Constipation in Babies & Toddlers - 8 natural tips!
Helps to form the healthy internal ecosystem your child needs for good digestion, & immunity. Do it if you can, & you will have WAY less issues with constipation than what is likely with formula fed bubs. It’s an investment that will pay off down the track - if you can’t breastfeed, look for the formulas with prebiotics.
Break the antibiotic cycle.
This is a huge issue when it comes to baby and toddler constipation. So many babies & toddlers are spending most of their time in daycare centres filled with other small people with developing immune systems, poor personal hygiene & hands & mouths all over everyone…so the amount of colds & flus, gastro bugs, infections of all kinds can be just overwhelming. In many cases parents need to work, & daycare is seemingly the only option. Sicknesses are perceived to be handled quickest using antibiotics so everyone can get back into care / work / school with minimal time off - but this is generally untrue for childhood infections, as the vast majority are viral - not bacterial. When we give a child a course of antibiotics, we are actually wiping out much of their natural defence & compromising their immune system greatly - so next bug that’s going around (i.e. Monday morning back at daycare), will be much more likely to cause them problems. It is a vicious cycle, & daycare centres & antibiotics should be avoided wherever possible by those wanting to look after their children’s gut health (& therefore general health). Obviously go by your health professional’s recommendations & don’t ignore infections - BUT, please - if your Dr still prescribes antibiotics readily for childhood infections, you need to find a new doctor!! Damaged gut bacterial populations are a big cause of baby and toddler constipation, diarrhea, bloating, & IBS in both kids & adults...not to mention more cold & flu's.
This is often a tricky one with little ones! Use a special cup (you may want to invest in a new one every few months if that makes a difference to the fussy drinker, or have a rotation system - either way, give them their own special bottle, cup or straw that they love to drink from - it can really help you to monitor fluid intake as well as encourage busy kids to drink on the go! In warmer months use smoothies, fresh juices (with veggies, not just fruits), coconut water, icy fruit slushies, frozen smoothie ice-blocks etc to help prevent baby and toddler constipation. In winter use soups, hot drinks like lemon & honey tea or yummy herbal teas like liquorice, hibiscus, rosehip, healthy hot chocolate or carob drinks (carob has no caffeine so ideal for younger kids, but is nice & sweet).
Good Gut Bacteria Food.
Supplementation to tackle baby and toddler constipation
For babies & toddlers up until around 2.5 years of age, bifidobacteria is the dominant & most important strain of good gut bacteria - these guys are vital to ‘set the stage’ for a healthy gut microbiome all through life. Babies born via caesarian & those who’ve been predominantly formula fed will have much lower levels of these good bugs than those born vaginally & breastfed. A good baby / toddler specific probiotic with bifidobacteria can really help to correct the balance & prevent baby and toddler constipation!
The Fear Factor In Baby and Toddler Constipation
Just one episode of painful constipation can make toddlers scared to poo next time around & thus start to ’hold it in’, which makes the stool become harder (more moisture is reabsorbed by the body the longer the stool is ‘waiting’ to come out, so it will become less moist & therefore more painful to release). One hard poo can quickly become a bigger issue with fear of passing motions due to pain really complicating a physical problem with a mental aspect as well! Do not take constipation in little ones lightly - jump on it at the first sign to avoid escalation!
Exercise / Movement.
The TV & the i-Pad may be great free babysitters - BUT - it is completely unnatural for a toddler to stay motionless for the long periods of time they do whilst watching TV / playing games. You will just about NEVER see an awake, healthy toddler sit still for 2 hrs at a stretch, but put them in front of a device / TV & they become instantly immobilised! Very tempting for parents to have a break, but also I believe a big potential contributor to digestive problems - exercise / movement is essential for healthy appetite & digestive function (& for good health in general!). Keep screen time to an absolute minimum, kids need to move & learn to use their bodies & brains - not be sitting in front of screens motionless & un-creative.
Good fats are awesome kid foods - they provide loads of calories to satisfy the constant hunger that fast growth can bring. Nuts, seeds, coconut, grass fed meats, oily fish, pastured eggs, organic full fat dairy - all of these provide loads of nutrition for growing bodies, & the fats help stimulate the liver (bile secreted when we consume fats acts as a natural bowel stimulant, & fats & oils provide important lubrication to the stool to ease it’s passage). Do not be scared of fats - our population has gotten sicker & fatter since the ‘low-fat’ approach to diet became popular / recommended. LOW FAT IS DEFINITELY OUT, the research that led to its introduction was wrong. Google Mary Enig - fat guru, ‘Big Fat Lies’ (book that explains it well), ‘The Cholesterol Myth’…there is heaps of info out there. Blend11 & Blend13 are chock full of the healthy fats we need.
GO-TO GUT FOOD & DRINK LIST AIMED AT FUSSY TODDLERS:
Breast milk - keep your supply ‘there for when you need it’ as long as practically possible. If you have the ability to breastfeed easily, DO IT, & keep it up as long as you can as your milk is the absolute best gut tonic for your child - it’s full of good bacteria, as well as the prebiotics (food for the good bacteria) to help establish a healthy internal ecosystem for life. Even after weaning onto solids, it can be great to keep expressing once daily just to keep an ‘emergency supply’ in the freezer for use in case of sickness or antibiotic use - or just as a general tonic added into their solids even if you no longer wish to be ‘breastfeeding’.
Green smoothies - hide kale & spinach using things like pineapple, banana & berries. You may be surprised how well kids take to a small (not overwhelming) serve of ‘hulk juice’ or ‘frog juice’ (or whatever you think will appeal). Great to use peer pressure when introducing things like this - invite some more ‘experimental’ / less fussy kids around & just make one for yourself, offer all the kids a shot glass or similar - then increase from there. Start yummy, increase veggies gradually. Straws can really help too.
Coconut oil based raw treats - I’ve been told by many that eating coconut oil helps with regularity in older folks (some swear by it) - the same just may be true for kids & it’s so easy to incorporate into healthy, yummy raw desserts etc. See our recipes for some ideas to get you started.For constipation prone kids try dried figs, dates, prunes, apricots, pears (or bliss balls made using dried fruits as the binder / sweetness). Kids tend to love these 'sugar bombs', so don't go overboard! Canned peaches, pears, pear juice, prune juice…fresh is best but go with where the child is ‘at’ to get out of trouble. Pear in particular is high in a natural laxative, once again - don't go overboard or you'll end up with a sweet tooth!
LOVE to hear what has worked well for you guys - please share any useful tips with other mums & dads that have helped prevent baby and toddler constipation for you!