FAQ: Constipation


How often should my child have a bowel movement?

  • After the first week of life, most babies have 4 or more bowel movements each day. They are soft or liquid and can look “seedy mustard yellow”.
  • In the first 3 months of life, bowel movements range greatly. Some babies have 2 or more bowel movements each day and others have just one each week.
  • By age 2, most kids have at least 1 bowel movement each day.
  • Keep in mind that every child is different. Some have bowel movements after each meal. Others have bowel movements every other day. If you child is not in pain while having a bowel movement, and the stool comes out soft and formed they are likely not constipated.

How will I know if my child is constipated?

  • They feel pain when having a bowel movement
  • Babies often arch their backs and cry
  • Avoid going to the bathroom, do a “dance,” or hide when he or she feels a bowel movement coming. This often happens when potty training and when starting school.
  • Leak small amounts of stool into the underwear

What if my child gets constipated?

In most children with mild or brief constipation, the problem usually gets better with some simple changes.

  • Eat more fruit, vegetables, cereal, and other foods with fiber
  • “Stone” fruits are particularly helpful to relieve constipation–e.g. plums, peaches, cherries, apricots (*think fruits that have pits in the center)
  • Drink some prune juice or pear juice (start with a couple of ounces each day)
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Avoid milk, yogurt, cheese, and ice cream
  • If toilet trained, sit on the toilet for 5 or 10 minutes after meals.

When should I take my child to the doctor or nurse?

  • He or she is younger than 4 months old
  • He or she gets constipated often
  • There is blood in the bowel movement or on the diaper or underwear
  • Your child is in serious pain