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What to do about # 2? Tips & Tricks for when your toddler is constipated

By Cristina F. Toscano

Toddlers consuming table foods should be passing stool at least every other day. If they are going 3 or more days without going #2, or are having trouble and straining for 10 minutes each time they pass a bowel movement, they may be constipated. It is a fairly common issue among toddlers, and in many cases it can be prevented or treated at home.

There are many possible causes for constipation, and some include drinking too much milk (the current recommendation for children ages 2-3 is 2 cups of dairy per day), not consuming enough fiber, not drinking enough water (if their urine is yellow, they should be drinking water more often), not getting enough exercise, and even potty training. Certain medical conditions may cause constipation as well, so if your toddler is bleeding, in extreme pain, or if you are concerned, it is a good idea to seek medical care. If not, here are 4 tips that you can try at home in order to help your toddler go #2:

DRINK

Encourage your little one to drink more often. Limit dairy to 2 cups every 24 hours, and offer them water all day long. It should be accessible in a cup that they can easily reach. Make water more interesting by infusing it with fresh fruit!

EAT

The current recommendation is for half of your toddler’s plate to be fruits and veggies. Another quarter of the plate should be grains, with at least half of them whole grains. Whole grains include whole wheat pasta and bread, oatmeal and even brown rice. By this logic, at least three-quarters of the plate will include high-fiber foods. Limit excess added sugar and deep fried foods, as these can slow down transit time. Add some plant-based proteins to the menu as well. Beans can be a great source of both protein and fiber!

MOVE

Active play can literally help move things along! This can be as simple as a trip to the playground, playing ball, hopping like a bunny, or dancing around to some music. The guideline is for toddlers to get at least 30 minutes of structured physical activity (adult-led) and at least 60 minutes of unstructured (active, free play) movement per day!

RELAX

Create a relaxing atmosphere at the same time(s) each day. If the constipation is potty training related, give them a quiet space on a potty that they are not afraid of. For example, if your little one is scared of public restrooms with loud automatic flushers, let them know that you have brought a small potty that they can use instead.

For more information, please visit:

https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/constipation.html

https://www.seattlechildrens.org/conditions/a-z/constipation/

https://www.choosemyplate.gov/dairy

https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/fitness-2-3.html

Cristina is a Nutrition Educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program’s Parent Toddler Nutrition Program. She can be reached at cft36@cornell.edu

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