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Digest This – Healthy Pooping

Knowing what is normal stooling is key to keeping your child regular. Pooping patterns vary depending on the age and diet of a child. In the first three months, poops are soft or liquid. A breastfed baby may poop at each feed or as infrequent as once every seven days. Formula-fed babies have about two poops per day but this may differ depending on the type of formula. By two years, a child usually has less than two per day. After four years, the number of stools per day goes down to about 1 per day. Poops should be solid and soft.

Constipation occurs when a child has any of these symptoms: infrequent bowel movements, hard or dry poops, unusually large poops that may block the toilet, difficulty or pain with passing poops. If constipation goes untreated, you may notice small amounts of poop leaking onto underwear if your child is toilet trained. Causes of constipation include insufficient fibre in their diet, fear of using toilet because of painful pooping, certain medications and inactivity. Constipation can occur around infancy during transition to solids, during toilet training time, and at school entry.

Prevention is key. Providing a balanced diet with nutritious foods like whole grains, fruits and vegetables will help. Drinking enough water is also important. Engaging in physical activity keeps bowels regular. Get your child to have a regular toilet routine by getting them to sit on the toilet after meals at least twice daily. Designing a reward system may help to encourage your child. When constipation develops, your child may need a laxative. PEG is a commonly used stool softener that is safe and does not result in lazy bowels. It is available over the counter and comes in different brands such as “Lax-a-day” or “Restorlax”. Other medications are also available. It is best to seek advice from your child’s doctor if your child is having trouble with constipation. Having regular poops is an important part of your child’s health.

Becky Biqi Chen was a resident in general pediatrics for three years at the Children’s Hospital at London Health Sciences Centre. She is currently specializing in pediatric gastroenterology during her fellowship at the British Columbia Children’s Hospital.


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