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Constipation, Age 11 and Younger (cont.)

Check Your Symptoms

Home Treatment

Constipation can usually be treated effectively at home.

  • Make sure your child is drinking adequate amounts of fluids.
  • If you are switching from breast milk to formula, give your baby no more than 1 fl oz (30 mL) to 2 fl oz (60 mL) of water and no more than 2 times each day for the first 2 to 3 weeks. Be sure to give your baby the suggested amount of formula for feedings plus the extra water between feedings. Do not give extra water for longer than 3 weeks unless your doctor tells you to.
  • If your child is older than 6 months, add fruit juices, such as apple, pear, or prune juice, to relieve the constipation.
    • After age 6 months, give 0.5 Tbsp (7 mL) to 2 Tbsp (30 mL) of prune juice. Increase the amount slowly over time.
    • At age 9 months, add 1.5 Tbsp (22 mL) to 3 Tbsp (45 mL) of strained prunes per day.
  • If fruit juices do not help, add baby foods with a high fiber content twice a day. High-fiber baby foods include cooked dried beans or peas (legumes), apricots, prunes, peaches, pears, plums, and spinach.
    • For children 1 year and older, increase your child's fiber intake by adding at least 2 servings of fruit, such as apricots, peaches, pears, raisins, figs, prunes, dates, and other dried fruits. Also add at least 3 servings of vegetables—such as cooked dried beans or peas (legumes), broccoli, or cauliflower—each day. Add whole-grain foods, such as bran flakes, bran muffins, graham crackers, oatmeal, brown rice, and whole wheat bread.
    • Children older than 4 years may be offered unbuttered, unsalted popcorn as a snack. To avoid choking, do not offer popcorn to children who are younger than 4.
  • Follow the diet outlined in the Prevention section of this topic to help relieve and prevent constipation.
  • Gently massage your child's belly. This may help relieve discomfort. You can also have your child lie on his or her back, legs flexed onto his or her belly, and rotate his or her legs in a clockwise direction.
  • If your child is having rectal pain because he or she is unable to have a bowel movement, try the following:
    • A warm bath in the tub. This may help relax the muscles that normally keep stool inside the rectum (anal sphincter) and help pass the stool.
    • If your child is age 6 months or older and the warm bath does not work, use 1 or 2 glycerin suppositories to lubricate the stool, making it easier to pass. Use glycerin suppositories only once or twice. If constipation is not relieved or develops again, discuss the problem with your doctor.
  • Do not give laxatives or enemas to children without first talking to your doctor. Children should not need an enema or laxatives to have a bowel movement.

Symptoms to watch for during home treatment

Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:

  • Constipation or changes in the stool persist after 48 hours of home treatment in a baby younger than 3 months.
  • Constipation persists after 1 week of home treatment in a child age 3 months to 11 years.
  • Chronic constipation:
    • Is causing new problems.
    • Has gotten worse.
    • Is accompanied by other bowel habit changes, such as changes in the size, shape, or consistency of stools.
  • Rectal pain develops or increases.
  • Blood in the stool develops or increases.
  • Your child's symptoms become more severe or frequent.
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