When to Worry About Constipation

Chelsea Wicks, M.D.

Contributed by Chelsea Wicks, M.D.

There is no end to the questions regarding raising kids and maintaining their health. Here Chelsea Wicks discusses an issue that concerns all parents: constipation.

Unfortunately our children do not come with owner’s manuals. We tend to learn how to raise and care for our children based on our own previous experiences and advice we receive from others.

What most parents know from the get-go is that every child needs to eat, pee and poop. If they are not doing these three things, we know there is something wrong.  Or is there?  One VERY common question I get is “How often does my baby need to poop?” Well, once again, there is no one right answer to this question.

What Defines Constipation?

 I had a patient that consistently had only one bowel movement a week. The patient was eating well and acting normally and didn’t seem bothered one bit. When the patient did finally go, the BM was large and still very soft. The reason I’m telling you this isn’t to gross you out, but to explain that rather than worrying about frequency (how often) I am more interested in consistency and discomfort. 

As long as your child continues to have soft stools and seems comfortable, I would just let them do their thing. But, if they start having hard balls of stool or seem to be getting uncomfortable, then it’s time to do some investigating. By far most children become constipated due to something they are eating and can easily be managed by diet modification. However, there are some rare conditions that can present themselves with constipation as a symptom. If you attempt modifying your child’s diet and fail, or if there are any other concerning symptoms, I would recommend you discuss this with your child’s physician.

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