Constipation has been an issue in my house for the last 3.5 years. It is a huge thorn in my side and frustrates me often. As an occupational therapist that specializes in feeding, I knew well about constipation and the effects it can have on a child’s eating habits. I know more than the basics to help with constipation, which I will share here, but in my case, it wasn’t enough.
My son’s constipation was chronic and unceasing. I had to dig deeper so that he could get off his dependence of Miralax that started before he was 2 years old.
In my son’s case, his constipation began after transitioning to cow’s milk from breast milk as a young toddler. At it’s worst, he had sharp referral pain in his back, which was frightening. At that time, we put him on Polyethylene Glycol (PEG for short, or Miralax as you likely know it) an over-the-counter stool softener.
He was on it daily until about 6 months ago when I started to realize he wasn’t growing out of this, which had been several years at this point. I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep him on it indefinitely and couldn’t believe that much time had passed with daily use.
Although the doctors assured me that it was totally safe, after more than 2 years, I decided to do some of my own research. I was shocked to learn that although no major incidents or side effects have been reported, it has never been approved by the FDA for use in kids or for use on a long-term basis.
Miralax, and many other stool softeners, are not absorbed into the body, but keep water with the bowel as it is being digested, thus freeing a child of constipation.
Please know that my intent here is not to attack Miralax, for some kids, it is necessary and at times, it has been a miracle for us. BUT – I couldn’t help wondering, aren’t there other solutions, especially when this is a long term problem?
What natural laxatives for kid’s constipation were available? You can find out here…
UPDATE: As our journey has continued, we’ve added even more quick relief for kids’ constipation in this follow up post: Chronic Constipation in Kids
Causes of Constipation in Kids
First, we have to talk about the causes of constipation, as an OT, I’m always thinking about what the underlying cause is of any challenge a child faces. Constipation is no different. Here are some of the most common causes of constipation in kids:
1. Genetics – Unfortunately, for some kids, it is in the genes, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t potential for them to grow out of it.
2. Diet – Processed foods, low fiber foods, mostly white bread products, and frequent consumption of the foods on the list to avoid below.
3. Intolerance to dairy or wheat or both – An intolerance is different than an allergy and some kids may have difficulty digesting wheat or dairy, which slows down their elimination. Dairy is more likely and often moderating it and eliminating cow’s milk is a winning combination.
4. Holding it in – Some kids actually hold it in because they don’t like how the poop feels coming out or they had a previously painful movement. This can snowball quickly and the longer that they hold it in, the worse it becomes. I’ll talk about this more in the next section.
5. Poor Chewing – If your child doesn’t chew their food well or has difficulty chewing and swallows large pieces of food, it could contribute to constipation because the food isn’t broken down enough when it enters and then exits the stomach into the intestines.
6. Picky Eating – With a diet limited in fruits and veggies, constipation is a likely outcome. But, constipation can also cause picky eating. If a child is backed up, then there isn’t a lot of room to get more food into their stomach so they will often refuse to eat.
To take steps to start helping your child turn around their picky eating get a spot in our free picky eating workshop with workbook.
7. Poor Water Intake – A low amount of water makes it difficult to move the poop through the intestines. Kids need to drink half their body weight in ounces of water daily. A 50lb kid, needs 25 ounces baseline. If they exercise, sweat, or it’s hot outside, they’ll need more. A major factor in a recent trip to the emergency room because of my son’s severe constipation on the 4th of July was not drinking enough water in the heat.
8. Low Muscle Tone – Kids’ muscle tone can actually affect their ability to push poop out and if this is the cause, too much fiber can make it more difficult for them to poop. Read more about low tone here.
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22 Natural Laxatives for Kids’ Constipation
Natural laxatives for kids’ constipation can come in the way of foods, natural supplements, or even some techniques as you’ll learn about below.
First and foremost, start with food because your child is eating anyways. Some of these foods may be difficult to get into your child if they’re a picky eater. If that is the case, don’t try to lay down the law, slowly start to introduce these foods in fun and playful ways to get your kids interested. Keep serving them as you consider some of the natural supplements in the mean time.
Foods that are Natural Laxatives for Kids:
- Prune juice
- Pear juice
- Psyllium husk powder – mix in a teaspoon or tablespoon into your child’s hot cereal or make a bread or pizza crust with it. This is a strong natural laxative!
