How to feed a constipated child
While not every child will have a bowel movement each day, they are all so different and have their own "normal", there are a few tell-tale signs to watch for that can alert you if your little one is constipated.
- Straining to go to the bathroom
- Complaining of stomach pain especially while trying to have a bowel movement
- Their stools are hard and/or shaped like small balls or pellets
Hydration and Exercise
Before we chat about the food, I want to mention two other super important pieces. When it comes to constipation, one of the key areas we talk about is hydration. The colon needs hydration to function optimally. Ensure your child is drinking enough water throughout the day. I find it helpful to fill up the kids water bottles at the beginning of the day and place them somewhere eye-height so they can take sips whenever they'd like and remind them to do so with meals and throughout the day as well. For babies under 1 years old, their fluid intake will come primarily from breastmilk or formula.
Next up is exercise - ensuring your child is moving their body daily, running, jumping, playing sports all ensure that the digestive system can continue to function properly.
Foods that could help
It's important to note that this can take some trial and error but for many children, the following foods can be super helpful to alleviate that constipation, keep things moving and ultimately, keep them regular.
- Dried fruits like dates and prunes - these can act as a natural laxative and are high in fibre. Add them to smoothies, enjoy on their own and for younger children or babies - chop finely or puree into other soft foods like kefir, yogurt or oatmeal.
- Flaxseeds - high in soluble fibre that can help to soften the stool. Try sprinkling them on oatmeal or put them in a smoothie.
- Coconut Oil - when we talk about colon function, an area we often forget is "lubrication". The colon needs lubrication to function optimally and coconut oil specifically helps to soften the stool. Try baking with it, using it in your daily cooking or putting a tsp into oatmeal or smoothies.
- Fruits that start with a "P" - peaches, pears and plums! These are all great for constipated children. Be sure to steam until soft or puree when serving to babies.
- Ripe bananas - it's commonly known that bananas can actually cause constipation in some babies and children, however when they're RIPE (think browned and a bit spotty), they actually help!
- Whole grains - oats, whole grain breads and wraps can all help ease constipation because of their high fibre content.
- Avocado - super high in fibre. Try mashing it to give to baby, putting it on toast, in smoothies, making your own avocado pudding or a yummy guac!