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My child is not going to the toilet.

Maybe it is constipation and needs some attention.

In Children constipation is defined as when a child has a hard poo and/or does not go to the toilet regularly and constipation can cause a range of symptoms including:-

  • irritable behaviour

  • reduced appetite

  • behaviours where children hold on to their bowel movements and refuse to sit on the toilet

You might notice that your child looks a little bit bloated, and maybe your child is complaining of a sore tummy. If constipation continues for a longer time, you may see your child have an accident where they poo their pants. This is generally where the bowel can no longer hold on and it becomes stretched changing body signals, so the urge to go is "switched off" Is it serious? Should I be worried Mostly the answer is no, but some reasons your child may become constipated include:-

  • Bowel habits. It is important to incorporate potty time into the day to ensure that your child learns to go to the toilet. This might be sitting your child on the potty three times a day where the child can quietly sit on the toilet and develop good toilet habits.

  • Previous experience - A common cause is when a child has had a painful bowel experience and holds on and refuses to go to the toilet because of their fear of pain.

  • General Gut Development - Some children have a slower transit time and this can be food, activity or general genetic based.

  • Lack of fibre - Children should have lots of fruit and vegetables in their diet to add fibre and help with regular bowel movements.

How can you create the good bowel habits? Toilet training, part two (the part that is less exciting)

  • After every meal have your child sit on the toilet for up to five minutes. Use a timer to help. Even if your child passes a poo, let them stay for the 5 minute duration.

  • A reward chart can encourage these behaviours.

  • An important and often overlooked step is to make sure that your child can rest their feet on a stool if they are using the adult toilet, and their legs are not just hanging.

  • Also check if your child is comfortable using toilets at school or pre-school as some children can hold on until they get home and this is not encouraging good natural bowel patterns.

Adding fibre to the diet There are lots of easy ways to add fibre to the diet to help. In children fibre will help, but the main focus on helping constipation in children is the development of good habits.

Some simple fibre additions can be:-

  • Three serves of vegetables each day (a serve is 1/2 cup of vegetables or a cup of salad vegetables)

  • Two serves of fruit each day

  • Prune juice is a good option, but you may need to make it tastier by mixing it with something else like a different flavoured juice.

  • Grainy breads and crackers are also very good.

What if this doesn't work

If you are worried, speak to your GP or your Maternal Health Nurse. Laxatives may be recommended but make sure you have been working on habits and also encouraging fluids with your children over the day.


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