem when I wiped his anus and saw a spot of blood on the tissue. After that, we experienced a series of good days and bad days. On a bad day, it can cause Gavin so much pain that he would be howling on the toilet bowl. One day, it was so bad, I could see his anus being dilated but the poop was stuck inside.
As a parent, one naturally gets stressed when our children are stressed. I didn’t know what to do about it except try to increase Gavin’s fluid and fiber intake. It was tough because Gavin’s early love for water seems to be diminishing. His intake of fiber was also limited due to his picky preferences for food. The only fiber-rich sources I could consistently get him to eat were grapes, oranges, and wholemeal bread. I also switched him from Vitagen to Yakult because my SIL2 said she found it helpful with her own bowel movements.
Despite the attempts to alter his diet, we were met with limited success. He still had his good days and bad days, although we never again encountered a “bad day” with the likes of the one I described above. Nevertheless, Gavin was still occasionally experiencing constipation and it was distressing him. It was also aggravating the problem because he would refuse to poop.
We also had some toilet training regression because he would start pooping in the diaper instead of telling us he needed to go. I let that one go because it was more important to me that he go than that he did it in the toilet bowl. As long as it helped to minimise his discomfort, I wasn’t about to complain.
Every day was a stressful day – making sure he drank enough water and ate enough fiber. Though he was relatively regular – pooping almost everyday at roughly the same time, I still couldn’t understand why his faeces weren’t softening. The constipation wasn’t as severe and the bleeding stopped, but I could tell he was still struggling to poop.
I looked up information on toddler constipation and found it was a common problem – I think I remember reading that it affected about one in four children.
A few common signs and symptoms of constipation in children:
- Poop diameter: the thicker the diameter of the poop, the more likely it is that a child is constipated.
- Frequency: pooping infrequently is another sign of constipation although there are variations between individual children. For some children, pooping once every couple of days is still considered normal. Ironically, despite having a lot of difficulty pooping, Gavin was still pooping almost everyday.
- Liquid poop: sometimes you can see liquid poop which is the result of the softer poop behind the “constipated poop plug” squeezing out due to the force the child applies during defecation.
- Bleeding: blood on the tissue when wiping the anus.
- Fear of pooping: some children hold their stools because they are afraid of the pain. This further aggravates the problem of constipation.
There are a lot of recommendations on what you can do to treat your child’s constipation. They are all the usual things one might do to treat an adult’s case of constipation.
What I found particularly interesting was that after I put Gavin on his toddler detox program of “no junk food”, he has been pooping much more easily. His poop consistency is also looking more “healthy” based on what is considered “healthy poop”. The results have been amazing and I haven’t even been stressing about the water and fiber intake!
In case you’re wondering, healthy poop has the following consistency:
- golden brown
- one well-formed log – like an unripe banana
- floats in the toilet bowl
- nearly odourless
So there you go – the next time your toddler runs into a bout of constipation, consider reducing or eliminating the junk food…