To be healthy, your child must have regular bowel movements. Bowel regularity (frequency, amount of bowel movements, etc.) varies from child to child. Some children have a bowel movement more than once a day, while others may skip a day.
You can promote good bowel regularity with the following measures:
- Healthy eating, that is, eating whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and plenty of water every day. Children should drink no more than 120 mL of 100% fruit juice per day. Less is more!
- stay active All day long. This measure contributes to the proper functioning of the intestines.
- Teach your child not to hold back a bowel movement.
- Explain that regular bowel movements are normal and important for good health.
- Avoid negative words such as “dirty” or “stinky”, which may embarrass your child when he wants to go to the bathroom.
Constipation and diarrhea are the main problems related to bowel movement.
What are the symptoms of constipation?
Constipation refers to stools:
- which are less frequent than usual,
- that are hard, dry and difficult or painful to expel,
- that seem particularly large for your child.
Constipation can cause stomach pain and red blood on the surface of a hard stool.
If your child is constipated, he may look like he’s straining to pass a bowel movement, when in fact he’s holding back because he’s in pain.
What are the causes of constipation?
- A low fiber diet that does not contain enough whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
- Products that contain more than 4 grams of fiber per serving (as listed on the label) are good sources of fiber.
- Too much milk, other dairy products, or juice can make your child feel full. He will then eat less food that contributes to the proper functioning of his intestines.
- The fear of going to the toilet. Your child may also hold back a bowel movement if he has a painful crack around his anus.
- Lack of physical activity.
- Certain medications.
What if my child is constipated?
- Try to get your child used to a regular daily schedule for going to the bathroom.
- Don’t rush him to get clean. Children may worry and hold back on a bowel movement if they feel too much pressure.
- Offer fiber-rich foods like whole-grain bread, fruits like apples, ripe bananas, berries or plums, vegetables, and legumes like split peas, soybeans, and lentils.
- When your child has a bowel movement, make sure they have good foot support, such as a stool, and a toilet seat. It will be easier to push.
What are the symptoms of diarrhea?
- A larger quantity of stools that are less formed and more liquid than usual.
What causes acute diarrhea?
There are many causes for diarrhea, although it is usually caused by a virus. The leading cause of acute infectious diarrhea in Canada is a virus called rotavirus. In general, acute diarrhea lasts less than 14 days.
Germs that cause diarrhea, including rotavirus:
- spread easily from person to person, especially from child to child.
- usually spread easily between children who have not yet learned to use the toilet.
You can prevent profuse diarrhea caused by rotavirus by doing vaccinate your baby. You can also reduce transmission of the virus by washing your hands thoroughly and washing your child’s after every diaper change, after using the toilet, and before preparing and eating food.
What if my child has diarrhoea?
Children with diarrhea can lose fluids very quickly. It is important to continue to offer them food and drink. Oral rehydration solution (ORS), which is made from a precise mixture of water, salts and sugar, can help keep your child well hydrated if he has profuse diarrhea.
What causes chronic diarrhea?
Chronic diarrhea is diarrhea that lasts longer than 14 days. A fairly common cause of chronic diarrhea in children is often referred to as toddler’s diarrhea.
What is toddler diarrhea?
In general, the toddler’s diarrhea appears between 6 and 30 months and disappears around the age of 5 years. Children with toddler’s diarrhea may have 2 to 6 loose stools a day, but otherwise appear healthy and gain weight normally.
The exact cause of toddler diarrhea is not known, but it may be because certain foods pass through your child’s colon (the last part of the digestive system) too quickly.
- Your toddler may be drinking too many sugary drinks, such as juice or sports drinkswhich can cause loose stools.
- It can also be caused by a lack of fiber in your child’s diet or by eating foods that are too low in fat.
If your toddler often has loose, watery stools:
- stop offering juice and offer water instead. Juice contains sugar, which can make diarrhea worse.
- offer more foods with fiber, such as whole grain cereals, fruits and vegetables.
If the diarrhea continues, talk to your doctor at your next regular appointment.
When should I call my doctor?
Call your doctor if your child:
- has diarrhea and is less than 6 months old.
- is often constipated.
- has black stools that contain blood.
- is potty trained, but begins to lose control of her bowel movements and have accidents in her underwear.
- has diarrhea, a fever and a temperature above 38.5°C (101.5°F).
- shows signs of dehydration (increased thirst, absence of tears, decreased urine, dry skin, mouth and tongue, rapid heartbeat).
- not gaining weight.
CPS Additional Information
Reviewed by the following CPA committees
- Public Education Advisory Committee
- Nutrition and Gastroenterology Committee