Skip to main content

How to relieve constipation in your toddler safely

It’s easy for a toddler to get constipated, but don’t worry. If you’re wondering how to relieve constipation in your toddler, the solution can actually be simple.  It requires patience, but how to help toddlers with constipation can be far less intense than it seems.

Constipation can be caused by not drinking enough water, not eating enough fiber, getting sick, taking certain medicines, stress, or deliberately holding in stool while potty training because it hurts. It could also happen if they are scared of the potty, they don’t want to stop playing to go, or it might be a control issue. Thankfully, there are several simple solutions to make sure this issue doesn’t drag on or get worse.

Here are five tips for how to relieve constipation in toddlers.


Eat a normal amount of fiber

Don’t overdo it just because your child is constipated. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a normal amount of fiber for a constipated child. Just what is a normal amount? They recommend two easy-to-use strategies.

  • Eat 5. If your child is eating five servings of fruits and vegetables a day (or more) along with other foods with fiber in them, there is no need to count grams of fiber.
  • Add 5. If you do want to track fiber grams, add five grams to your child’s age. For example, a 3-year-old would need to eat about eight grams of fiber per day.

Some examples of fiber values in foods are:

  • Medium apple with skin = 3.5 grams
  • Pear with skin = 4.6 grams
  • 1 stalk of broccoli = 5 grams
  • 1 cup of carrots = 4.6 grams
  • 1 cup of whole wheat cereal flakes = 3 grams
  • 1 cup of raspberries = 5.1 grams

In general, eat fruits and veggies and avoid high-fat overly-processed foods. It’s the same general diet guidance as for anything else. While toddlers need healthy fats to grow, if they are dealing with constipation they can temporarily cut back on higher-fat foods.

Stay hydrated

Have your toddler drink lots of non-dairy fluids to help with constipation. Water is best, but if they won’t drink enough, you can try a drink like Pedialyte for hydration, too. Certain fruit juices like white grape or prune also work, but they are high in sugar so you don’t want to overdo it. Just don’t add in soda or extra milk. Dairy can lead to constipation and milk should be limited only to the ounces required for daily nutrition. This means less cheese and other dairy foods for now, as well.

A homemade smoothie with lots of water and ice incorporated is a good option. Fruits that contain sorbitol like mango, pear, and prune help with constipation.

toddler drinking water

Get moving

Movement and exercise help get digestion moving. Make sure they’re getting their legs moving with play for at least half an hour every day. This is a great time to get outside for a family walk without a stroller. You could also try abdominal massage like you did for them when they were an infant.

Actually, get sitting

In addition to exercise, give them time to sit on the potty every day. If they’re not potty training yet, don’t worry about this one, but if they are, give them plenty of uninterrupted, calm potty-sitting time. Read them a book while they sit so they don’t get bored, if needed. It’s OK to let this time drag on even if it doesn’t seem like they’re going to go. This will help them open up mentally and physically.

Call the pediatrician

There are some simple over-the-counter remedies that can help you out with constipation quickly while you build up the habits like diet and liquids that are more long-term. However, don’t give your child medication or enema without consulting with their doctor first. They can advise you on how often to give a medicine, if any need to be avoided, and if anything needs to be tried first or considered instead.

They might advise probiotics if your child has been on antibiotics, or a suppository to help move things along. There are oral stool relaxers and rectal enemas (the joy of parenthood!) you can give to relieve a blockage, but they are not long-term solutions unless you are in consultation with your pediatrician and that’s what they advise.

If you’ve tried all of this and the issue is chronic, continue to consult with the doctor about how to proceed. You may need to adjust their diet further, non-dairy milk, or you may need a long-term medication solution for how to help your toddler with constipation.

Editors' Recommendations

Sarah Prager
Sarah is a writer and mom who lives in Massachusetts. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, National…
Are you feeling your baby’s movement in your lower abdomen? Here’s what might be happening
Don't worry if your baby is kicking your lower abdomen
Pregnant mom holding belly

There is nothing quite as exciting as this major pregnancy milestone. Feeling your baby’s first fluttering movements, which will happen at some point during the second trimester, is nothing short of awe-inducing. As you go into your final trimester, in addition to those kicks you might also feel more formidable pressure in your growing belly.

