Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Constipation in children

2-minute read

Constipation in kids is quite common, but usually doesn't have a serious cause. There are plenty of things you can do to help if your child gets constipated.

What is normal for children?

Normal bowel habits for children vary. Most children have a bowel movement at least once every 2 or 3 days, but some may go up to 3 times a day.

Your child is constipated if they are doing hard poo or have trouble pushing poo out. If your child is constipated, they probably aren’t pooing regularly either.

Many healthy children have problems with constipation from time to time. It is fairly common in babies, and also tends to happen around the time of toilet training.

Signs of constipation in children

Signs that your child could be constipated include:

  • seeming uncomfortable or in pain when doing a poo
  • becoming irritable or upset, or refusing to sit on the toilet
  • getting tummy pain that comes and goes
  • not having a good appetite.

Some children who are constipated also have an anal fissure – a small split in the anus that causes pain and bleeding. This occurs because they have been straining to pass poo.

What causes constipation in children?

Children can become constipated if they:

  • hold back bowel movements, instead of going when the urge arises
  • don’t eat enough fibre
  • drink too much milk and don’t eat enough solid foods
  • take certain medications, such as some cough medicines.

Only a few children get constipated because of a medical condition.

Treating and preventing constipation

It’s important to act if your child is constipated since it can make them very uncomfortable. Constipation can also cause problems such as faecal incontinence. You can help your child by:

  • teaching healthy bowel habits, such as not holding on
  • getting them to sit on the toilet after every meal, and rewarding this
  • addressing any concerns they have about going to the toilet
  • giving them high fibre foods
  • giving them a natural laxative such as prune juice.

To make the prune juice taste better, try mixing it with another juice, or freeze it to make icy poles. Read more on laxatives here.

When to see a doctor

If the measures above don’t work, see a doctor for advice.

Your child needs medical attention if they:

  • haven’t done a poo in a week
  • poo when they didn’t mean to
  • have other symptoms, like fever or vomiting
  • have a very sore anus
  • aren’t eating or drinking enough
  • need laxatives more than a few times per year.

Last reviewed: November 2017

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Constipation in children - myDr.com.au

Unlike adult constipation, childhood constipation is more often the result of a behavioural rather than a nutritional disorder.

Read more on myDr website

Constipation and children - Better Health Channel

A healthy diet, plenty of fluids, exercise and regular toilet habits can help relieve constipation in children

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Constipation, Motility Disorders and GORD in Children - Reflux Infants Support Association Inc

Constipation in children is quite common and can contribute to the severity of reflux. Discusses constipation, motility disorders and GORD in children.

Read more on Reflux Infants Support Association website

Constipation in babies and children | Raising Children Network

Constipation is when your child has hard poo and has trouble pushing it out. Read about signs of constipation in babies and children and what to do.

Read more on Raising Children Network website

Faecal incontinence in children (encopresis) - myDr.com.au

Underwear soiling (also known as faecal incontinence) is a problem that arises in children commonly as a result of ongoing constipation. Treatment is similar to that recommended for constipation.

Read more on myDr website

Parenting and Child Health - Health Topics - Constipation

Constipation is the passing of a hard bowel action (poo) with pain and discomfort. A baby is constipated if the poos (stools) are dry and crumbly or like pellets.

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

Parenting and Child Health - Health Topics - Constipation - easy read

This topic provides some information about constipation, but if you want more have a look at our other topic Constipation.

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

Constipation | The Sydney Children's Hospitals Network

Read more on Sydney Children's Hospitals Network website

Parenting and Child Health - Health Topics - High fibre diet for children

Fibre is an important part of a healthy diet. It helps to stimulate bowel function and assists food in moving through the bowel. Extra fibre can help when constipation is a problem.

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

Parenting and Child Health - Health Topics - Soiling

Soiling (doing poo in the pants or leaking poo into the pants) becomes a problem if it goes on after the child is about four years of age. This is sometimes called encopresis. This is more likely to happen in boys than girls. It is usually happens with long-term constipation.

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo
Feedback