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Constipation in Children

Date issued: June 2022

Review date: June 2024 

Ref: C-403 v2

PDF:  Constipation in Children final June 2022 v2.pdf [pdf] 203KB

Constipation is common in childhood

What are the symptoms of constipation in children?

Your child may be constipated if:

  • They poo less than 4 times a week.

  • Their poo is often large, hard, and difficult to push out.

  • Their poo looks like 'rabbit droppings' or little pellets.

If your child is potty/toilet trained, soiled pants can be another sign of constipation, because runny poo (diarrhoea) may leak out around the hard, constipated poo. This is called overflow soiling.

If your child is constipated, they may find it painful to poo. This can create a cycle: the more it hurts, the more they hold on to poo. The more constipated they get, the more it hurts, and so on. Even if pooing isn't painful, once your child is really constipated, they may try to avoid going to the toilet altogether.

Why do children get constipated?

Your child may be constipated because they:

  • Are not eating enough high-fiber foods like fruit and veg.

  • Are not drinking enough.

Other reasons may be because they:

  • Are having problems with potty/toilet training.

  • Are worried or anxious about something, such as moving house, starting nursery or the arrival of a new baby.

  • Have an underlying medical condition e.g. metabolic/anatomic/ digestive issue, in which case dietary changes may not help.

What dietary changes may help?

Gradually increase the amount of fibre eaten.  Here are some examples.

Starchy Foods, suggested swops include:

  • White bread/rolls/flour to wholemeal/rye or granary bread/rolls/flour.

  • White pasta to brown pasta.

  • White rice to brown/wild rice

  • Cream crackers to wholegrain crackers.

  • Refined breakfast cereals (e.g., Rice Krispies®/Cornflakes) to porridge oats / muesli / wholegrain cereals (e.g., Weetabix®/Shreddies®)

  • Peeled potatoes to potatoes with their skin (e.g. wedges/jacket potato)

Fruit (Include 2-3 servings a day):

  • Child’s handful of fresh (e.g., chopped banana/pear) or  dried fruit (e.g., raisins/dried apricots) in porridge/cereal.

  • Apple / plum / rhubarb crumble for pudding.

  • Fruit salad.

  • A piece of fruit at snack time.

  • Add chopped fruit to a yoghurt/custard.

Vegetables (Aim for at least 2-3 servings a day):

  • Include a choice of vegetables at lunchtime and at evening meal.

  • Present a colourful variety e.g., frozen mixed vegetables or frozen or canned sweetcorn/frozen peas.

  • Stir-fried vegetables with cooked brown rice makes a quick meal.

  • Add extra vegetables into your dishes e.g., lasagne/bolognaise, casseroles/stews, pasta dishes,      curry.

  • Prepare chopped vegetable sticks or a salad mix in lunchboxes.

  • Chunky vegetable pieces in soups served with wholemeal bread.

Pulses (Aim for at least 1-2 servings a week):

  • Add pulses/beans/lentils into your dishes e.g., lasagne/bolognaise, casseroles/stews, pasta dishes,      curry.

  • Bought or homemade hummus with vegetable sticks/wholemeal pitta bread as a snack or lunchbox meal.

  • Baked beans on toast.

  • Replace meat or reduce the amount of meat used in cooking by substituting with pulses.

  • Add lentils into vegetable soups for added protein, iron, and fibre.


Aim for 6-8 drinks every day e.g., water, no added sugar squash, fruit juice, milk, avoid fizzy drinks where possible etc.  Fluids help to soften stools.

Physical activity & exercise:

We know that being physically active and exercising helps to get your bowel moving!  Regular walking, running, dancing, cycling, scootering, football, skipping, netball, basketball, cricket, swimming, climbing etc. may help to keep you regular.

How to prevent constipation?

It is important for your child to get into a good toileting routine.  Information on this can be found on the ERIC The Children’s Bowel & Bladder Charity website www.eric.org.uk

For additional information please refer to NHS website https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/constipation-and-soiling/

If you require further advice or constipation continues even after changes to their diet, please speak to your family Doctor/GP.


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