If your toddler is having fewer bowel movements than usual or has a hard time passing stool, he may be constipated. Constipation can be caused by many things, especially during the toddler years when your child may be learning to use the toilet. Potty training can cause stress and anxiety for some youngsters, which can affect bowel regularity. In some cases, drinking too much milk can also cause constipation.
Each child's bowel movements has a different pattern. Your toddler may have a bowel movement every day or every few days. If she is constipated, you'll notice that she passes stool less than what is usual for her. She may also appear to be in pain while having a bowel movement and pass hard, dry and compact stools.
Fiber, found in foods such as vegetables, fruits, bran and whole grains, passes unabsorbed through your toddler's digestive system. It helps him to make regular bowel movements. Milk and dairy products may contribute to constipation, states the Wayne State University Physicians Group. Consuming too much milk can cause your toddler to lack the fiber she needs to have regular bowel movements.
Milk is a filling beverage, and if your toddler drinks too much of it, he may be less likely to eat more filling foods later. She needs solid, bulky foods in order to pass stool, so avoid letting her fill up on milk, instead. Toddlers need two to three servings of dairy a day, recommends the American Academy of Pediatrics HealthyChildren.org website. One serving of dairy is 1/2 cup of milk or a 1-inch cube of cheese.
To help relieve your toddler's constipation, try offering her water or prune juice. Feed him high-fiber foods like plums, prunes, apricots, peas, beans, broccoli and whole grains to get things moving in his digestive system. In addition to milk, cut back on low-fiber foods like cereal, white bread and bananas. Massage your little one's belly below the navel for three minutes at a time to relieve constipation.
If you are concerned about your toddler's constipation, talk to your doctor, who may prescribe or recommend a laxative or stool softener for relief, and who can also offer advice about how to prevent constipation in the future.