Fussy Eater Constipation Tips

Constipation in Fussy Eaters 21
Fussy Eater Constipation

Fussy eater constipation tips are provided to assist you to give relief to your fussy eater and to reduce the frequency of future bouts of constipation.

My girlfriend’s 4-year-old son had not been to the toilet for a few days. She, at the time, was involved in a Theatre play, and was away from home every single night. No amount of persuasion, or homemade remedies would help. However, at the end of the week, theatre was finished, and her little boy finally went to the toilet.

“See”, he said, “there’s Daddy poo, there’s kiddy poo, and this is baby poo…and their mummy? She’s at the theatre!”

We thought it was a very funny story at the time. However, when it comes to limited bowel movement it tells us that there is a lot at play…No pun intended.

Constipation is a frequent issue that affects 30% of children. It requires all the attention of a mother when she’s home from the Theatre.

When I work with a new family, finding out if their fussy eater suffers from chronic constipation is a priority. Often, they have a lower fibre intake, than other children.  But this goes beyond nutrition: it always does. Constipation may affect appetite and exacerbate anxiety associated with eating.

What is constipation?

Children can have irregular bowel movements and not go to the toilet every day without being constipated. Babies who are breastfed may poop once a week, while children may go every 2 or 3 days. Toddlers may be struggling to juggle toilet training and pooping action.

Therefore, the appropriate way to assess and confirm constipation it to check your fussy eater’s stools. It is indicated by dry, nuts/pellets like, or large dry painful stools. These are depicted in the Bristol Stool Chart here. Yes mums and dads you need to have a look, rather than rely on what your children may let you know. Some children will not be able to express what is happening to them.

image: the Rome Foundation

Signs of constipation 

There are quite a few signs of constipation you may see along the way.

  1. Pellet /sausage like dry poop,
  2. Refusing to go to the toilet,

  3. Reduced appetite, the child feels full after a few bites. Appetite may increase after a child passes a large stool. Then it decreases again,

  4. Nausea and vomiting (because the stomach is slow at emptying),

  5. Complaining of abdominal pain or cramps,

  6. Irritability, anxiety.  Children may cry, bend their body in two, or lie down in a fetal position. They may cross their legs and refuse to go to the toilet as they become anxious about the pain they experience. They may soil their pants,

  7. Anal fissures, from straining.

Causes of constipation

  1. a refined diet that lacks fibre,

  2. limited hydration,

  3. overconsumption of dairy products,

  4. a lack of physical activity,

  5. ignoring the urge to poop, for example, due to associated pain or anxiety.

  6. underlying medical causes (allergies, celiac disease etc).

When should you take your fussy eater to a doctor?

If you are worried about your child, you should seek medical advice immediately. If your child has frequent, chronic constipation it is best to check with your GP, so they may rule out any specific cause or help you avoid a worsening of the situation like faecal impaction. It is worth considering reducing the pain before tackling constipation, particularly when home remedies have been unsuccessful.

Your child may be chronically constipated and your doctor or paediatrician may further investigate the issue. Trust your doctor’s advice before eliminating foods from your child’s diet on a wild guess. Relief is important, the doctor may prescribe laxatives.  It is important not to self-prescribe those to a child. Laxatives can reduce bowel movement in the long term.

Fussy eater constipation tips

  1. Hydration matters, because as much as fibre is important to a child’s diet, a bulk of fibre will not move without good hydration. The trick is to offer water at meals and during the day. Use a glass here, a bottle or a cup there. Looking at your child’s urine can give you an indication as to what their hydration status may be like.

    Urine chart
    Urine chart
  2. Foods that are beneficial include prunes, pureed apple and juices, fruit (unpeeled, including grapes, pears, persimmons, and kiwis) and vegetables. Oats can be offered at breakfast. Psyllium can be sprinkled over food. Seeded, sprouted, wholegrain and wholemeal pasta, rice or bread, legumes (chickpeas and lentils), seeds and nuts can be offered at mealtimes.

  3. Some naturally occurring sugars like sorbitol, xylitol, or mannitol found in stone fruit like avocado, plum, cherries, peaches, apricots etc, have a laxative effect.  They are often used as sweeteners in yoghurt and other products.

  4. Massage and/or warm bath may help babies and children.

  5. Exercise is important, lifting legs up, or any movement that can put gentle pressure around the bowel area may help.

  6. Regular opportunities to sit down on the toilet, i.e. a once a day or after each meal should be provided. However, the toilet routine should not pressurise children to produce stools: children need to be relaxed.

  7. Footstools that raise knees higher than hips will provide good ergonomics for a child sitting on the toilet.

  8. Bananas, especially if unripe, grated apple and excessive milk may increase constipation.

Fussy eater constipation tips references


Constipation Guidelines form the Royal Children Hospital 

A Systematic Review of the Effects of Polyols on Gastrointestinal Health and Irritable Bowel Syndrome  

Adrienne Lenhart1 and William D Chey2




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