constipation in children

Constipation in children

Constipation is common in children, particularly around the time of toilet training, weaning onto solids or when they are starting school.

Like many parents, you may become worried about your child’s bowel habits, but remember it is a change in your child’s ‘normal’ bowel habit that is important and every child’s ‘normal’ is different.

What causes constipation in children?

Constipation in children is commonly associated with behavioural factors, such as ‘holding on’, which can be caused by:

  • Experiencing pain when they pass stools
  • Being too busy playing to find time to go to the toilet
  • Being frightened they might fall in the toilet
  • Being worried about using unfamiliar toilets

Other causes include:

  • A diet high in processed foods and low in fresh fruit and vegetables
  • An underlying medical problem
  • Some children naturally have slow gut movement

In babies, constipation is usually related to:

  • The type of formula being used
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • The introduction of solids or change to formula from breast milk

Occasionally, constipation may be due to another problem and it is important to consult your healthcare professional. Constipation in babies should always be checked by a doctor.

How do I know if my child is constipated?

Signs of constipation to look out for include:

  • Stomach pain and cramps
  • Reduced appetite
  • Irritable behaviour
  • Small tears in the skin around the anus (anal fissures)
  • Holding on behaviours, such as crossing legs or refusing to use the toilet
  • Soiling underwear, which can occur after having constipation for a prolonged time
happy children

How can I manage my child’s constipation?

  1. Establish a regular toilet routine and encourage your child to use the toilet at a similar time each day – using a star chart reward system can help
  2. When sitting on the toilet, help them feel secure and supported by providing a footstool
  3. Discourage ‘holding on’ and ignoring the urge to go
  4. A well-balanced diet high in fibre with plenty of fluids and being active is as important for children as it is for adults – include fruits, vegetables and whole-grain bread and less processed cereals
  5. Make sure they drink plenty of water, especially if dehydration is contributing to constipation
child checking up

Which constipation treatments can help?

If lifestyle changes don’t work well, short-term use of a laxative may help restore their normal bowel habit.

It is always a good idea to talk to your doctor or pharmacist on how best to manage your child’s constipation and they can give you the best advice on whether a laxative is suitable for your child. It’s important to discuss with your doctor if your child continues to be constipated or if you are making changes to their diet. If your baby is constipated, always consult your doctor for advice.

Some constipation treatments are specially designed for children and infants. For example, Coloxyl Infant Drops is a gentle stool softener formulated for the relief of constipation in children aged up to 3 years.

coloxyl infant packshot

Coloxyl Infant Drops

Infant Stool Softener

Gentle constipation relief in a great tasting caramel & chocolate flavour for children up to 3 years old.


How long is it safe for a child to be constipated?

Most parents find it tricky to wrap their heads around their own toilet habits, let alone understanding what’s usual and normal for their baby or child. In general:

• The normal frequency of pooping for breastfed babies is anywhere from a poo after each feed to one poo per week.

• Formula-fed babies will usually poo at least every 1 to 3 days.

• Constipation in babies refers not only to how frequently your baby poos, but whether their poo has become hard and dry, and is difficult to pass.

If you have an infant (under 12 months) who is constipated, it’s best to see your doctor as soon as you notice the signs of constipation.

Coloxyl Infant Drops can be used on infants from 1 month up to children 3 years of age. It acts gently, softening the stools gradually over 2 to 3 days and making them easier for your child to pass.

When should I see a HCP about my child’s constipation?

If your baby (under 12 months) is constipated, it’s best to see your doctor as soon as you notice the signs of constipation.

For an older child, you should see a doctor if:
• at-home management strategies aren’t helping
• your child is in a great deal of pain
• your child is bleeding from their bottom
• if constipation is a long-term problem for your child.

What Coloxyl can I give to my child who is over 3 years old?

Coloxyl with SennaColoxyl 120 mg and the lowest strength Coloxyl 50 mg are only recommended for adults and children over 12 years of age.

Coloxyl Oral Drops should only be given to infants aged 3 years and under.

Talk to your doctor or healthcare provider if your child is constipated — they can advise you on the best way to manage your child’s constipation and which product or dosage would be suitable for your child.