- Beans, especially black beans – add to burgers, rice, or soup
- High Fiber Bread
- Flax Seed Meal – add a tablespoon to yogurt, hot cereal, or breads
Many of these food are naturally high in fiber, for more ideas, head over to Tasty High Fiber Foods for Kids. In general, anytime your child is having a carb swap in a whole wheat version because it usually works as a natural laxative. Whole wheat pasta, cereals, and breads are often readily available.
However, you can’t always assume that because something is whole grain, whole wheat, or brown rice that there is fiber. Also, there are a lot of high fiber products that don’t necessarily fit into those categories either, so it is really important to read the label.
I’d try to avoid buying foods that have anything less than 2 grams of fiber.
That may sound overwhelming, but there are so many options now when it comes to breads, pretzels, crackers, etc. You will also want to try and maximize the fiber, don’t just stop at 2 grams. Keep flipping over boxes and bags until you find the highest number. Of course, the natural sources of fiber are superior because many of the high fiber products add processed fiber.
Supplements that are Natural Laxatives for Kids
14. Fiber Advance Gummies For Kids – When we started to back off of Miralax, I was happy to have found an all natural fiber gummy that I give to my kids. There are very few ingredients and no sugar. My kids love them.
15. Fletcher’s Gentle Laxative Kids – Several readers have found this to be a helpful natural laxative for quick relief.
20. Water – As I mentioned above, get the water in! Have a cup ready to go at the start of your day and readily available all day long. Give gentle reminders as needed. Also, take water with you everywhere so they can drink in the car or running errands.
21. Tummy Rub for Constipation – Having your child lie on their back and with a little lotion, rubbung their intestines in a circular motion can stimulate the bowels to get moving. Get full directions for a “poop massage”, these stomach rubs can take just a few minutes and be highly effective.
22. Wellement’s Organic Baby and Toddler Constipation Support – If you have toddler or baby, this natural relief supplement has incredible reviews and is completely all natural.
**It’s important to note that if your child is SEVERELY constipated, you should talk to their doctor. It’s critical that they get relief and will likely have to rely on Miralax or Restorolax in very large doses to clean them out and then for sometime afterwards. When my son went to the ER, after 2 enemas, he also drank some 10 capfuls of Miralax to completely clean him out.
Depending on your child’s age and weight, this amount will have to modified. Don’t follow that guideline, I only share it show how much they may need initially. If you aren’t getting the answers or support from your doctor, get a second opinion, see a pediatric gastroenterologist, and/or head to emergent care to get immediate support.
Timing Matters for Constipated Kids that Need Quick Relief
Sooooo many kids hold it when they have to go because they are somewhere they would rather not “go” or they don’t want to run in from outside or stop in the middle of playing.
Missing those cues can have a huge impact on how constipated your kid gets. If you happen to be staring at your kid at that moment, you might catch the signal and can rush them off anyways, but sometimes, they hide it well and often we miss that quick moment.
The solution is to have them sit on the toilet at the same time everyday. The best time is usually within 15 minutes after they eat. I try very hard not to turn toilet time into something negative or worse, a power struggle.
I need to give my son lots of warnings throughout the meal (“As soon as you’re done, go and pick out your book for the potty.”) and mornings usually work really well. When we are on top of this, it is very helpful.
Foods to Avoid for Quick Relief of Kids’ Constipation
As a feeding therapist, I hate to tell kids there are foods they can’t or shouldn’t eat. At four years old, I did begin to explain to my son that these were foods we could only eat sometimes because they made it much harder for him to poop – can’t say I liked doing that, but he gets it. None of these things are totally off limits, but I do limit them as much as possible.
- Ice cream
- Rice Krispy treats
- Rice cakes (unless they are brown rice and have a few grams of fiber)
- White rice
- White bread products/crackers/pretzels
Hope for Kids with Constipation…
Figuring out what’s causing your child’s constipation will be helpful in overcoming it. It will likely take time for your child’s intestines to shrink back to their regular size in the mean time.
If something is working in your house that I didn’t list here, PLEASE share so that it can help others! Be sure to check out more ways to ease constipation from The Constipation Gurus, a brilliant physical therapist and dietician team that are working to help kids suffering with constipation.
More Natural Laxatives for Kids
High Fiber Pumpkin Sweet Potato Bread Perfect for Kids
Amazing Foods with Probiotics for Kids that Can Have a Big Impact!
Interoception: The Secret Sense That Controls Appetite, Toileting, and Emotions
Alisha Grogan is a licensed occupational therapist and founder of Your Kid’s Table. She has over 18 years experience with expertise in sensory processing and feeding development in babies, toddlers, and children. Alisha also has 3 boys of her own at home. Learn more about her here.
