My son has had a couple of bouts of constipation, and they're pretty unpleasant for the whole family.

The first time he was up all night, every hour, crying inconsolably. We had no idea what the problem was until we could get to the pediatrician.

Now we worry about constipation whenever he cries in the middle of the night, even if he had a bowel movement earlier that evening. Sometimes the crying is simply from a bad dream, but a couple of times it has been due to other (less severe) bouts of constipation.

Aside from "waking up in the middle of the night and crying", how can you tell when a toddler is constipated before he can fully verbalize the problem?

What are the best ways of relieving constipation once it becomes an issue, and how can you help avoid it altogether? We know of another child my son's age (2) that has had near-constant constipation issues.

3 Answers 3


Is there a history of food allergies in your family? It could be a result of dairy.

Is he getting plenty of water? Juice has a TON of sugar and could be heavily diluted to add a bit of flavor if this is an issue.

I think the best way to help him communicate this is to identify it for him. When you figure out whats wrong, give him the words you want him to use when he has that feeling. Gas is incredibly painful! But toddlers are notorious for being not very good at differentiating different pains or being able to communicate where it is from. It will take lots of practice.

Could you call a nurses hotline specifically for how to help prevent it?

  • +1 for giving him the words. No food allergies in our family (I used to get a contact rash when my skin was exposed to tomato sauce/juice, but that's it), and he doesn't drink any juice (but some water and a fair amount of milk). We did get some guidance after the first incident on how to prevent it, but I wanted to open this up here before I consider self-answering.
    – user420
    Nov 16, 2012 at 14:05
  • @beofett, a tummy rub helps relieve it and get things moving. So does a bit of coffee, though I'm speaking as an adult not necessarily for a child. But I personally only drink coffee for this purpose. Nov 16, 2012 at 14:06
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    LOL When my son was about a year old, he asked for my coffee, and I, thinking he'd taste it and go "ewwww" and not ask for it again, gave him a tiny spoonful to taste. He said "I like it!", and my jaw hit the floor :P We're still recovering from his post Halloween sugar-rush, so caffeine is out of the question. My son is energetic enough that I fear to even let him smell coffee... I'll stick with the tummy rubs, thanks! :)
    – user420
    Nov 16, 2012 at 14:11
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    @Beofett, good call! This is why all I do is offer various ideas and let you pick (or not) :) You know your family best. Nov 16, 2012 at 14:13
  • @Beofett THAT IS FUNNY! I can just see a Roger Rabbit Kind of picture of your profile pic with a jaw coming out of the photo and resting on my desktop. Nov 16, 2012 at 18:45

Christine has already made some good points but I thought I'd add a couple more ideas.

I had a student who at two, had two servings of prune juice every day, a great diet fully of healthful things and LOTS of fiber and he still had trouble. Unfortunately, some kids struggle with this one and you should definitely keep communicating with your pediatrician about it. When the pediatrician prescribed mirilax, it made a HUGE difference for the little man, AND potty training was suddenly easier too.

Alice had a lot of trouble up until she was about two and a half. We used This method Link is to another question to help her pass the gas and get the other stuff moving along. If your son will let you do this "half moon" method (its totally hippie-granola kid yoga stuff, but if it works, it works) it may at least help with the gas - even at this age. If he doesn't like it, stick with the tummy rubs Christine Mentions.

Even if there is no history of allergies, allergies are on the rise, you may want to keep a food journal along with notes about his "movements" and seeming comfort/discomfort levels for a few weeks to see if you can divine any patterns.

My whole family is sensitive to dairy and though only my sister is lactose intolerant we all have troubles if we eat or drink a lot of it, or eat it too regularly (1/3 kids actually has a dairy sensitivity - though it is less in white communities) so Christine is right on the money to bring this up as a question - especially since you mention that he drinks a lot of it. Try a week without it and see if it helps. There are TOnS of wonderful replacement drinks that still offer Calcium and Vitamin D is easy to get access to as a supplement. OF COURSE talk to your Pediatrician about it, but seems worth it just to knock it off the list and be sure it isn't a problem with dairy to me. Removing dairy for a week will not hurt and if it helps, then you've won an answer to your problem.

Good luck!


Poor little thing! Have you tried some baby massage techniques https://parenting.stackexchange.com/a/16670/11605, these can help to get things moving and be soothing for the child.

Also, agree with the prune juice and other high fibre fruit and veg as well as plenty of water. Beans/Legumes/Lentils are also a good source of fibre.

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