Babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers may be constantly on the move, but sometimes their digestive tracts slow down due to constipation. Constipation occurs commonly in children, affecting up to 10 percent at any given time. By definition, the condition is the infrequent passage of stools or passage of hard stools.
Here’s what’s happening: the colon, or large intestine, plays an important role in digestion; and, when food reaches it, water is absorbed and through muscle contractions, waste is eliminated. Constipation occurs when the colon absorbs too much water, or when its muscle contractions are irregularly slow causing waste to move too slowly.
Unlike adults, who may experience bowel movements more regularly, children normally pass stools as far apart as every few days. Generally, if a child has fewer than three bowel movements per week and they are hard and difficult to pass, he or she may have constipation. Happily, there are some simple solutions to help your child find relief and prevent constipation, too.
- For relief of constipation in infants 6 months to 1 year old, pediatricians recommend fluids in the form of fruit juice, specifically prune juice which contains naturally occurring nutrients, including fiber and potassium which may help to relieve constipation. For infants, dilute 2 ounces of prune juice with water, formula or breast milk. Be sure to consult your doctor regarding infant constipation.
- When solid foods are first introduced to babies around 1 year old, doctors suggest giving 4 ounces of prune juice or plum juice to help prevent tummy troubles caused by constipation. Sunsweet® PlumSmart®, made from fresh plums, offers the same digestive health benefits as prune juice but with a lighter, crisper taste, which may be preferred by children.
- For babies just cutting teeth, offer cut-up cooked carrots or apples or soft fruits such as small pieces of ripe pears or peaches, which are easy to "gum."
- Parents of toddlers, ages 2 and a half and under, should keep an eye on their child’s digestive health and if constipation is a problem, again, make sure they’re drinking enough fluids and include a range of fruits and vegetables in their diet.