The hard facts about constipation in babies & children by Dr Deb Levy
Did you know that up to 25% of children will have an episode of constipation? Thankfully in the majority (95%) this is what we call functional constipation which means there’s no significant underlying problem or pathology. But that doesn’t mean it’s not distressing, nor is it without consequence. Let me explain.
What is constipation? A simple definition is infrequent pooping. But constipation can cause a variety of symptoms depending on the age of your child but also just because every child is different. I’ve seen children with classic small hard pellet poops and those with really watery poop and soiling and even children who simply present with new onset bed wetting. Equally I’ve seen children requiring morphine for the pain whilst others seem totally indifferent to it. The signs can be subtle, diverse and confusing.
In my opinion every parent needs to know their child’s poop pattern. Yes, even their older kids. This way we can pick up any clues early on. I’ve spoken more about when to suspect and how to diagnose constipation in my recent facebook live that Sarah Hunstead of CPR Kids and I co-hosted (the recording is below). I also discuss the importance of a thorough assessment and that there are certain situations that require more urgent review by a healthcare provider.
If you’re told your child is constipated you may be left wondering “now what?” The next step is treating the constipation and I like to consider this under 2 categories: acute and chronic. Acute treatment usually includes laxatives and a regime to really clear out all the poop. This should be overseen by a healthcare provider who can guide you. I usually prescribe a short intense protocol but it can be done more slowly. It’s important to note that this acute management treats the symptom of constipation, it doesn’t address the cause or the impact if your child has been chronically constipated. And as you can imagine if we don’t consider this your child will only get constipated again. And again.
So once the backlog of poop is cleared that’s when we can really start to work on the long term or chronic plan. Chronic treatment needs to be holistic as there are many factors implicated in constipation. Diet, levels of activity, mood and behaviour to name just a few. In the live I describe the holistic framework (5 to Thrive) that I created to optimise children’s health and how it applies to constipation. Although I wasn’t able to go into everything in the live, I have given some easy tips to implement. I’ve also created a helpful workbook for parents that can be used along side the Tummy Troubles Facebook Live talks that are running weekly until 16th December.
Click below to watch the facebook live between Dr Deb Levy and paediatric nurse, Sarah Hunstead