Constipation usually occurs when stools remain in the colon (large intestine) for too long, and the colon absorbs too much water from the stools, causing them to become hard and dry.
Most cases of constipation aren't caused by a specific condition and it may be difficult to identify the exact cause. However, several factors can increase your chances of having constipation, including:
Constipation in babies and children is quite common. It's estimated that up to 1 in every 3 children in the UK has constipation at any time. Poor diet, fear about using the toilet and poor toilet training can all be responsible.
Children who are over-fed are more likely to have constipation, as are those who don't get enough fluids. Babies who have too much milk are also more likely to get constipation. As with adults, it's very important that your child has enough fibre in their diet.
It's important that you don't make your child feel stressed or pressured about using the toilet. It's also important to let your children try things by themselves (when appropriate). Constantly intervening when they're using the toilet may make them feel anxious and may contribute to constipation.
Some children can feel stressed or anxious about using the toilet. They may have a phobia about using the toilet, or feel they are unable to use the toilets at school.
This fear may be the result of your child experiencing pain when passing stools. This can lead to poor bowel habits, where children ignore the urge to pass stools and instead withhold them for fear of experiencing pain and discomfort. However, if they do this, their condition will only get worse.
In rare cases, constipation in babies and children can be a sign of an underlying condition, such as: