Dietary causes of constipation vary with the age of a child. For infants changing from breast milk to formula a decrease in stool frequency is common. This is also seen when there is a change from breast milk or formula alone to added cereal or a change from strained foods to table foods.
For children under age 4 years milk intake is often the cause. The first step is to decrease or stop all milk products for 1-2 months and use milk substitutes while continuing to provide vitamin and calcium supplementation. Always try to increase water intake as well as high water content foods such as fruits and vegetables.
Certain foods can also be constipating including carrots, banana, apples, and rice. Try to avoid cereals that are not whole grain. Use oatmeal, cheerios and granola and increase the amount of bran in your child’s diet. Bran is found in brown rice, oatmeal, whole wheat bread, shredded wheat and unmilled bran or bran muffins. You can add bran to many foods and your child will usually not notice. Children under 6 years can be given 2 teaspoons per day and older children 3-4 teaspoons. Raw vegetables and unpeeled fruits can be eaten throughout the day.
Remember that fruits, fiber and fluids are the best treatments for constipation.