“That one’s poop this morning was a very vibrant forest green color. Is that normal?” You might have said as you and your family entered your mother’s house.
“We might not be able to stay long. The baby has been excreting explosive, really stinky, vile liquid poop lately,” you might have announced to other moms at the playground.
“My daughter hasn’t pooped in five days. What should I do?” you might have wailed at the poor telemarketer who had the ill fortune of calling your home at such an obviously beleaguered time.
Prior to having children, you probably never imagined yourself as the kind of person who would mention, let alone describe, stool in conversations. However, when you’re a parent, you can’t help but discuss your children’s bowel movements. You’re lucky if you happen to be talking to other parents who understand, but if not, then chances are your listeners probably don’t find your topic as riveting as you think it is.
That’s the thing, however. You talk about things that interest or concern you. Bowel movement just happens to be a subject matter that goes hand-in-hand with having children.
Things definitely get more interesting when children start eating table food. This usually happens in the toddler years. Good stool consistency remains important. At this age, it should be soft but formed like a log. Toddlers should also move their bowels regularly, the passing stool at least every other day.
The Importance of Fiber
How do you promote healthy bowel movement in toddlers? Fiber is the main answer. There are other elements that support it, but the key factor is fiber in their diet.
Fortunately, there are lots of fiber foods for children that the toddler palate approves of. Fruits are definitely a favorite, while many also like whole grain cereals and whole wheat toast. Vegetables are also a good source, but since toddlers tend to be picky eaters, there might be some struggle getting them to eat these.
The formula for Healthy Bowels
As mentioned, toddlers should move their bowels at least every other day. Ideally, they would move it every day, but it’s still normal if they skip a day. Beyond that, you should take measures to get those bowels moving.
There are things that your children should eat and do to promote regular bowel movement. Fortunately, they extend their benefits to other areas of health as well.
1. Include a fiber source in every meal.
This is easy enough to do. Just make sure there are whole grains, fruits, or vegetables in what you serve.
2. Give them water throughout the day.
The Adequate Intake of water for toddlers is 1.3 liters a day. This roughly converts to 44 fluid ounces or 5.5 glasses. Water is the ideal drink. Some might say that juice is also good, but natural fruit juice has but traces of fiber and an abundance of sugar, so it’s best to limit juice intake.
3. Limit milk to just 16 ounces.
Milk is an important part of children’s diets. Unfortunately, dairy is like glue in the colon. It can be constipating unless, of course, lactose intolerance is involved, in which case, the opposite, namely diarrhea, is the consequence.
For this reason, it’s best to limit milk to the 16 ounces recommended for children to get their essential dairy nutrients (calcium, vitamins B2 and B12, vitamin D, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, protein, and zinc).
4. Offer fruits for snacks and desserts.
Instead of giving them baked or creamy treats for a snack or dessert, just give them fruits. While fruits do have a lot of sugar in them, their fiber content helps the body slow down the absorption of their sugar content, minimizing the surge in blood sugar.
5. Keep them active throughout the day.
One of the key factors that lead to constipation is inactivity. According to research, the up and down motion of physical exercises such as walking, running, going up and down the stairs, etc. eases colonic pressure, making food move faster through the bowels, thus stimulating defecation.
In Case of Constipation
Unhealthy bowel movement implies either constipation or diarrhea. Constipation means your children aren’t moving their bowels often enough or their stool is too hard, dry, and big. In the other extreme is diarrhea, which is the opposite. It means their bowel movements are loose and they happen too frequently. Both have negative effects on health.
When faced with a constipated child, what are you supposed to do? You can do one or more of the following.
- Give them more fiber, such as psyllium. It can be included in gelatin to make it more appealing. You can also add high fiber fruit paste, which has all the good stuff like prunes, dates, and raisins to their cereal, yogurt, or sandwich spread.
- Give them more water. This will help stuck stools move their way along the bowels.
- Get them moving. The vigorous movement will help loosen up troublesome stools.
In Case of Diarrhea
Diarrhea usually isn’t just a case of eating things that didn’t agree with the tummy. It may be caused by viruses or bacteria, in which case, the germs have to leave the body to stop their havoc.
If your young children seem to have a chronic case of loose bowel movement, they might have what’s called toddler’s diarrhea, which may start as early as six months of age and go away by the time they’re five years old.
Toddler’s diarrhea involves about two to six watery stools a day, but everything else about their wellness and weight gain is normal. Its exact cause is yet to be determined, but if your children seem to have it, you can take the following steps:
- Stick to water as their drink. Don’t give them any more juice as sugar makes loose bowel movement worse.
- Give them more fiber sources such as whole grains and vegetables.
Red Flags to Look Out For
A rare bout of constipation and diarrhea here and there shouldn’t be worrying. You should be alarmed when a child is often constipated, has black or bloody stools, has diarrhea with a fever higher than 101.5 degrees, is dehydrated, or is not thriving. Consult a doctor as soon as possible.