We’ve started using Pottywise drops from joyspring and they are the first thing that has helped us since miralax!
My DS son has used Mg citrate powder for years, just recently switched to Calm plus sodium ascorbate powder for immune benefits.
Homeopathic nux vomica 30c has worked in a pinch, and magnesium oil rubbed on abdomen when he has gotten blocked up.
My 7year-old child is also suffering from constipation
Hi Sunshine! Sorry to hear your child struggles with constipation. Hopefully some of these tips in this article can help! Let us know if you have any questions!
Kondremul laxative mineral oil is another natural option that gently helps lubricate the intestines. It was recommended by our pediatric GI and also tasted good to my picky eater.
Thank you! My 3 year old has struggled her while life with constipation. Born premature and developed oral aversion causing her to get a g-tube. She still doesn’t like to drink much and I think that’s the biggest source of constipation trouble. I’m hoping that her picky eating is mostly from the chronic constipation, but I haven’t figured it all out yet.
One of my tricks is coconut water. When she’s not been drinking enough and she hasn’t pooped for a day or more I’ll give her 4 ounces of coconut water and that will usually do it for her. She doesn’t like to drink it and since we have the tube, I just put it in there. But I’m going to try to see if I can blend some fruit in it and see if she likes it that way.
Hi Melinda! So glad you found this post helpful, and sorry to hear about your daughter’s struggles with both constipation and picky eating! Those two things could definitely be related and contributing factors. Blending fruit with coconut water sounds like a great idea! For more constipation tips, check out our other post here!
My 5 year old doesn’t like plain coconut water either, but one tiny squirt of Mio or other water addition and she will chug it. We like the strawberry watermelon one best. They’re sugar-free and seriously takes the tiniest little squirt, a little goes a looonnnggg way!
Awesome blog. It’s impressive to read about how you are not depending upon chemical medication instead of focusing on home remedies for dealing with kid’s constipation. I read blogs on iahas.com that also provide ayurvedic remedies for preventing and treating constipation. I will add your blog to my list…
Praying all are well.
These are very trying days!
Hope not offending anyone; but, please pray that things with this covid and political situation will get better in our country (USA) and all over the world.
Always consult with your holistic provider/doctor before giving any home remedy or treatment.
I cannot say what to give or do, or not to give or do, for the constipated child.
Only speaking from my own experiences.
Just my opinion, from what I have read and been told, miralax may not be the best remedy.
Thank you so much for this article. My 2 year old is also suffering, and has been on and off for over a year. We’ve consulted multiple times with the doctor. We have a referral to a pediatric gastroenterologist. I’ve felt so alone in this. But posts like yours make me feel like there’s hope.
Hi Sara! Thanks for reaching out! So glad you found this post helpful— you are definitely not alone!
Bananas are actually fine. The problem is that most people don’t eat them ripe, so the starches haven’t broken down. As a general rule, most bananas are ripe when they’re yellow and spotty on the outside, and soft and sweet on the inside.
Home stay for a few weeks here.
Praying all are well. Praying also that we will soon be past this and back to a normal like.
And not stuck in the home!
Have lots of time now at home, so decided to comment about the constipation in the child.
It seems, and others feel the same way, due to diet (especially with all the junk food fed to kids today), lack of exercise, stress, parents not paying attention to the BM of the child, there are far too many constipated children today.
This is retaining toxins. Which is harmful and causes other ills. The child feels bad when constipated.
It is sad to read comments from others, mostly moms, on here where they are having difficulty with their child going and constipated and searching for help or advice.
Sad to have read the comment by Saniji. Her poor baby needs some help fast. She should take the child to a holistic provider or doctor as soon as possible. Hope by now the child has gone potty and is feeling better. And no longer in pain. Poor baby!
Yes, having lots of extra time staying at home I love to read, research and share with other moms.
Hope others do the same. We need to share and help each other.
Every mom has her own remedies to give to the constipated child. Many moms are learning of natural home remedies to give. Instead of the horrible Miralax.
Since my kids are more or less locked most of the day inside the house, ughhh. lol, I am keeping an eye on their bowel movements and diet. NO junk foods. NO sodas.
Today I noticed my oldest one, boy 8, has not gone potty. Was not feeling well. I will increase water for him. Do many of the things listed on this wonderful page.
If those things don’t bring relief for him, he may get an enema later today.
