Advice from Dr. B

Pediatrician's Perspective

Be Ahead of Constipation with Good Potty Habits

The best way to manage constipation in kids is to prevent it. One of the best ways to do this is to teach children to have good “P.E.D. habits”—potty, exercise and diet habits. Let’s take a look at each.

Healthy Habits that Help Prevent Kids’ Constipation

P – Potty Habits

Good potty habits are so important in preventing constipation. When a child goes to the potty regularly, they are less likely to “hold it in.” When poop is held in it tends to become hard and dry. This makes it more difficult and painful to pass. Kids often have trouble keeping track of when they have to go potty because they are so easily distracted with play and other fun things. Parents and caregivers can gently remind kids to go to the potty and at least try to make a poop. Here are some things you can try:

  • Offer your child times that are good opportunities to go to the potty. Say, “We can do potty time now or after we brush our teeth. When do you want to do it?”
  • Have your child choose a toy or book to bring to the potty with them.
  • Have your child pick a sticker to put on a potty chart after each try at the potty.
  • Have your child come with you to purchase the stickers for the chart.

These actions can help encourage regular potty visits and lead to healthy potty habits.

E – Exercise Habits

Good exercise habits are also very helpful in managing constipation. Exercise helps blood flow, which helps oxygen and other nutrients flow through the body better. When we exercise regularly, our whole body—inside and out—works better. Staying active helps keep the gut active. Video games and other electronic devices can be so tempting, but it is important to limit screen time. If your kid is not moving, most likely the food and poop inside them isn’t moving much either. Getting them outside and playing helps every part of their body and can help them poop better. Try doing the following:

  • Offer your child times that are good opportunities to go play. Say, “We can go out and play now or after we eat lunch. When do you want to go?”
  • Have your child choose which activity to do. For example, go to the playground or take a walk around the block.
  • Have your child come with you to the store to choose a new ball or toy that can be used during exercise or play. 

Giving your child choices helps them feel like they are in control and is an important part of growing up.

D – Diet Habits

A healthy diet is key to having a healthy gut. When your child eats foods rich in fiber and water, poops can pass easily. Foods rich in carbohydrates may cause constipation, but because they are easier to prepare, pack in a lunch, and store, they’re often the main choice offered in schools, stores and even in homes. Some of these types of food are rice, pasta, bread, bagels and snacks like pretzels, cookies and crackers. Dairy foods like milk, yogurt, ice cream and cheeses also cause constipation. You might be surprised to know that some fruits and vegetables can lead to constipation too, such as bananas, apples and potatoes.

What are some better choices to help prevent constipation? Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, grapes, watermelons, melons, broccoli, lettuce, lentil, kale, beans and non-dairy milk substitutes such as almond milk. Make sure your children can easily access water during meals and in between meals, especially when they are playing and active. These shifts in food choices will help your child conquer constipation. These are also good habits to have for the rest of their life.

Ways to make healthy food choices easier:

  • Bring your child grocery shopping with you and ask them to choose the fruits and veggies they want. Let them choose from ones that you know will be better for their tummy.
  • When you prepare meals and snacks, let your child choose from a selection you know will help them. Let them prepare the food with you to further help them adopt good habits.
  • Ask your child which water bottle or cup they would like to use. Have them help you fill the bottle or cup up with water or let them do it on their own.

Remember, when kids are part of choosing things for themselves, they feel confident, empowered and are more likely to cooperate. Plan ahead, as much as possible, for whatever your family has on their schedule so that these actions can stay consistent and become lifelong healthy habits. And keep Pedia-Lax® products on hand for those times when nothing else is working and your child needs some extra help to go. Pedia-Lax® chewable tablets and liquid stool softener are specially made for kids ages 2 to 11.

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