Whether your baby is in diapers or you have a potty trained toddler on your hands, you will probably deal with constipation at some point with your kiddo. It’s no fun to watch them strain, or worse, to go days without being able to go at all. If your child is dealing with constipation, it’s probably fairly obvious.
Constipation is likely to happen with changes in diet (for example, when you first introduce solids), changes in environment, or when you start potty training. Before you turn to the drugstore for help, there are a lot of natural ways to help your child.
1. Eliminate dairy and processed foods
It’s no surprise that diet plays a big factor in digestion, and unfortunately, a lot of common toddler foods can trigger constipation. Diary, including cheese and yogurt, is one of the first things you’ll want to limit or fully eliminate from your kid’s diet. This is a tough one because toddlers love snacks, and the easiest snacks to pack and provide tend to be those with a wrapper, but they’re also the worst for keeping their tummies happy. Processed foods (AKA anything in the middle aisles of the grocery store) like cereal and cereal bars, crackers, cookies, etc. should also be kept to a minimum if you’re dealing with constipation. Basically, skip the Goldfish for a few days.
2. Opt for “P” foods: prunes, peaches, plums, pears
These fruits are great for helping toddlers with constipation, and you can give them to your child in whatever form they’ll eat them. Whole fruit is a great option, but if they won’t eat these fruits that way, you can offer pureed versions, pouches, add pieces into baked goods, or even offer a little bit of fruit juice. If constipation becomes a regular thing, try to incorporate these foods on a daily basis until you notice more regularity. These fruits all contain sorbitol, a sugar alcohol that does not absorb well in the body and acts as a natural laxative by bringing water into the intestines.
3. Good ol’ H2O
Hydration is key when it comes to proper function of digestion. As adults, it’s easy to forget to consume as much water as we really need, and kids are the same. Make sure your toddler has a water bottle or cup readily available throughout the day, and if they’re not the type to drink on their own, you might have to encourage more liquid consumption by actually handing their cup to them and reminding them to drink. If they’re not huge on water, or simply not drinking enough due to illness or a particularly difficult toddler phase, dry a diluted fruit juice by mixing 50 percent juice with equal parts water.
4. Encourage movement
Physical movement, such as running, jumping, walking, standing, climbing, etc., are all helpful to aid digestion. Simply put, movement of any kind helps food move more quickly through the digestive tract. While a trip to the playground or some time spent running around outside is a sure way to get in some physical activity, you can also help facilitate the same benefits by massaging your child’s belly or bicycling their legs to help things move along.
5. Ground flax and chia sprinkles on everything
I learned this trick from a fellow mama and am here to share this genius idea with you. Take an empty spice jar, fill it halfway with chia seeds and halfway with ground flax seeds. Shake it up and sprinkle it on anything and everything, especially if your little one is dealing with constipation issues. Both are filled with healthy fats that help with gut heath as well as non-binding fiber that, when paired with water, can really help with constipation. It can go on breakfast foods like muffins and toast, on veggies and fruits, on pasta or rice, in smoothies, and more. Make this fun for older kids by placing a fun, brightly colored sticker on the spice jar labeled “special sprinkles” or “magic dust” — whatever makes them super excited to eat it up.
If all else fails, consult your pediatrician about alternative approaches. There are some gentle laxatives that can help as well as probiotics just for kids that can help with maintaining great gut health.