Tackling Constipation

Constipation is when your toddler passes stools three times a week (or less). The stools are hard, and your toddler might feel pain when going to the toilet. Constipation affects up to 30%* of toddlers. It can build up over time or when they have been ill. Toddlebox health expert Denise Gillespie gets to the bottom of the problem…


If your toddler is constipated, talk to them about it as well as your doctor. When going to the toilet feels painful, a toddler might avoid passing stools to avoid the pain! This makes it worse because the stools build up in the bowel and become hard. Liquid stool can overflow into their underwear. If this happens, it’s a sign of constipation, not diarrhoea. Some common signs of constipation to watch out for in your toddler are:

  • Not passing stools often.
  • The stools are small and hard – a bit like rabbit droppings, grapes or sweetcorn.
  • A sore tummy.
  • The stools have a very bad smell.
  • Overflow of liquid or loose stools.
  • A puffy or bloated tummy.



The good news is that you can prevent your toddler getting constipated. Use rewards to make going to the toilet fun. Help them to sit on the toilet and relax. Make sure your toddler gets:

  • Plenty of water: 900mls per day for ages one-to-three, and 1200mls per day for ages four-to-eight.
  • Fruit, vegetables and foods with plenty of fibre. For advice on coping with your toddler at mealtimes, have a look at Making Mealtimes Matter.
  • Plenty of exercise.



Your public health nurse or doctor can help you get rid of your toddler’s constipation. When constipation is very serious, your doctor may prescribe medicine to treat it. It can take months to gently get a toddler into a new routine, so they don’t link going to the toilet with feeling pain.


*Constipation in children and young people. (2010). National Institute for Health & Clinical Excellence. London.

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