I have to wait till nap time for. the other two anyway. This is the best time to give it is when the other two are napping or off to school (no school here for awhile). This is the best time to give the enema if you have other children in the house. You can get the enema out and prepare the room. Get the pan or large bowl you use for the enema out. Towel out and such. Then once the other ones are napping you are mostly prepared to give him a enema.
Giving the enema when the others are napping means you don’t have to be concerned what the others are up to when giving an enema to one of them.
I am convinced the enema is a very good remedy for the child. I see other comments on here that feel the same way. Good!
I do not have or give Miralax anymore!!
I may hop on later to tell how things are going with him.
God bless and pray for all.
Wishing, actually praying, that everyone is well and safe.
Everyone hang in there and help each other as much as possible during these very difficult days.
Still home staying here. Trying best to keep all well.
Back to the constipation blog…
It amazes me that something (Miralax) told to be so unhealthy is given for something unhealthy (constipation).
I read, and reread, all of the remedies listed on here. Also, read other blogs, books. Spoken with holistic provider and my nurse friend.
One thing all have in common is constipation in the child is very harmful. Already mentioned causes sluggishness, headaches, prolongs illness, tummy aches, and more. Also causes lots of work, time and concern for the mother. Please do these remedies listed here and other places.
Talk with your holistic provider (best to call in these days).
Cannot say what to do or not do, but IMHO best not to give Miralax!
I gave him an enema the other day. Yes was constipated. Almost immediately after the enema he was so much better.
God bless and praying for all.
Carol A, wonderful you gave him an enema and it helped him.
I hate giving OTC stuff… especially miralax.
After reading on here (omg some withholding for days!), talking with a mother who is former nurse, reading in book prescription for nutritional healing and talking with holistic provider, I decided he was going to be given enemas. That is other remedies didn’t work like fiber, water, exercise and such.
My and his first ever enema experience went very well.
So others learn, I used the bulb syringe for giving the enema.
Gave it on a table. Had him laying on a towel.
Was no mess and not painful. I have since then given other enemas in my home.
The suggestion to give the enema when the others are napping helped.
Talk with your doctor before giving an enema!
Omg very good information given on here.
Later I will post some notes, suggestions, for giving the enema.
It is not traumatic for the child. Does not hurt and works every time.
Talk with doctor before giving enemas.
Miralax (spelling) is horrible stuff to give. I read somewhere, correct me if wrong, that it has some bad ingredients in it. I will look it up and post the article(s).
Agree, good he got better after being given an enema Carol A.
Here is a article about the constipated child.
Cathrine in the article tells of the possible reasons constipation is more so today than when she first started as a nurse.
The article is:
“PARENTS GUIDE TO COLON HEALTH FOR CHILDREN, Contemporary Bowel Health Among Children and Teens, By Catherine Cavanaugh, R.N.”
Best to always consult with your doctor before giving any home remedies.
Is constipation a bigger issue now days? compared to the 50s and 60s. Yes, showing my age. Catherine in the article thinks so. I agree.
The only treatment for the constipated child back in the late 50s and 60s was that horrible oil… castor oil ?? Or the child was given an enema.
I dont think miralax existed in those days.
Sure there were other remedies given. But, those two were the most used in the home.
My mom made sure we got fresh air, exercise, plenty of fresh fruits and veggies. NO sodas unless we sneaked one at the store. Or at the drug store. All drug stores had the fountain bar. Where could get milkshake, soda, and more.
May the good Lord bless all and stay happy.
I’m all for the castor oil. Line them up with a lemon or peppermint 🙂
Carol a keel doing the enemas or suppository for your oldest child
Keep doing tummy massage clockwise motion
Magnesium citrate powder mixes well in water or other things and my son with DS is kept regular with a daily dose in whole milk plain ORGANIC yogurt with maple syrup.
Remember to avoid grains/breads unless they are ORGANIC as almost all wheat barley and oats are harvested with glyphosate to bring the hybrid wheat to harvest at the same time. Glyphosate (Roundup- the reason for GMO plants) causes gut micro-perforations.
Apples and Pears are on the dirty dozen list so to include skin please also get ORGANIC
Thanks for sharing Carrie
This very helpful as well. Thanks!
Will pass that on.
My 4 year old great niece was recently in the hospital and was diagnosed with Kawasaki disease. She is on medication that is causing major constipation. I’m going to tell my niece to try the magnesium citrate powder. My niece is a nurse, so has been trying natural things: more water, prunes, fiber, etc. It’s been three days and her tummy is now distended. Poor little thing! Thank you for your suggestion.
Awww.. So hard to deal with! Hopefully this helps, I’m glad you found the article!