Pregnancy brings forth a lot of questions including why you are feeling pressure in your lower abdomen. This may feel odd, but rest assured, there are plenty of logical reasons for this and you shouldn't panic over feeling the baby's movement in your lower abdomen.
Why am I feeling my baby's movement in my lower abdomen?
Up until this point in your pregnancy, there’s been a lot of room for kicking and even somersaults in your belly. At this stage, your baby is discovering their arms and legs and experimenting with moving them. The movement is similar to play or exploration exhibited by newborns and very young babies when they move their limbs freely to see what happens. In this case, the level and location of the baby's "kicking" varies, and at times, it feels like it’s located lower in your belly.

Read more
Does your baby sleep with their mouth open? What to know about mouth breathing in babies
Mouth breathing in babies could be an indicator of mild to serious health concerns
Baby sleeping in a bed with their mouth open

Your adorable sleeping baby is so sweet to watch, but how they sleep can also be an indicator of a more serious issue, like if your baby sleeps with their mouth open. Mouth breathing in babies can be a warning sign for certain health issues like sleep apnea. If your baby sleeps with their mouth open, you'll want to bring it up with your baby's pediatrician.
There are a few potential causes of mouth breathing in babies and different ways to resolve each one. It's important to get the correct information about mouth breathing in babies and to bring it to the attention of your pediatrician. You can then take any necessary steps so you and your baby can both sleep more soundly.

What causes mouth breathing in babies?
There are a few different reasons a baby may breathe through their mouth while they are sleeping. Some are temporary reasons that aren't red flags while other causes mean you'll want to follow up with your pediatrician.
Babies don't naturally breathe through their mouths while asleep. If there is an obstruction to a newborn baby's nose, they would be more likely to wake up rather than switch to mouth breathing because of their facial anatomy at that stage of development.
First, if your baby has a stuffed-up nose from a cold or allergies, they won't have another option but to breathe through the mouth until the nose opens back up. Usually, a baby will go right back to sleeping with a closed mouth once the congestion clears. Sometimes, mouth breathing becomes a habit after a cold.
Another reason for mouth breathing is a condition called sleep apnea, in which the upper airway is obstructed. Mouth breathing during sleep is one symptom of sleep apnea in addition to snoring, pauses in breathing during sleep, and restless sleep. While sleep apnea in adults usually causes them to be tired during the day and to gain weight, in children it more often causes them to have behavioral problems and to get enlarged tonsils or adenoids. The enlarged tonsils or adenoids may also be the cause of sleep apnea.
Risk factors for pediatric obstructive sleep apnea include obesity, Down syndrome, abnormalities in the skull or face, cerebral palsy, sickle cell disease, neuromuscular disease, a history of low birth weight, and a family history of obstructive sleep apnea. Your baby may have also been born with a deviated septum, which is an abnormality in the cartilage and bone that separates the nostrils. This can lead to trouble breathing through the nose when asleep.

Read more
When do babies start talking? Should you be concerned if yours isn’t?
Learn why baby babbling is music to a parent's ears
Father talking to his infant child

Baby's first year is such an exciting time. As new parents, we are amazed at all those milestones, like rolling over and baby's first smile. One milestone many parents anxiously await is baby's first words. Will it be "mama" or "dada?" The more important question, though, may be, "When do babies start talking?"

A baby' speech development actually begins at birth. The sounds they hear, including their parents, talking is a vital step in speech development. So, when should your baby be saying those exciting first words, and should you be worried if yours isn't talking yet?
When do babies start talking?
As with all of those memorable milestones, when a baby begins to talk falls within a range. Most babies will say that treasured first word somewhere between 12 and 18 months. Once that first word comes out, it won't be long before baby is putting small words together like "up ma."

Read more