How to Prevent Constipation When Potty Training

How to Prevent Constipation When Potty Training
Written by:
Michelle D. Swaney
January 30, 2024

Constipation is Common (but not healthy!)

Just because it's common doesn't mean it's good for you. It can be uncomfortable and inconvenient...especially when potty training.

Here are our top 13 Constipation Prevention Tips:

1. Stay Hydrated:

How many of you feel like you've tried "all the things" to get your kiddo to drink water? Well, we probably have a few more tricks up our sleeve as well. :)

The #1 goal to keep away constipation is for your child to drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep stools soft and easier to pass. Aim for a substantial amount of water daily, or more if you live in a hot climate or engage in physical activity.

Check-out our blog about how to get your child to drink more water, here.

2. Eat a High-Fiber Diet:

Perhaps your child doesn't naturally grab for the Metamucil (and shouldn't :)), but there are ways we can get high-fiber foods in without needs to "sneak" them in. Children are capable of eating fruits and veggies. Even special needs kids are able to, but it's often much more of a "fight" with children with special needs because they they their preference be greatly known, often.

But, when you can (and we encourage that to be daily), include fiber-rich foods in your diet, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Fiber adds bulk to your stools and helps them move through the digestive tract more smoothly.

3. Regular Meal Times:

It's so tempting to grab a banana on the way out the house, whenever that is. But, we encourage you to stick to regular meal times and avoid skipping meals. This can help regulate your bowel movements and prevent constipation. But, man-oh-man this can be hard to do with a little, or more than one little. But, make the effort. Set the timer on your phone to remind you to get dinner started, and then to actually sit down to it...or to make sure you have a wash hands timer set for yourself if you grab takeout that night. However food gets to your table, try to make it a regular affair.

Here's a breakfast recipe we love!

4. Exercise Regularly:

Engage in regular physical activity as it can stimulate bowel movements and promote better digestion. Anything from running laps, to jumping on a trampoline to chasing after butterflies. Just get up and get moving. If you child is sedentary, then be the one to initiate it, s/he will want t join in on the fun as soon as you get moving.

5. Don't Ignore the Urge:

When you feel the urge to have a bowel movement, respond promptly. Ignoring the urge can lead to the stool becoming harder and more difficult to pass. This hopefully goes without say, but don't make your potty training child "hold it in" for long periods of time. Short amounts of time after they are having some success is reasonable, and even encouraged, but on the first few days of trying, do nothing but encourage them to go when they feel the urge.

6. Avoid Holding Your Breath:

When passing stools, avoid holding your breath, as it can put extra pressure on the pelvic floor muscles and make it harder to pass stools.  Kids have a tendency to bend over forward when they need to poop, which is highly unproductive, partly because they tend to hold their breath when doing so. Get your child to take long, slow breaths along with you so they can calm their body down and so you don't have to spend the day in the bathroom with them.

two women sitting at table talking about potty training

7. Limit Processed Foods:

Let's just say that Flamin' Hot Doritos(R) aren't know for being high in fiber. Neither is Mac 'n Cheese. Processed and junk foods tend to be low in fiber and can contribute to constipation. Try to limit your intake of processed foods and opt for whole, unprocessed foods instead. I phrased that as "your" intake because it is probably much healthier for your child to eat the same food that you eat, rather than "kid" foods like buttery pasta, chicken nuggets(R), fries, etc. I have one child who loves salads, to a surprising degree. She now tells adults that salads are her favorite food, which kind of makes me laugh and always surprised adults. But, she truly does. Anyway, she's the most daring child and will often point out in a restaurant that there aren't ANY vegetables on the kids' menu. Not only is she right, but she often pleads her 7-year-old cause well enough to get herself a side salad as part of that kids' meal.

Check-out our additional articles about constipation at the end of this article!

8. Limit Dairy and High-Fat Foods:

Some people find that high-fat and dairy products can contribute to constipation. If you notice this pattern, consider reducing your intake of such foods. That means limiting (even for a child, with your doctor's approval) glasses of milk, yogurt, cheese and dare I say it, ice cream.

9. Manage Stress:

This sounds like a strange one for a child, but stress really can be present in a child's life. These kids live in a very fast-paced world. Things are rushing by them as a crazy pace. Just existing with other humans is stressful (spoken like a true introvert :)). Chronic stress can impact your digestive system, so find ways to manage stress through relaxation techniques, prayer, hobbies, exercise, or meditation.

10. Establish a Routine:

Try to establish a regular time for having a bowel movement. Our bodies often have a natural rhythm, and following a routine can help regulate bowel movements. We often talk through this with client. We go through their schedule and help them decide when the best "pooping" time would be for their family, based on a myriad of factors, all which really do play into not only expediting bowel movements, but also making them more thorough.

11. Consider Probiotics:

We love probiotics! Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can help maintain a healthy gut and improve bowel regularity. You can find probiotics in certain foods or as supplements.

When I was pregnant with my first child I was a sauerkraut-eating nut! I couldn't get enough fermented pickles or kimchi. Everything I wanted was fermented. It felt like that babe was crying out for probiotics from the womb.

There are numerous probiotics on the market, but we do have our favorites.

woman on phone and woman on computer both on potty training consultation calls

12. Be Cautious with Laxatives:

Avoid overusing laxatives, as they can become habit-forming and disrupt your body's natural ability to regulate bowel movements. This includes Miralax(R). Be mindful of laxatives in general. There is a time and place for them, but I really wish it wasn't such a part of potty training. With later starting ages, and poor nutrition, among other factors, constipation in potty training children seems to be more and more common. But, really the goal of potty training is just moving the pee/poo into the toilet. The catch is, it is often the first time that parents are noticing the shape of their child's bowel movements.

13. Review Medications:

Some medications can cause constipation as a side effect. If you suspect this might be the case, talk to your doctor about potential alternatives or strategies to manage constipation.

So, there you have is an all-star 13 bullet point list of suggestions of how to help with potty training constipation.

But, if you've tried these preventive measures and continue to experience persistent constipation, it's essential to consult with a healthcare professional for a proper evaluation and personalized advice.

Best wishes on your pottying journey! We would love to help you in a more personalized way. We offer phone/Zoom consultations, Home Consultations and online courses, and our popular Diapers to Flush membership as well!

~ Michelle

Still want more? We got you covered. Here are other popular blogs about constipation on our site: 

How to Prevent & Treat Potty Training Constipation

2023's Best Potty Training & Constipation Tricks for Kids

Want The Potty School to help your family?

We offer phone/Zoom consultations, Home Consultations and online courses, and our popular Diapers to Flush membership as well!

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