16 signs that your child is constipated

For most parents, identifying constipation is as simple as “my child hasn’t had a bowel movement for a couple of days” but did you know that a constipated child will display at least 2 of 16 other symptoms that you may not know to look out for?

In my 10 years as a potty learning consultant, there are two pieces of information that almost every parent I speak to is misinformed about. The first is that readiness is a myth and babies are capable of learning potty skills from the day they are born. The second is how to accurately identify and resolve constipation.

Constipation doesn’t usually develop overnight, it can creep up on your child, leading to various emotional and behavioural issues that you might not have attributed to constipation, especially as your child may not yet have the body awareness or language to tell you that something feels off.

What’s the big deal about constipation?
Constipation can lead to pain, and discomfort and if unresolved can lead to fissures, fecal impaction, and other health conditions – all of which can be very distressing for children to experience. Developing a pain association with pooing can lead to many emotional issues that can prevent successful potty training or cause regressions. If anxiety about pooing in the potty or toilet causes your child to deliberately withold, this will often lead to constipation and continue to compound the problem.

What are the 16 signs of constipation in children?
If your child has 2 or more of these symptoms, they are very likely to be constipated:

  • Not having a poo every day. Healthy children usually do a soft poo every day, or at least every other day.
  • OR: Lots of poo. Pooing more than 3 times a day can be a sign that the bowel is full, and is overflowing.
  • Soiling in pants. So not a full poo, but a bit. The poo might be hard or soft, or even liquid, which is fresh poo that has managed to get around a blockage of older, harder poo that is sitting in the bowel. Soiling is not something your can child can control and they may not know it is happening.
  • Poos that are wider than your child’s wrist.
  • Poo that looks strange, e.g. like clay or dark in colour.
  • Poo that may block the toilet.
  • Tummy ache or a distended/swollen tummy.
  • Really smelly poo/wind, or bad breath.
  • Poor appetite or sometimes, feeling sick.
  • Irritability or upset, especially leading up to doing a poo, then happy and relaxed afterwards.
  • Avoiding doing a poo / witholding.
  • Fear or refusal of the toilet or potty.
  • Day or night time wetting.
  • Urinary tract infections.
  • Tiredness , lack of energy.
  • Disturbed sleep.

How can I prevent and resolve constipation?
Sign up for my FREE Constipation course to find out!

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