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Constipation

Constipation is a common problem for children and babies. It is when they poo less regularly. The poo tends to be quite hard which can make going to the toilet painful. Constipation can be upsetting for your child. You may notice they feel uncomfortable, anxious about pooing or may not have as much energy as usual.

All children are different and you will begin to notice what is usual for your child. On average most 1 years olds will poo twice a day. By the time children are 4 years old they can poo as often as three times a day or as few as three times per week.

If you think your child is constipated, keep a diary of when they poo and what it looks like. This will help you to spot changes in their poo routine. An ideal poo looks like number four on the Bristol Stool Chart. Numbers one and two on the chart indicates constipation.

Poo Chart

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
1 supporting image

1

Separate hard lumps (hard to pass)

2 supporting image

2

Sausage shaped but lumpy

3 supporting image

3

Like a sausage but with cracks on the surface

4 supporting image

4

Like a sausage - smooth and soft

5 supporting image

5

Soft blobs with clear cut edges (passes easily)

6 supporting image

6

Fluffy pieces with ragged edges

7 supporting image

7

Watery - no solid pieces - entirely liquid

  • Common signs of constipation:

    • Your child is pooing less than they usually do
    • Hard, large poos or poos with blood in. Your child might be in pain or cry when passing hard poo
    • Poos that look like raisins. Number one on the Bristol Stool chart
    • Runny poo that your child (aged over 1) doesn’t realise they’re doing. It’s usually watery and smelly. Number seven on the chart
    • Poo leaking into your child’s underwear. This doesn’t mean your child has diarrhoea; it could be runny poo which has leaked out from around the hard poo
    • Your child appears to have pain in their bottom, or tummy pain which comes and goes depending on if they have pooed
    • Babies poo will be hard and dry if they are constipated. This could happen if you change formula milk or make changes to their diet.
    • A breastfed baby can go up to a week without having a poo; this doesn’t mean they are constipated.
    • A varied diet including fruit and vegetables
    • Six to eight water based drinks a day will make the poo softer. You could try filling a water bottle to check the amount of water your child drinks. You can download a diary to keep track of what your child is drinking: *Available to download below*
    • Be active. This can help improve digestion
    • Encourage your child not to ignore feeling they need to go for a poo
    • Teach your child to sit on the toilet in a position where their knees are above the hips. They may need a stool for their feet. This can make pooing easier
    • If your child is worried about sitting on the toilet, use books and toys to encourage them. Try and make it a relaxing and fun experience. Laughing, coughing and blowing bubbles will help push the bowel muscles, and make it easier for the poo to come out
    • Lots of children worry or feel uncomfortable about pooing in new or unknown places. This is normal, talk to your child about their worries and help them in new situations.
  • For younger children:

    For older children:

Who Can Help?

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

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