Advice from Dr. B

Pediatrician's Perspective

After the Flush: Helping Promote Regularity

When it comes to constipation, my philosophy is to intervene quickly to relieve the child’s discomfort and then work to fix it. Diet plays a very important role in this process. Parents can help promote regularity by encouraging children to stay well-hydrated and working to incorporate more fiber in their child’s diet.

Fiber is confusing for many parents. They know that their children need it, but they are not sure how much they need or which foods are fiber-rich. Also known as roughage or bulk, fiber is a special type of carbohydrate found in plants that the human body cannot absorb or digest. Fiber creates softer, bulkier stools that are easy to pass by absorbing many times their weight in water. It promotes contractions that keep food moving through the intestine.

For many years, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended using the “age plus five rule” to determine the amount of fiber needed in children. These guidelines were recently updated, increasing recommendations to 19 to 31 grams of fiber depending on the child’s age and gender.

Age/Gender Fiber (Grams)
2-3 years 19
4-8 years 25
9-11 years (female) 26
9-11 years (male) 31

Many children, who are picky eaters, often favor foods that are poor sources of fiber, such as processed foods, white breads and regular pasta. As parents, you know that it can be challenging to incorporate fiber into your child’s diet. Try to focus on whole grains, fruits and vegetables such as oatmeal, berries and broccoli. This can be difficult, but creative cooks have been successful in disguising vegetables.

Besides these dietary changes, parents should also create some new habits. It’s helpful to have your child spend some unhurried time on the toilet after meals. You can also download a poop journal to track your child’s habits. As with relieving constipation, the key to helping promote regularity is to be proactive.

More advice from Dr. B