January 4, 2021/Children's Health

How to Prevent Constipation in Your Kids

Be on the lookout for these symptoms

child drinking water from sippy cup

We’ve probably all had constipation at least once in our lives and, chances are good that we hated every minute of it. When it comes to your own children, what can you do to help keep your little ones from getting constipated?


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Constipation in babies or very young children is a common problem but can be hard to spot, according to pediatric gastroenterologist Mohammad Nasser Kabbany, MD.

“About 1 in 20 pediatrician visits are about constipation,” says Dr. Kabbany. “It often starts when kids are away from home and afraid to use the bathroom.”

Here’s what to watch for:

  • Babies and very young children may become red-faced when pushing or straining during a bowel movement.
  • Little streaks in diapers or underwear. This a possible sign of stool not passing properly.
  • Lack of appetite and stomachaches.
  • Bed-wetting.
  • Urinary tract infections.
  • Excessive amounts of time on the potty.

But how do you prevent constipation in the first place? Dr. Kabbany shares some tips to help parents avoid it in their children:

Establish a bathroom routine

If your child is potty trained, help them establish a bathroom routine so they can use it regularly. By developing a routine, ideally one that goes along with a regular meal schedule, it’ll signal their bodies to head to the bathroom. Try to have meals at the same time every day so their little bodies will get that internal urge after they eat. Using a footstool during toilet time will also help them evacuate more effectively.

Drink water and don’t cut out milk

Water is crucial for our bodies to work properly and to get bowels moving along. Alongside eating a balanced diet, make sure your child also drinks plenty of water.


“Sometimes, kids resist drinking water,” says Dr. Kabbany. “Make it fun with a special cup and straw or by flavoring the water with lemon or even a cucumber slice. This can help them drink more of that H2O.”

Don’t cut out milk completely, either. Excessive dairy intake may be a problem, but cutting milk entirely from a child’s diet will not clear up constipation — and it will instead deprive your child of much-needed calcium.

Include fiber in their diet

Eating fiber is healthy, but how much fiber is good enough? To figure out how many grams of fiber your child should consume each day, add five to their age (in years). For example, your 2 year old would need 7 grams of fiber. Adults, on the other hand, need about 19 to 38 grams per day depending on age and gender.

“Eating fiber doesn’t have to be boring,” says Dr. Kabbany. “Offer fruits, vegetables and whole grains like prunes, apricots, plums, raisins, peas, beans and broccoli.”

Limit constipating foods

Keep an eye on your child’s intake of constipating foods. Bananas, rice and cheese are the big offenders because they can contribute to constipation in large quantities.

“This doesn’t mean getting rid of these foods completely,” says Dr. Kabbany. “Find out what is causing the issue. Then start decreasing the amount of that food your child eats. It’s all about moderation and eating a healthy diet.”


Encourage exercise

Get their bowels moving by encouraging movement and physical activity. Movement is good for kids because it not only creates good habits, releases pent up energy and prevents obesity, but it also helps kids’ bowels function. Instead of just telling them to go outside, do some kind of physical activity with them. Run around in the backyard, shoot some hoops together or go for a long walk around the neighborhood. Every little bit counts.

While this could be a frustrating process for both you and your child, know that there’s help available. Talk to your child’s pediatrician for support and other resources available so you, and your child, can take a sigh of relief.

“It’s important to treat constipation sooner than later,” says Dr. Kabbany. “If constipation goes on long enough, your child’s growth and development can even be affected.”

Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

person eating on a plane
September 18, 2023/Digestive
On the Road Again With Constipation

From staying hydrated to staying on schedule, these tips can help you stay regular on-the-go

child walking out of bathroom
August 8, 2023/Children's Health
Unplugged: How To Relieve Constipation in Kids

Dietary and behavioral changes can help get things moving again

Person suffering from constipation with someone handing them medicine in a small cup.
February 23, 2023/Digestive
Laxative Effect: Using Milk of Magnesia for Constipation

Developed in the 1800s, this remedy remains a viable solution today

Person running to toilet stall in public restroom.
February 22, 2023/Digestive
Yes, Anxiety Poops Are Totally a Thing — Here’s How To Find Relief

Our bowels have a deep connection with our mind

A wooden bowl of prunes with prune juice in background and fresh plum in the foreground.
February 20, 2023/Diet, Food & Fitness
Constipation Relief: Can Prune Juice Make You Poop?

Prunes earn the title of ‘nature’s remedy’ for bowel movement issues

A glass of water with chia seeds in it
June 21, 2022/Digestive
Does TikTok’s ‘Internal Shower’ Drink Work?

A dietitian weighs in on social media’s popular constipation recommendation

Graphic of woman sitting on a toilet while looking at her phone.
May 10, 2022/Digestive
How Often and How Long Should It Take You to Poop?

Everyone poops, but here’s what may affect how often you visit the toilet

An illustration of a person lying in bed holding their stomach in pain
May 9, 2022/Digestive
8 Home Remedies for Constipation

Eat foods high in fiber, drink water and consider using a laxative

Trending Topics

Person in yellow tshirt and blue jeans relaxing on green couch in living room reading texts on their phone.
Here’s How Many Calories You Naturally Burn in a Day

Your metabolism may torch 1,300 to 2,000 calories daily with no activity

woman snacking on raisins and nuts
52 Foods High In Iron

Pump up your iron intake with foods like tuna, tofu and turkey